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Washington prepares for fight over Hagel nomination
Battle-lines are being drawn in Washington over president Obama’s pick to run the pentagon.
"Mr. President, i will always give you my honest and most informed counsel," said Chuck Hagel.
Chuck Hagel's nomination has set up a tough new political fight for the White House - a fight President Obama signaled he's ready to have over the plain spoken Vietnam veteran.
"His willingness to speak his mind, even if it wasn't popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom. And that's exactly the spirit i want on my national security team," Obama said.
Under fire for his past statements about Israel and Iran, Hagel is now speaking out - telling his hometown newspaper: "The distortions about my record have been astounding."
Once describing pro-Israeli groups as a "Jewish lobby," and voicing opposition to unilateral sanctions on Iran, Hagel now says there's, "not one shred of evidence I'm anti-Israeli, not one vote that matters that hurt Israel." And Hagel defends his Iran stance, saying unilateral sanctions, "don't work and they just isolate the United States..."
Republican critics, though, aren't convinced:
"He's an honorable man, he's had a record of distinguished service, but he's profoundly wrong on a number of the most important national security issues that face our country today," Senator John Cornyn said.
The White House is feverishly lobbying key Jewish groups, an effort that's helped soften criticism from the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman who wrote: "Senator Hagel would not have been my first choice, but I respect the president's prerogative."
"The White House is reaching out to a number of groups and individuals with regards to this nomination and others," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
And Hagel's also likely to face questions about his position on gay rights - after his 1998 comments criticizing a U.S. ambassador nominee as, "openly aggressively gay." Hagel has since apologized, but one openly gay senator says she'd like to hear more.
"I do want to speak with him particularly about his comments 14 years ago to see if his apology is sincere and sufficient," said Senator Tammy Baldwin.
And Monday the White House faced protests, but not over Chuck Hagel.
Demonstrators protested the president's choice of John Brennan to run the CIA. Brennan withdrew his name from consideration for the job four years ago over his connection to controversial interrogation techniques - like waterboarding - that date back to the Bush years.
Going into the confirmation hearings, U.S. Senator Mike Johanns says he will keep an open mind. However, he says Hagel will need to convince him that he is the right choice.
"Chuck's a controversial guy. He has made a lot of statements and speeches on Sunday morning programs throughout the years and said controversial things. Some of it's focused on the Middle East. And, now he has the chance and opportunity to explain what he meant. And so, I want to hear what he has to say in the hearing, I want to hear what he has to say in response to his nomination."
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