"Questions" remain about Hagel for Democrats, Republicans

US Senator Chuck Hagel waits for Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at the premier's official residence on October 16, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan.
Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Two Democratic and two Republican members of the committee that will hold the hearing to confirm - or deny - former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as President Obama's pick to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that "questions" remain to be answered about the rogue Republican before they will commit to voting for him.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Armed Services Committee, which will hold Hagel's yet-to-be-scheduled confirmation hearing, said on "Fox News Sunday" he won't decide whether to back the president's nomination until after Hagel has made his case. Concerns about the Vietnam War veteran have come mostly from the right and the pro-Israel lobby, taking issue with Hagel's stance against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his call for direct negotiations with Hamas and votes against some Iran sanctions.

"I'm not comfortable yet," Blumenthal said of the nomination. Though he predicted Hagel will be confirmed, "I'm going to want to ask questions," particularly about his controversial record with regard to Iran and Israel, he said.

There are "serious questions" for Hagel to answer, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., agreed in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." Manchin said while he doesn't personally know Hagel, he is scheduled to meet with him next week - "a very interesting conversation I look forward to having."

"I want to sit down and get his view points on Israel, our greatest ally," Manchin said. "I want to see... why he chose to oppose the Iraq War, which I think was a wise choice now that we know all the conditions. Also Iran - I believe the sanctions in Iran are working and can even work further without going in and having a land war there. And Afghanistan. I believe that he believes, as I do, that there's not going to be any changes that we're going to significantly make there no matter how long we are there."

Republicans on the committee, too, said Hagel will have to prove himself against the odds. Appearing on "Face the Nation," the committee's top Republican, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said at this point he would neither vote for nor against Hagel, who chaired his presidential campaign in 2000 before turning around and endorsing Mr. Obama in 2008. There are "legitimate questions that need to be asked," McCain said.

"I honored Chuck Hagel's service. He's a friend," he continued. "My questions about him - and they will be raised in the nominations - are, what is his view of America's role in the world? Whether he really believes that the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War. That clearly is not correct; in fact, it's bizarre. Why would he oppose calling the Iranian revolutionary guard a terrorist organization? [It's the] same outfit that's on the ground now in Syria killing Syrians, same outfit that was exploiting the most lethal IEDs into Iraq killing Americans."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said on "Fox News Sunday" she's "very troubled" about the president's decision to nominate Hagel. "I think the hearings on this nomination are going to be consequential," she said. "I have not made up my mind, but... you put up his prior positions. It makes me wonder - it perplexes me why the president nominated Sen. Hagel.

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