McCain Opening Statement at SASC Hagel Confirmation Vote

McCain: Hagel performance the most unimpressive and unfocused I have ever seen


CARL LEVIN: […] Senator McCain.

JOHN MCCAIN: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I believe that Senator Hagel as far as I can determine, has complied with the requirements for, the parameters for the information  that needs to be disclosed to this committee. I’m somewhat disturbed to hear that today there’s two more speeches that he had not reported that maybe just surfaced. And yet at the same time I believe he has complied. I do not believe that we should move forward with his nomination until questions are answered that Senator Graham and Senator Ayotte and I have asked to be answered. I have, for the first time in my political career, I found myself in agreement with Mr. Robert Gibbs, who stated on [a] Sunday television show that it was — that Senator Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was the most unimpressive and unfocused that he had ever observed. I agreed with him. Most unimpressive that I’ve — his performance that I have seen in watching many nominees who came before the committee for various positions. He didn’t even know that the — our policy toward Iran is not one of containment, had to be corrected by the Chairman of the committee, and of course, his failure to answer specific questions that I asked is very disturbing. Let me point out that the surge was an issue for the lives of thousands of American servicemen and women who are serving in Iraq. Senator Graham and I and others, not many, were harshly critical of the Bush Administration, called for the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld when he said that there was only a few dead end kids left in Iraq, and took on our own administration, our own president, our own Secretary of Defense. Senator Hagel, then-Senator Hagel also thought we were losing. And then when the surge was implemented, gave a statement that the surge was the worst blunder since Vietnam. And then went on with some nonsense about whether Lyndon Johnson was in Cambodia or not. And he continued to oppose the surge and said that it would fail. I think we’re all responsible for our record. I’ll be glad and have quite often been pointed out where I have been wrong. But for him to fail, to agree that what was clearly and obviously a success, to me, indicates that he really didn’t want to be forthcoming to this committee, and I don’t think he complied with the requirements of answering the questions for members of this committee. And I’m aware that some think that it became rather tense. We’re talking about thousands of young Americans who had their lives on the line in Iraq. Including some people that, well — and Senator Hagel’s judgment was wrong, continues to be wrong, and refuses to admit that he was [not] right on this issue, and many other issues. And his gratuitous attacks, for example, saying that President Bush was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, of course, were just gratuitous attacks on the president of the United States. But you can only judge somebody by their past performance in order to predict what their future performance will be. His performance before this committee was the worst that I have seen of any nominee for office. He refused to answer a simple straightforward question as to whether the surge was a success or not, and whether he supported it or not. that was a key moment in the history of this country. And so, Mr. Chairman, I hope that we will get the answer that Senator Ayotte and Senator Graham and I have asked to be answered. And I hope that that will happen. But, I cannot vote to report out Senator Hagel’s nomination favorably.