Hagel's 7 Worst Moments in Round One

January 31, 2013

Left and right agree: The first round of defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing did not go well Thursday. He stumbled over policies, faced sharp criticism over his involvement in the Global Zero Policy Commission, and was even forced to walk back statements made during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Here are Hagel’s seven worst moments:

1. Hagel can’t answer yes or no on whether the Iraq surge worked

Hagel once called the surge "most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) came ready Thursday, bombarding Hagel with a simple, repeated question: Did the Iraq surge work?

2. Cruz roasts Hagel over agreeing that America is ‘world’s bully’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) lambasted Hagel over his 2009 interview with Al Jazeera where he agreed with a description of the United States as the "world’s bully."

3. Inhofe asks Hagel, Why has Iran endorsed you?

Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.) concluded his questions for Hagel with, "The question I’d like to ask you, and you can answer for the record if you’d like, why do you think the Iranian Foreign Ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the secretary of defense?" Hagel replied, "I have a difficult enough time with American politics, senator. I have no idea, but thank you."

4. Hagel says he supports the president’s ‘strong position on containment’…

Hagel announced his support for President Obama’s "position on containment" of Iran’s nuclear program.

5. …and walks it back four minutes later

"I was just handed a note that I misspoke that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment," he said.

6. Hagel calls Iran’s government ‘elected, legitimate’…

Hagel stated Iran has an "elected, legitimate government"—not the first time he’s characterized the Iranian government as a "legitimate power."

7. …and walks it back

"What I meant to say–should have said–it’s recognizable," Hagel said. "It’s been recognized, is recognized at the United Nations. Most of our allies have embassies there. That’s what I should have said, and…thank you."

Bonus: Carney won’t say if Iran’s government is ‘legitimate’