Chuck Hagel's Confirmation Hearing: Re-live the Entire Dramatic Day
After nearly eight hours of testimony, former senator Chuck Hagel got up and walked away from two extended sessions before the Senate Armed Service Committee. It was not an easy day.
After nearly eight hours of testimony, former senator Chuck Hagel got up and walked away from two extended sessions before the Senate Armed Service Committee. It was not an easy day. Hagel faced off against his former friend John McCain over the Iraq war. He took on Lindsey Graham. He got tough questions from Ted Cruz. And despite a Democratic majority in the Senate, many are questioning Hagel's performance. Below are extended highlights, quotes, videos, and reactions, because we watched C-SPAN so you didn't have to.
All times are Eastern.
5:50 PM: Hearing is adjourned! It is over. Over. Over.
5:48 PM: More Ted Cruz! Asks about the aforementioned Chas Freeman. Hagel says he'll submit a written response about this Chas Freeman character.
5:47 PM: Senator Angus King asks Hagel if he knows who's airing those mysterious ads against his confirmation.
5:44 PM: Cruz says Hagel's appointment would be a "very unfortunate outcome," referring to the Washington Post's description of Hagel's policies as "on the fringe." Unclear who at the Post said.
5:43 PM: Cruz, with a whopper: "Your record as a United States Senator ... demonstates greater antagonism for the nation of Israel than any other member of this body."
5:42 PM: A look at the charts Cruz is referring to:
Ted Cruz has charts. twitter.com/daveweigel/sta…— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 31, 2013
5:40 PM: Cruz and Hagel are sparring over whether Hagel believes the Iranian Revolutionary National Guard is a terrorist group. Hagel refuses to give a yes or no.
5:39 PM: Cruz is interrogating Hagel about prior votes and statements. Begins with Iran. "Do you think sanctions against Iran are a good idea?" Hagel: "Yes." Cruz notes that that's a change from 2000. Cruz: "Today, do you think unilateral sanctions are a good idea." Hagel: "No."
5:36 PM: Cruz is now asking what Hagel thinks of Freeman's opinions toward the Middle East.
5:36 PM: Senator Ted Cruz is back up. "Are you familiar with a individual named Chas Freeman?" Hagel says yes but that he hasn't spoken to Freeman in years. Cruz says that Freeman is reported to have coordinated a defense of Hagel's nomination.
5:31 PM: To Senator Jack Reed, Hagel explains how he came to be nominated by President Obama for Secretary of Defense. Says that he told Obama he was not uniquely qualified, that he was not the only man (or woman) for the job.
5:27 PM: Hagel says comments were in context of Budget Control Act of 2011, but Blunt says it was in the context of sequestration.
5:23 PM: Senator Roy Blunt confronts Hagel over his statement, 18 months ago, that Defense Department is "bloated." Asks how Hagel would prioritize. "Are we going to let money drive strategy, or let strategy drive the money?"
5:18 PM: Senator Deb Fischer: "How are you going to advise the President ... about how the Pentagon is going to address budget constraints?" Hagel emphasizes planning and flexibility over hard dollar amounts in dealing with sequester.
5:15 PM: Hagel to Ayotte on diplomatic strategy with hostile nations: "I don't consider North Korea a sane, responsible administration" and "I think it's always wise to talk to people before you get into war"
5:12 PM: Ayotte to Hagel, after Hagel prevaricates on Iran answer by saying "It doesn't matter what I think": "It does matter what you think."
5:10 PM: Senate Ayotte reads a quote of Hagel's: "The strategy of containment remains relevant [to Iran]." Hagel explains that he was considering the range of options for dealing with Iran at that point in time (2007).
5:05 PM: King calls cyber-threats "the war of the future."
5:05 PM: Senator Angus King discusses "information gap," for armed forces servicemembers, between being on active military and dealing with the Veterans Administration.
5:04 PM: Sessions calls Obama's and Hagel's shared wish for nuclear disarmament "unrealistic," shakes his head.
5:00 PM: Sessions and Hagel seem not to be very clear about what either is talking about.
4:55 PM: Senator Jeff Sessions expresses "dramatic concern" about Global Zero, a group advocating nuclear disarmament that Hagel has endorsed.
4:53 PM: Machin asks what we could expect from Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Hagel again emphasizes that he cannot get anything done with the support of others. Says he won't be in a policy-making position, and that he will always be honest with the Senate and the President.
4:48 PM: Senator Joe Machin apologizes for tone of his colleagues, then asks Hagel: "How, exactly, did you get to Vietnam?" Hagel explains that he volunteered to got to combat and wound up in a classified unit. Specifically says that he requested to go to Vietnam instead of Germany, because Vietnam was where the war was actually happening.
4:44 PM: Inhofe asks if Hagel would support a third GMD based somewhere on the East Coast. Hagel says he would consider it, Inhofe presses a straighter answer but Hagel doesn't bite. Inhofe switches to questions about budgets.
4:41 PM: Inhofe says he disagrees with Hagel's prior statement that President Obama is strongest supporter of Israel since 1948 (among U.S. Presidents), and asks if Hagel still believes that. Hagel says yes. Inhofe seems displeased.
4:39 PM: Senator Jim Inhofe says others told him that he was being "disrespectful" during a prior question about Iran and asks Hagel if he thought Inhofe was in fact being disrespectful. Hagel says no.
4:35 PM: Shaheen asks umpteenth question about Israel, Hagel provides umpteenth answer.
4:32 PM: Hagel, when responding to Shaheen's question about broad strategy: "My position doesn't deviate from President Obama's."
4:28 PM: Shaheen asks about Hagel's stance toward nuclear disarmament. Hagel says that total disarmament won't happen in his lifetime, but that — quoting Reagan — we should still work toward it.
4:27 PM: Senator Jeanne Shaheen asks Hagel if he will "fully fund" Navy shipyards. Hagel: "Yes." But: "I don't know all the details."
It seems to me Hagel has a hard time promising people not to cut anything while acknowledging things must be cut.— Scott Galupo (@ScottGalupo) January 31, 2013
Did Hagel just say he won't be "running anything" at the Defense Department?— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNBC) January 31, 2013
The irony: Had Hagel not offered up these juicy quotes over the years, he wouldn't be a media star and a nominee now.— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 31, 2013
4:22 PM: Hagel says he "needs to learn more":
4:21 PM: "The Secretary of Defense leads, he advises the President, but it's really about the people [he oversees]," says Hagel. Emphasizes "accountability."
4:19 PM: Senator Angus King, an independent, says that Hagel's experience as an enlisted soldier is an important qualification for Defense Secretary. Asks how Hagel would manage "the world's most cumbersome bureaucracy" — i.e., the Department of Defense.
4:16 PM: Hagel says that Iran is "not exactly" a model of democracy, conceding to Vitter's concern that Iran did not have a legitimate election.
4:15 PM: Vitter asks Hagel if he stands by statement that Iran's government is "legitimate." Hagel says that he should have used the word "recognized."
4:13 PM: Hagel responds that he regrets phrasing it that way but admits to saying it and says that he gives his unequivocal support to Israel.
4:09 PM: Senator David Vitter says he's concerned about Hagel's "big flip-flops" on "key, core issues." Begins reading past statement of Hagel's on the 2006 conflict between Israel and Lebanon:
"How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?"
4:05 PM: Kaine asks Hagel about his commitment lowering the veteran unemployment rate, which for post-9/11 veterans hovers around 10 percent. Hagel says he mentioned his commitment in his opening statement.
4:01 PM: Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia asks Hagel about how he would deal with a potential sequester. (Virginia depends quite a bit on Pentagon funding, which would be affected by the sequester.)
3:58 PM: Lee, quoting a Hagel statement from a few years ago: "Do you believe that Israel keeps Palestinians caged up like animals?" Hagel: "I've said many many things over the years." Also says the quote was taken out of context, says he regrets he used those words.
3:56 PM: Lee continues to grill Hagel about prior statements on Israel, Hagel says he didn't make recommendations for U.S. policy toward Israel, particularly policies pertaining to Israeli security.
3:52 PM: Citing Hagel's prior comments on Israel, Lee asks if Palestinians have a "legitimate grievance" against Israel. Hagel says he's made it clear that Israel has a right to exist.
3:51 PM: Sen. Mike Lee opens with question about U.S.-Israel relations.
3:50 PM: We're back! Here's the livestream:
2:24 p.m.: The first round isn't over, but the Committee will recess for about an hour so that the Senators can do some more floor voting. The questions will resume later.
what someone says in an interview in a book, speech etc. total fair game but judging on responses to crazy callers/emailers, come on— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) January 31, 2013
2:18 p.m.: Here's the "World's Bully" clip, via Brietbart, along with some other quotes that have gotten him into trouble.
Has Cruz ever taken some calls on CSPAN?— Michael B Dougherty (@michaelbd) January 31, 2013
2:11 p.m.: Cruz plays another clip where a woman says the U.S. is "the world bully." Cruz says Hagel "explicitly agreed."
This is just an absolutely, omnidirectionally embarrassing debacle for all involved.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 31, 2013
2:08 p.m.: In the clip, a random caller calls into the show Hagel was being interviewed on. The caller suggests that Israel committed war crimes "and you did not dispute that." Hagel says he doesn't think Israel is guilty of war crimes.
2:05 p.m.: Cruz asks if the U.S. should be in the International Criminal Court. Hagel says no, because we aren't now. Curz then plays a YouTube of Hagel being interviewed by Al Jazeera.
2:03 p.m.: Ted Cruz begins with a complaint that Hagel has not turned over copies of his speeches or turned over his financial records. "This committee does not have a proper record on which to discuss your nomination?
2:02 p.m.: Donnelly also might be the first to bring Pakistan. Hagel: "Pakistan is too dangerous ... We can't just walk away from it."
2:00 p.m.: Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) is the first to bring up suicides. ("In 2012, we lost more veterans to suicide than in combat.") Hagel says Donnelly has his full commitment on that.
Senators who otherwise decry the federal deficit are using Hagel's hearing to urge plenty of federal defense spending in their home states.— Gerald F Seib (@GeraldFSeib) January 31, 2013
1:56 p.m.: Levin started off by saying he hoped to be done with Round 1 by 2:00 pm or maybe 2:15. There's five Senators left after this one and each gets 8 minutes.
1:47 p.m.: Roy Blunt asks mostly about cutting spending and keep the military up to date. "I don't buy that our force structure is behind" where it needs to be.
1:35 p.m.: Graham closes by bringing out a letter that was passed around Congress, expressing support for Israel. Hagel didn't sign it in 2001, and Graham asks if he'll sign it today. "The lack of your signature sends chills up my spine." Hagel says he'll look at it during the break.
1:33 p.m.: Graham comes after Hagel even harder on his vote against naming the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Asks several times if Hagel would change his vote if it was happening today. He eventually gets Hagel to admit he would "reconsider," then Graham cuts him off.
Every time I watch Lindsey Graham at a hearing, I think he must have been devastating as a trial lawyer— Wyeth Ruthven (@wyethwire) January 31, 2013
Graham's dismissiveness of Hagel is artful. Readjusting in his chair, cutting off answers with "I gotcha."— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 31, 2013
1:26 p.m.: Graham moves to Israel. Asks Hagel if he can name any Senator who was intimated by the Israeli lobby. Then he asks if he can name one dumb thing that the Senate has done because it was intimidated. Hagel says no. Graham: "Would you agree that was the wrong thing to say?" "Yes, and I already said so."
1:24 p.m.: Lindsay Graham is up now. He asks what's the percentage of GDP is defense spending. Then asks if we're at war. Then he asks if every Senator should be aware of that we're at war when they vote on the defense budget. Graham seems agitated.
1:24 p.m.: Gillibrand brings up the problem of sexual assault in the Army and says it's "unacceptable." Hagel: "The whole chain of command needs to be held responsible."
1:19 p.m.: Kristen Gillibrand gives Hagel a chance to correct an minor gaffe from earlier, but makes one of her own. Hagel said that Iran's was legitimate and elected. He meant legitimate in the sense that they are recognized by the UN and are recognized as the government by most other nations. But during her question Gillibrand says an nuclear Iran is an "existential threat" to the U.S., as in our nation could cease to exist. A notion that isn't going over so well.
1:14 p.m.: In case you have no idea what Global Zero is about: Here's a link to the whole report.
FYI that Global Zero report in the Hagel hearing: bit.ly/XVC8cJ— attackerman (@attackerman) January 31, 2013
1:13 p.m.: I do not agree with any recommendation that would call on us to unilaterally reduce our nuclear capability, but that's what this report recommends." Hagel says any reduction needs to be bilateral, to which Fischer responds: "Every action this country takes needs to be bilateral?" Hagel: "I didn't say that." He's says reductions should be part of negotiated weapons treaties.
This will be interesting. Hagel endorsed Fischer's opponent in '12.— Alana Goodman (@alanagoodman) January 31, 2013
1:05 p.m.: Fellow Nebraskan Deb Fischer is up now. She says she has "concerns" about his nomination. She says some of her colleagues think his views have changed, she "worries they haven't changed."
12:57 p.m.: Joe Manchin of West Virginia asks if there's any reason that Hagel wouldn't follow his President if ends up on the Cabinet. Hagel basically says no.
12:50 p.m.: Ayotte is also "troubled" by the Global Zero report that argued for nuclear disarmament. Hagel quibbles with her on the whether the report was a "recommendation" or not. (Hagel says it wasn't.)
12:46 p.m.: The testimony resumes with Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. She has Hagel confirm that he blocked a bill on unilateral sanctions against Iran. Hagel says he didn't, because the Bush administration was working on multilateral sanctions and wanted the bill stopped.
12:42 p.m.: Here's the live stream again, if you want to follow along. They'll be resuming shortly.
12:30 p.m.: The committee is taking a 15 break so that members can go take part in a vote on the Senate floor. Grab some lunch and come back! (It's also a good time to read this explanation of why McCain and Hagel don't get along so well anymore.)
12:27 p.m.: Make no mistake, "if [sequestration] happens it will be a major issue."
12:23 p.m.: Hagel: "I absolutely support strengthening" the "special and historic" relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
12:16 p.m.: Getting back to the question of sanctions and if the United States can't unilaterally to implement them (which he voted against): "I'm not saying our actions should be subject to Europe or anyone else, but sometimes there are consequences to these actions."
12:12 p.m.: Hagel now explaining his use of the term "Jewish lobby" to refer to Israeli lobby and his claim that use intimidation to get what htey want. Hagel says he used the wrong term, but only used it once and says he's sorry about. He also says he should have used "influence" instead of "intimidation."
12:00 p.m.: We're not even midway through the hearing, but Hagel is not getting great reviews for his performance.
hagel's making biden look rhetorically sure-footed— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) January 31, 2013
Hagel is floundering through one policy answer after another. IRGC terrorism, Iraq surge, nukes.— attackerman (@attackerman) January 31, 2013
Sounds like this hearing is my confirming my view that the buffoonery of Hagel's opponents does not mean Hagel is a good candidate.— Josh Barro (@jbarro) January 31, 2013
11:57 a.m.: Some strategizing going on among the Republican members?
Lindsey Graham now kibbitzing with Lee and Cruz, who are at the end of the GOP's row, and go last.— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 31, 2013
11:56 a.m: Hagel reads a "correction" after someone hands him a note pointing out that he made a mistake earlier by saying he supports "containment" of Iran. The official policy of the administration is against containment, and in favor of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
11:53 a.m.: Hagel says he is for "engagement" because "engagement is not negotiation."
11:53 a.m.: Hagel says Iran is the biggest threat to the U.S., except maybe North Korea is "beyond a threat" because it's already a nuclear power.
11:39 a.m.: Here's the video of the testy exchange between Hagel and McCain.
11:36 a.m.: Claire McCaskill seems takes a tiny swipe at McCain and Inhofe for their treatment of Hagel. "In my six years on this committee" the defense of this country "is a bipartisan effort."
Rubio just came out against Hagel on Fox News— Michael Goldfarb (@thegoldfarb) January 31, 2013
11:34 a.m.: Hagel: "This prospective Secretary of Defense would never ... minimize or downgrade" our nuclear capability.
11:25 a.m.: Hagel says that every president in recent years, including Ronald Reagan, pushed for reductions in nuclear weapon.
TV ad says Chuck Hagel has called for "an end to our nuclear program." Mostly False. ow.ly/hiG2x— PolitiFact (@politifact) January 31, 2013
11:20 a.m.: Jeff Sessions of Alabama is next. Says he's troubled that Hagel is part of the Global Zero group that advocates for an elimination of all nuclear weapons.
11:18 a.m.: Hagel: "I did question the surge. I always ask the question, is this going to be worth the sacrifice? We lost almost 1,200 dead Americans. Was it worth it? Senator McCain has his opinion ... I'm not so certain." Says his Vietnam experience is part of him, but doesn't set his views in stone. Says it gives him a connection to decisions that are made, but "doesn't make him smarter."
11:14 a.m.: Bill Nelson of Florida comes to Hagel's defense, by talking about the bad information that got America into the war in Iraq in the first place.
11:13 a.m.: McCain ends his questioning, but does not seem happy with Hagel. It looks like he's going to be another no vote.
11:12 a.m.: McCain asks if there should be a no-fly zone in Syria. "I'm sure you've read in the newspaper that 60,000 have been killed. ... How many more would have to die before you would arm the resistance and establish a no-fly zone?"
11:10 a.m.: McCain: "I think history has already judged the surge and you were on the wrong side of it."
11:06 a.m.: John McCain begins his questioning by attacking Hagel's criticism of the surge in Iraq. "Were you right or wrong about the surge?" The two men then engage in a rather lengthly (and testy) back and forth as Hagel refuses to give a yes or no answer. Hagel says Iraq was a msitak
11:05 a.m.: Side note: Some Washington Post staffers weren't thrilled with that Jennifer Rubin post mentioned by Inhofe.
I hate it when senators refer to WP opinion blogger posts as articles. @jrubinblogger is NOT a WaPo reporter— Rajiv Chandrasekaran (@rajivwashpost) January 31, 2013
11:02 a.m.: Hagel now literally naming all the people who have called him a strong supporter of Israel. Says Obama is maybe the most supportive president for Israel since its founding.
10:54 a.m.: Inhofe's last question: "Why do you think the Iranian foreign minister supports your nomination?" Hagel laughs and says he has enough trouble with American politicians.
10:48 a.m.: Inhofe literally takes his next questions (about Egypt) right out of a blog post by Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post.
10:45 a.m.: Back to Inhofe: He begins with Hagel's Senate votes against designating certain groups as terrorist groups. Hagel tries to explain, but Inhofe cuts him off, saying others will ask about that.
10:40 a.m.: Levin asks if Hagel asks about Iran and if his previous stances fit with the President's Iranian policies. Hagel says he stands by the Obama's plan, but back in 2001-2003, "we were in a different place with Iran ... It was never a question of did I disagree with the objective."
10:36 a.m.: Levin begins the questions by asking about the sequester. Hagel says it wouldn't just affect current operations, but would make planning and flexibility impossible.
10:33 a.m.: Levin says the committee will work though an upcoming Senate vote and work through lunch. He hopes they will be done with the first round of questioning by 2:15 p.m. Get comfortable.
10:32 a.m.: Hagel says he is committed to the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and supports letting women serve in combat. He even mentions the problem of sexual assault.
10:31 a.m.: Hagel says we need to prove mental health services for veterans. "No one who volunteers to fight and die for this country should ever feel they have nowhere to turn."
10:30 a.m.: Hagel says he's worried about the effects of sequestration on the budget, but will do everything he can to make sure
10:28 a.m.: Hagel: "America has and always will be a Pacific power."
10:28 a.m.: On nuclear weapons, Hagel says he is "committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal."
10:27 a.m.: On Iran, Hagel says "all options must reamin on the table," but he has the same goal as President Obama, "prevention, not containment."
10:25 a.m.: Hagel says there should only be two function for American troops left behind in Afghanistan: "counterterroism ... and training and advising Afghan forces."
10:21 a.m.: Hagel: "America must engage in the world. Not retreat."
10:20 a.m.: Hagel: "I have a record I'm proud of. ... But no one individual vote, no one individual statement defines me."
10:19 a.m.: Hagel: "Committing to war" can never be a political litmus test.
10:14 a.m.: Hagel finally begins his statement.
10:13 a.m.: Warner: "Some men are asked to 'take the point.' Chuck Hagel did that in Vietnam. If confirmed, he'll do it again." The military will know "they have one of their own."
10:08 a.m.: Warner talks about how Vietnam veterans like Hagel and McCain were not welcomed home they way they should have been.
10:04 a.m: Warner says he's read Hagel's statement and in his 30 years on the committee, "I have never read a more carefully prepared statement, a more thoughtful statement " with "no hedges or deviations." Warner says it precisely lays out his goals and commitments as Secretary of Defense.
10:00 a.m.: Sen. John Warner, another former Chair of the committee is also giving an endorsement of Hagel. Says he wrote a prepared statement, but would rather "say a few words from the heart" instead.
9:54 a.m.: Nunn says Hagel's views aligns with the "mainstream." He raised his voice on "mainstream" as if to emphasize it as a counter to Inhofe's statement.
9:52 a.m.: Nunn: "Chuck received two Purple Hearts in Vietnam ... War for Chuck Hagel is not an abstraction."
9:50 a.m.: Sam Nunn, a former Chair of the Armed Services Committee, will introduce Hagel at the witness table.
9:49 a.m.: Inhofe finishes his opening statement by saying Hagel is "the wrong person to lead the Pentagon at this dangerous and perilous time."
9:46 a.m.: Inhofe says up front that he won't vote for Hagel. Says his foreign policy views are "deeply troubling and out of the mainstream" and based on "appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends."
9:44 a.m.: Inhofe beings by complaining that Hagel didn't give them copies of all of his speeches that they had asked for as evidence.
9:43 a.m.: Despite the concerns that Levin mentions, he says Hagel is qualified before turning over to Ranking Member Jim Inhofe.
9:40 a.m.: Levin disagrees with Hagel on "unilateral" sanction on Irans. He also says (unlike Hagel has implied) that any negotiations with Iran must be "conditional."
9:37 a.m.: Levin reminds everyone that Hagel would be the first enlisted man and the first Vietnam veteran to become Secretary of Defense.
9:35 a.m.: Committee Chairman Carl Levin has brought the hearing to order, but mentions that his committee will hold Benghazi hearings next week.