The Rachel Maddow Show | January 04, 2013
>>> we better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more americans into that grinder. you better be sure as you kp can be. and i want every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera and you tell your people back home what you think. don't hide anymore, none of us.
>> then senator chuck hagel , republican senator of nebraska, breaking ranks very publicly with his party and with the bush administration over the war in iraq . for a long time afterward, his republican colleagues continued to call him a dear friend and a respected public servant. but now, now that mr. hagel seems to be the likely obama administration's second term nominee for secretary of defense, his previous republican friends seem to be changing their minds about him. joining us now is steve clements from the new america foundation. he writes at the washington note and the atlantic magazine where he is washington editor at large. hi, steve . it's nice to see you.
>> great to be with you, rachel.
>> what are you hearing from sources in washington and the white house and elsewhere about the likelihood that it is going to be senator hagel who gets this nomination?
>> well, i talked to a couple of folks today in the white house today who said steve , the president has not yet made up his mind on who he will select, and no one has been offered the job yet, but the president is going the offer it to senator hagel . and that will happen, as chuck todd reported, on monday or tuesday.
>> of all the issues that senator hagel 's critics may bring up against him, which ones do you think might significantly threaten his nomination, if any?
>> i think the biggest issue that he has to contend with is a very large franchise of opposition that is concerned about his views on israel and middle east issues. i think senator hagel has always stood by israel 's security and israel 's support, but he is also a person who is very blunt about the point that america can't afford to make choices between one nation and it's neighbors who are vital partners to the united states . he is very blunt about that issue as he was about the iraq war . and i frankly think it's smart foreign policy . but i do think that that's where he is going to get the bulk of his opposition.
>> steve , you are a guy who speaks bluntly as well. do you feel like that, the source of the criticism against him on issues of the middle east and israel , do you feel like that he has sort of refused to be politically correct in his language in the sort of gesture politics that you're supposed to make on that issue, or do you think that it is about his substantive policy beliefs and what he might be like as defense secretary ?
>> chuck hagel more than any other senator i have known is not someone to jump on media bandwagons. i had a talk tonight with the former chief of naval operations in israel who became the head of the friends in israel of the uso. chuck hagel used to be head of the uso. and he had a long relationship with hagel over the years. and he approached hagel and said i hear that you're not signing on to a press statement that other senators have signed on about getting jews out of russia. and hagel sent him a letter that he had privately sent to president clinton , as well as president clinton 's response, and he said the much more effective way to push my government and to push my president is to handle it this way. i have no interest in jumping in the press. he was fully supportive of the effort, but he had very little interest of playing the puff erry games in the media. what do you make of the criticism from the other side, particularly the criticism that democratic presidents , in some cases have almost reflexively chosen republicans to run the defense department . and republicans are the national defense and democrats are not.
>> leon panetta is secretary of defense now and he has put himself between bob gates and chuck hagel . but the second thing, and i mean this as no negative. this are very qualified, competent people in the democratic party who are more than competent to run the department of defense . that said, the democrats, many of them that came in with president obama , that were also part of the concern that americans don't trust democrats to deploy power, to be forceful in the world have adopted in many of the institutions they have built in the last four to five to six years a pentagon-hugging strategy of not wanting to reform or cut because of the fear that they will be considered vietnam democrats, anti-military democrats. so to send in a republican in an era of austerity to slash budgets and to basically send a message that at the end of this, we're going to apply intelligence and technology to our security platforms and come out with more security deliverables, even though we're spending less is something that i think president obama thinks a republican like chuck hagel can do better than other candidates that are in the field.
>> that's fascinating. the politics here are fascinating. i would love to get blunt assessments of how they're viewing those politics in washington , and we never will. but you can see them better close up. steve clemons , atlantic magazine, steve , as always, thank you.
>>> we have a department of corrections coming up. and if that doesn't sound epic to you, then you are the one who is wrong. [