Martin Bashir | January 07, 2013
>> kornacki who we just saw on "the cycle" and michael o'hanlon from the brookings institution . good afternoon to both of you. steve , what's your sense of this fight? is this a fight that republicans are itching for?
>> i don't think they're itching for it -- some republicans are itching for it. when you see comments by lindsey graham in particular. i think it illustrates two dynamics. one is ideological. chuck hagel broke with the hawkish consensus in the republican party so they feel betrayed ideological because of that. the other is the tug of tribal loyal. lindsey graham is up for re-election in a conservative state. these are the kind of fights he has to pick and he has to wage in order to build credibility with the audience that will judge him in 2014 and you multiply that because there are a number --
>> really? i thought that was about the security of the nation.
>> believe it or not, politics sometimes has to do with politics.
>> these arguments republicans are making against mr. hagel about his stance on israel, iran , do they hold water? is there anything in his record that would suggest he's really not qualified for this job?
>> i think, martin, he's qualified. i think he's very impressive, and i actually like his independence of spirit, but i think this is a good case where the confirmation process is useful. i'll just give you a couple examples on some of the issues you just referred to. let's take iran policy. i think it was fine for senator hagel to favor direct negotiations, but does he still favor those today? does he still feel they could work with a regime that's stole elections in june 2009 . as you know, president obama supported direct negotiations. he tried that. it didn't work out. then obama got tougher towards iran . where would senator hagel go at this point? i think it would be a very good policy discussion. one more example and i'll leave it at that. on the iraq surge . as we know, mr. hagel was against the iraq surge . to be honest with you, i was very skeptical of the iraq surge .
>> you were.
>> but once i saw it was working, i said so. and so it would be very interesting to see how senator hagel now would think back on that period of time. it was perfectly legitimate for him to be skeptical or even opposed to the iraq surge . what would he say about it now? the confirmation process would allow people to sort of see how empirical this man is. i think he will do very well in that kind of dialogue but i think it's worth having.
>> michael , your position is that this confirmation process is going to actually be beneficial whereas the position of people like lindsey graham and eric continue o cantor is thereof shouldn't even be a confirmation process.
>> i think hagel will do well but if he doesn't do well i hope i will have the integrity to come back to say i think he should not be confirmed. i think he has enough going for him, enough strengths, that, yes, we should have an open process, which is what the whole system is designed to achieve. it's a perfect case of where the confirmation process can help, not just assessing hagel , but also having some good debate about issues like the apparent consensus that we may need to use force against iran in the next one to two years over its nuclear program . i'm glad hagel has some skepticism about that. i'd like to hear him articulate that some more.
>> mike, especially after the circus of the republican primaries where they seem to want to out do each other as to how belligerent and aggressive they could be towards iran .
>> that's part of it, but i'm also concerned about the stance the president has taken. i understand why president obama has been emphatic in saying we cannot tolerate a nuclear armed iran . unfortunately, that does potentially set us on a path towards conflict. i know the president is trying every last recourse he can consider before going to that fateful step, but i think hagel could actually be a useful voice in that conversation.
>> steve , let me play you two comments senator hagel made in 2011 about the pentagon and its budget. take a listen to this.
>> defense department i think in many ways has been bloated. so i think the pentagon needs to be pared down. our defense department budget is not a jobs program. it's not an economic development program for my state or any district.
>> how much do you think republicans are irked by those kind of comments.
>> luke was alluding to this up front. i think that's exactly the appeal, part of the appeal that the white house sees in appointing him is he has built in credibility. when a decorated military man gets up there and says, you know what? the pentagon can afford to take a budget hit --
>> it's no the a jobs program.
>> right. i think there's always been this sensitivity and it may still exist now but going back decades where democrats always had this extra sensitivity on foreign policy and international affairs and you say maybe clinton and obama have changed that a little bit. but there's always that sensitivity that maybe this is the republicans' issue and not our issue. i think again if you team up with a decorated military veteran who is a republican, you really can't find a better ally than that to have a kind of pr fight over the size and scope of the pentagon.
>> right. michael , if confirmed, chuck hagel will oversee these defense cuts. you've recently yourself written that we can and should look at the hundreds of billions that can be cut from defense. what do you say to conservatives, michael , who equate cutting defense with cuts to american security?
>> well, two things, martin. first, on the jobs issue dick cheney said it better than anybody, that the military budget is not a jobs program and so i would invoke him as well. that was back 20 years ago when he was secretary of defense but he was certainly right. on the issue of our national security , i'm not in favor of the sequestration level of cuts. i think that would be too much, but, again, let's air it out and have a debate. the defense secretary should not be precommitted to protect his turf and his budget. it's good senator hagel wants to have a debate. let's have some examples of where he would do some cutting. i'd like to hear from time. national security requires a strong economy. we have to get the entire budget on the table to get our deficit under control. i need a secretary of defense if i'm a voting citizen who also wants to acknowledge the pentagon budget needs to be part of that, too.
>> hear, hear to that. steve , does he survive? is he confirmed?
>> i think even if republicans mobilize unanimously i don't think he loses six democratic votes.
>> steve kornacki, michael o'hanl o'hanlon,