Hardball | February 07, 2013
>>> were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since vietnam? were you correct or incorrect?
>> my --
>> yes or no.
>> my reference to --
>> are you answering the question, senator hagel ? the question is were you right or wrong? that's a pretty straightforward question.
>> well --
>> i would like to answer whether you were right or wrong and then you are free to elaborate.
>> well, i'm not going to give you a yes or no answer --
>> well, let the record show that you refuse to answer that question. now please go ahead.
>> welcome back to "hardball." that was senator john mccain grilling his old friend chuck hagel last week at hagel 's confirmation hearing. the senate armed services committee was supposed to vote today on hagel 's nomination to head the pentagon, but that vote has been postponed after republicans said they hadn't received sufficient information about hagel 's financial records and specifically about any payments he's received from foreign sources. that's an odd hurdle given that republicans never seem concerned about foreign revenue sources when it came to nominees from george w. bush . one democratic official working on the hagel nomination told politico, quote, what they're asking is unprecedented, and it's clear that it's information that he's unable to provide. hagel says he can't provide it because it would violate confidentiality of the boards that he serves on. of course, critics say this is about more than incomplete financial records . so why are republicans really holding up hagel 's nomination? aaron david miller is vice president for new initiatives at the woodrow wilson center . he has served as an adviser on the middle east to both democratic and republican secretaries of state . and joe klein is a columnist for "time" magazine. gentlemen, buzz feed pointed out that there seems to be a new and unfair standard being placed on chuck hagel as bush era nominees weren't pressed on their foreign ties. quote, condoleezza, donald rum feld, paul o'neill, and henry paulson all had connections to foreign entities that paid them. chevron, on whose board rice sat, even named an oil tanker after her. yet these nominees weren't asked to make the same kind of disclosure that is are being demanded of hagel . joe klein , what's going on?
>> i think it's about what "i"s, israel and iran. the republican base is not very happy with hagel 's moderate, realistic positions on those issues, and so the senators are reacting to that.
>> the hearing wasn't pretty, but nor was it really effective in torpedoing his nomination. do you agree?
>> i thought it was dreadful on all sides. it was just an embarrassment.
>> when we talk about the jewish lobby and the quote, we have the individual here to whom he actually said those words. aaron , what was the context?
>> le, i'm sure chuck hagel thinks no good deed goes unpunished. i only met him once. he was kind enough to give me an interview. i think he regrets using that term, jewish lobby . i don't use it because it's inexact to degree and politics is about addition, not substraction and people stopped listening when you use those kinds of terms. but the reality is chuck hagel simply acknowledge something that few senators and representatives are prepared to acknowledge. that the pro-israeli community has a powerful voice in the united states . not a veto. he just ex prexed himself in a way that few senators and representatives do, and i admire that clarity and that honesty. i think he may not be a defense intellectual. he may not have the broad management experience of some of our previous secretaries of defense but he's not an ideologue. he will give the president sober advice about how, when, and why we should protect your military force abroad.
>> and as a former enlisted man, he will be able to relate to the tens of thousands of young troops who are being demobilized over the next few years and are coming home with some real problems and with a need for jobs and housing and other things like that.
>> from the very start republicans warned they would try to make hagel seem like an anti-semite. look at what one republican aide told the weekly standard . this was back in december. quote, send us hagel , and we will make sure every american knows he is an anti-semite. we was referring to this quote and it's gotten outsized attention since hagel was floated as the nominee. it comes from the interview, aaron , that you did back in 2006 for your book "the much too promised land ." most people only highlight a couple words. the jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. here is the quote in context from the audio of your interview.
>> the political reality is that you intimidate -- well, not you, but the jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, and, again, i have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because i don't think it's in the interest of israel . i just don't think it's smart for israel . now, everyone has a right to lobby. that's as it should be. and come see your senator, your congressman. if you can get the guy to sign your letter, great, wonderful.
>> aaron , was that an ah-ha moment for you. when he said those words to you, did you say, holy smokes , listen to what this guy just told me and he's in the u.s. senate ?
>> michael, i have heard a lot, been a negotiator, i have heard a lot. i try to put things in context and i put that in context as well. this man is not an anti-semite, not an enemy of the state of israel . he believes i ni in a special relationship with israel . he told me so. he just doesn't believe in an exclusive relationship. that is owe say he's prepared to acknowledge that there are issues on which close allies, and we are very close to the israelis, may have disagreements and maybe even fundamental agreements. that, trankly, is common sense.
>> the terms of this conversation are being set by a group of extremists in this country. aaron just called it the pro- israel lobby . i'm pro- israel but i'm not in favor of the positions that these extreme supporters take.
>> did lindsey graham make his point for him in the way he browbeat him?
>> he yes, of course he did. the in fact is among the stupid things that the israel lobby has wanted senators to do is to these expressions of anger at iran or the palestinians or whomever. that all should go through the president.
>> wish we had more time. thank you joe klein and aaron miller are. we appreciate you both. up next, why is chris christie talking so much about his weight. here is a hint, perhaps he's thinking hard about running for president. we'll deal with that next. this is "hardball," the place for politics. [ male