General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs and George Bush’s Secretary of State defended former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. President Barack Obama nominated Hagle for the position of Defense Secretary in his new cabinet, but Republicans have pounced all over the nomination.
Immediately after the announcement Republicans including Senator McCain (R-AZ) his side-kick Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and his new BFF Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and others pounced. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) hinted Hagel may not get confirmed. A couple Democrats expressed concerns about the nomination as well including Chuck Schumer (D-NY) a member of Democratic leadership. Most of the noise comes from Republicans, however.
Powell said that Hagel has a very distinguished record he can stand on. He said it may be useful to stand back and look at Hagle’s accomplishments. Powell pointed out that Hagel volunteered to go to Viet Nam noting he could have gone to Europe. He was wounded twice. He came home, got a degree, and served as Reagan’s Deputy Director of Veterans Affairs.
Hagel quit after a year because he did not like the way the VA was treating the wounded warriors. He went into private life but continued to serve as president of the USO, an organization dedicated to helping service members and veterans. Powell said that this proves Hagel knows veterans, knows the troops, knows battle and therefore is qualified for the job.
In response to those who say that knowing veterans does not qualify one to be Secretary of Defense, Powell said that the “men and women in the armed forces of the United States and their parents who know this is a guy who will be very careful about putting their lives at risk because he put his life at risk. He knows what war is, and he’ll fight a war if necessary, but he is a guy who will do it with deliberation and care.”
Powell said the Hagel was respected by the people of Nebraska who re-elected him with 83% of the vote in his 2nd term. He said he is more than qualified for the job.
Meet the Press host David Gregory brought up point after point Republicans who are trying to block the nomination are making against Hagel. These include charges he is “soft on Iran” he is “anti-Israel”, and that he made a disparaging remark about a gay ambassador once, so he could not lead the military in a post DADT era.
On the latter point, Powell said that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is no more. He said Hagel apologized to the Ambassador, and the apology was accepted. That single incident was in 1998.
Regarding Iran, Powell said that Hagel believes what the president believes that war should be the last resort, not the first. Powell said that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon now, sanctions are hurting that nation, and even if they had a weapon knowing the nuclear might of the U. S Iran would not use it.
The General also dismissed as ridiculous charges that Hagel is anti-Israel noting he voted for billions of dollars of aid for Israel as a Senator.
The thing that sticks in many Republicans’ craw is the fact that he was not in lock step with them as on the War in Iraq. Powell noted Hagel voted for the authorization for Bush to go to war but did not agree with the way Bush executed it. Powell blamed faulty intelligence for the bad decisions, not Bush. Nevertheless, Powell said that as Defense Secretary, Hagel would carry out the wishes of the president.
Republicans are opposing him because they seem to think they have the right to pick Obama’s cabinet instead of him. They hate Hagel because he associated with the president when they were Senators together; because he served on various committees Obama appointed him to; and because Hagel does not spend every waking moment bashing the president and questioning where he was born like most Republicans do. Of course, they invent things to give them cover, but their motives are pretty obvious.
Many so-called experts think Hagel will be nominated but Obama should acquiesce and appoint someone Republicans dictate. However, as General Powell said, Obama is president, not John McCain and not Mitt Romney. Perhaps they need to just shut up.
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