WASHINGTON — With former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary imminent, conservatives denounced his views on Israel and Iran as out of step with mainstream foreign policy.
An administration official said Sunday that Hagel - a decorated Vietnam veteran, a Republican and a former two-term senator from Nebraska - would be nominated Monday to succeed Leon E. Panetta. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House planning.
The nomination is likely to set up a bruising confirmation fight. Critics on all sides already have been complaining about Hagel, with Republicans leading the charge.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., predicted that Hagel would be “the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation’s history,” and called it an “in-your-face nomination.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., while promising Hagel would get a “fair hearing,” said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would get “tough questions” in a confirmation hearing.
Hagel is viewed with suspicion by many in his party for calling on Israel to negotiate with Palestinians and for his opposition to some sanctions against Iran. Since his possible nomination was floated late last year, he has come under fierce attack by conservatives.
He also has been criticized on the left for a remark he made in 1998 that a Clinton administration ambassadorial nominee was “openly, aggressively gay.” Hagel recently apologized for that comment and pledged support for lesbian and gay military families.
Hagel, an Army veteran with two Purple Hearts, said in a recent interview with the history magazine Vietnam: “I’m not a pacifist. I believe in using force, but only after a very careful decision-making process. ... I will do everything I can to avoid needless, senseless war.”