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Hagel's Senate Confirmation meeting fraught with awkward moments

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

At Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation hearing to become President Barack Obama's next defense secretary, the former senator said he may have been wrong at times in the past, but had always acted in the nation's best interests. Hagel stumbled at times, conceding at the end of the seven hours of testimony that his past statements on some issues were in need of clarification.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The decorated Vietnam veteran told the Senate Armed Services Committee he supported the Obama administration policies on ending combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weaponry and ending the ban on gays openly serving in the military.

However, Hagel admitted that his past statements on such issues such as the Middle East conflict and sanctions against Iran no longer applied, or had been awkwardly expressed in the first place.

"If I had an opportunity to edit that, like many things I said, I would like to go back and change the words and meaning," Hagel said in reply to a question about a 2003 comment in which he referred to Israel keeping people "like caged animals."

A long and mainly contentious hearing, Hagel referred to Iran as a legitimate state, causing Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to suggest he meant to say it was a recognized government.

"What I meant to say, should have said is - it is recognizable," Hagel said. "It has been recognized, is recognized at the United Nations. Most of our allies have embassies there. That is what I should have said and thank you."

Hagel appeared evasive when confronted by some former Senate colleagues due to his shifting positions on confronting Iran, supporting Israel and maintaining a strong military amid pressure to cut costs.

Hagel sounded more certain in responding to the repeated challenges by conservatives over what newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called his record of "antagonism" toward Israel. Hagel is still expected to win confirmation to succeed Leon Panetta as Pentagon chief.

Former Sen. Sam Nunn, a conservative Democrat from Georgia and respected defense and nuclear policy expert, and former Sen. John Warner, a conservative Republican from Virginia both endorse Hagel.

Hagel defended his 12-year record as a Republican senator from Nebraska and what he called a consistent worldview on the role of the United States and its unparalleled military might.

"America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world; that we must lead the international community to confront threats and challenges together; and that we must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests," Hagel said.

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