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'Chuck Hagel left the Republican Party,' says Cornyn

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell Monday, Sen.
Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel (File photo by Dave Weaver/AP Photo)
Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell Monday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, repeated in the strongest terms his opposition to Sen. Hagel’s nomination to lead the Pentagon.

“He's had a record of distinguished service, but profoundly wrong on a number of the most important national security issues that face our country today like denying Iran nuclear weapons, like direct face-to-face negotiations with State Department designated terrorist organizations like Hamas, and calling into question our commitment to our principal ally in the Middle East, Israel. Those three areas demonstrate that Senator Hagel is outside the mainstream, said Cornyn. “And, I believe, just wrong when it comes to protecting the national security of the United States.”

Cornyn also challenged the bipartisan nature of the Hagel nomination saying: “It's clear that Chuck Hagel left the Republican party when he endorsed President Obama in 2008 but this isn't about politics, this isn’t about personalities.  This is about being wrong on the principal national security issues that confront our country today and his lack of suitability for being the head of our national security apparatus at the Pentagon.”

Cornyn did not give a definitive answer when pressed on whether he would put a hold on Hagel’s nomination.

“I think it's premature to talk about that process.  What I think he deserves and he is going to get is a full and fair hearing. The president does his job by nominating his chosen individual but then, the Senate has a separate constitutional responsibility. We are going to give Senator Hagel a full chance to defend his positions, but we’re also going to ask him tough questions. And in his case he has a very long track record, really unbroken track record, on the areas I mentioned that I think are going to cause concerns on a bipartisan basis,“ Cornyn said.

On Andrea Mitchell Reports, one of Sen. Hagel’s strongest supporters, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and former Ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering provided a contrarian view to Senator Cornyn.

“[Hagel] is a man of integrity who speaks his mind, who knows his mind, and will give the president the best of all possible advice at a time when we will be under enormous pressure to meet our national security needs and to provide for the fiscal health of our country in ways that perhaps have not been tested before until now,” said Amb. Pickering.

Given the restructuring and budget cuts coming to the Pentagon, Amb. Pickering praised Hagel’s private sector credentials as an essential part of his ability to lead--and chang--the Defense Department.

“A very successful businessman on his own, but someone who knows the defense business from the bottom up, who knows and understands particularly what is required in the Department of Defense to meet the essential needs for the future, Pickering said.  “Someone who understands the conflicts, the regions, and indeed the challenges that we will face.”