Powell puts in a good word for Hagel

  • Article by: BRIAN KNOWLTON , New York Times
  • Updated: January 13, 2013 - 8:32 PM

Fellow GOP moderate said Hagel is "superbly qualified."

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Chuck Hagel

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WASHINGTON - President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, received a resounding vote of support on Sunday from a fellow Republican moderate, Colin L. Powell, who said the former Nebraska senator is "superbly qualified" to lead the Pentagon.

"I think he will make a very, very spirited defense of his position -- and I think he'll be confirmed," Powell, a former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

GOP criticism of Hagel continued on the Sunday morning political talk shows.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, on CBS's "Face the Nation," said Hagel's opposition to the troop surge in Iraq was "bizarre." He said he would have many questions for Hagel when he appears at confirmation hearings before the Armed Services Committee .

Another Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, appeared to open a new front, saying he had questions about Hagel's "overall temperament."

Corker, who is not on the Armed Services Committee and said that he did not know Hagel well, offered little elaboration. But he said there were "numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them."

Corker's comments on ABC's "This Week" seemed to suggest he considered Hagel -- who has a reputation for speaking his mind -- overbearing or erratic.

Until now, Hagel has been criticized mainly for what some lawmakers and groups consider his overly cautious attitude toward Iran and his tough approach on Israel. But Powell said Hagel had shown that it was possible to be "a good supporter of Israel" while still criticizing it.

His position on Israel, including an openness to negotiations with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, has drawn pointed criticism from some pro-Israeli groups and from neoconservatives like Elliott Abrams, a national security adviser to Bush during the Iraq war.

Last week, Abrams, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that Hagel had "some kind of problem with Jews." But the council has distanced itself from the remarks. Its president, Richard N. Haass, said on "This Week" that any accusations of anti-Semitism were "preposterous."

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