Senate Deserves Answers on Hagel
Helle Dale /
A multitude of questions loom over former Senator Chuck Hagel’s (R–NE) nomination process. It is now up to the Obama Administration to ensure that Senators get the answers comprehensively and not in drips and drabs.
For one thing, Hagel’s performance during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee was stunningly fumbling and confused. It revealed Hagel as unable to explain his own previous policy positions. Perhaps even more problematic, Hagel did not know the Obama Administration’s stated policy on Iran, which he believed to be “containment” until corrected by a note from his minders. (For all the world, it might look like containment, but the White House doesn’t call it that.)
Hagel’s performance spurred Senators to demand more information on his own record. As many as 12 speeches given by Hagel were never actually submitted to the committee in transcripts, of which six were from the Senate floor. What is now coming to light is not easing the Senators’ concerns.
For instance, in a speech from 2007, given at Rutgers University, Hagel spoke of the need for the United States to engage with Iran. “The United States must be cautious and wise not to follow the same destructive path on Iran as we did on Iraq. We blundered into Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed judgments, and questionable intentions.”
In response to a question from the audience after that speech, Hagel reportedly described the U.S. State Department as having become “an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office,” one of several comments disparaging the U.S.–Israeli relationship. Hagel is also refusing to provide financial records the Senate has requested regarding deals with foreign governments.
In terms of the bigger picture, Senators Lindsey Graham (R–SC) and Jim Inhofe (R–OK) have threatened to put a hold on Hagel’s nomination until the White House accounts for President Obama’s actions regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack.
As revealed by the Senate Armed Services Committee testimony hearing featuring Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey on February 7, President Obama was briefed only once early on while the attack was taking place and never contacted either of them to ask if any rescue or military support operation was underway. (There wasn’t one until it was all over.)
In a letter to the committee, submitted in response to the Senators’ demands, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler admitted plainly that no phone calls had been placed by the President to any Libyan official on the night of September 11; none were until the following evening.