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.