Roger Wicker among senators to challenge defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel at hearing

President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary on Thursday defended his views of the military and global threats in a combative confirmation hearing, pushing back against criticism of his past statements on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons.

Chuck Hagel told senators that America “must engage — not retreat — in the world,” and insisted that his record is consistent on that point.

The former two-term Republican senator faced strong GOP resistance and was forced to explain past remarks and votes even as he appeared on a path to confirmation as Obama second-term defense secretary and the nation’s 24th Pentagon chief.

His fiercest exchange came with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a fellow Vietnam veteran, onetime close friend and a potential vote that would carry considerable sway. Politics and Hagel’s evolving opposition to the Iraq war caused a split between the two men that was on full display at the confirmation hearing.

AP
2/1/13