Chuck Hagel: in first interview former senator defends himself from attacks

Hagel: “Unequivocal” Support for Israel

Hagel: “Unequivocal” Support for Israel

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Jan. 7 2013 3:39 PM

Chuck Hagel: My Record Shows “Unequivocal, Total Support for Israel”

Chuck Hagel speaks at the White House on Monday after President Obama announced he wanted the former senator to lead the Defense Department

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Having your name floated for a position that requires Senate confirmation has been described as being in a boxing ring when you’re not allowed to punch back. “This is a knife in the back” is how Ellen Tauscher, former undersecretary of state for arms control, described it to The New Yorker recently. “Because you cannot defend yourself when you are not nominated. You don’t have the policy or the political machine of the White House behind you. It is a very unsavory, very terrible situation.” Well, now that former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination has been announced, he wasted no time in fighting back against critics.

In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star, the former Nebraska senator says critics have “completely distorted” his record, and he insisted there is “not one shred of evidence that I'm anti-Israeli, not one [Senate] vote that matters that hurt Israel." He said he sometimes didn’t sign on to “certain resolutions and letters because they were counterproductive and didn’t solve a problem.” Hagel has been criticized for saying that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” The former senator also vehemently denied he has been soft toward Iran and sayed he has only opposed unilateral sanctions because “they don’t work, and they just isolate the United States.”

Politico takes a look at the five groups that could sink Hagel’s confirmation: the pro-Israel crowd, gay rights advocates, Senate Republicans, “Democrats in the Senate—and the base,” and advocates for U.S. involvements overseas. NBC News says there are “as many as 10” Democratic senators who might vote against Hagel. In an illustration of what a tough fight lies ahead for the former senator, the Emergency Committee for Israel bought and has set a website opposing Hagel’s nomination, reports the Hill.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.