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February 21, 2013

Dole, a former Senate GOP leader, backs Hagel's bid for Defense chief

Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel got a pledge of support for his nomination as Defense secretary from another old-school lawmaker. 

Former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP presidential nominee, issued a statement Thursday praising the former Nebraska senator.

“Chuck Hagel has spent his entire life in service to his country," Dole said. "He volunteered to fight in Vietnam and did so bravely, side-by-side with his brother and earning two Purple Hearts. He served as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration for President Ronald Reagan and was president and chief executive Officer of the World USO. He represented the people of Nebraska in the Senate with honor for twelve years and was a co-author of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Hagel’s wisdom and courage make him uniquely qualified to be secretary of Defense and lead the men and women of our armed forces."

Former Sens. John Warner of Virginia, a Republican, and Sam Nunn, a Democrat of Georgia, both respected voices on defense, have also urged the Senate to support Hagel. But his nomination ran into a GOP buzz saw of criticism. A vote could be held next week.

Many of Hagel's ex-colleagues have questioned his views on Israel, Iran and other issues. Hagel didn't help his cause by a halting performance during his confirmation hearing. But Republicans have also used his nomination as an opportunity to attack the Obama administration over the assault on the American consulate in Libya last year.

Some of Hagel's Republican critics, including newcomer Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have insinuated, without offering any proof, that Hagel might have taken money from America's enemies.

“It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea," Cruz said, prompting outcries from several Democrats and suggestions that the Texas freshman was engaging in McCarthyism.

Cruz was aided by the veteran GOP senator,James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who hinted that Hagel was "cozy" with terrorists.

Another factor behind the Republican opposition is the fact that Hagel was not a team player while in the Senate. Perhap the biggest gripe among Senate Republicans is that he broke with his colleagues on the Iraq war and heavily criticized the 2007 surge of troops sent to protect Baghdad and other parts of the country.

Elephants never forget.  





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Government Reporter

Is it really not enough of an olive branch that Hagel is a Republican? But it's good to see Bob Dole being willing to break with his party in order to say what he thinks is right. I didn't vote for him in 96, but I always felt that he did have a little more integrity than your average Republican Senator

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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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