Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, whose confirmation as Secretary of Defense was delayed last week when the Senate failed to vote to end debate, has responded to a query by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) by denying that he had said “the State Department was becoming an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.”
Sen. Graham told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that Hagel had responded to the query with a denial:
I got a letter back from Sen. Hagel in response to my question, ‘Did you say that? Do you believe that?’, and the letter said he did not recall saying that, he disavows that statement….if in fact that’s true, that would end that matter, because he’s previously said in a book that the ‘Jewish Lobby’ intimidates members of Congress…if the second statement were true…those two together would show an edge and a view of the Israeli-U.S. relationship way out of the mainstream. So I’ll just take him at his word unless something new comes along.
Hagel was alleged to have made the comment during the question-and-answer session of a speech at Rutgers University in 2007. No video or transcript of that portion of Hagel’s address has yet been found. The quote was published at the time by a blogger in attendance who agreed with Hagel’s general views on foreign policy.
Graham added that he was glad to have had the time to ask the question, and that the Senate should not have been rushed to confirm a nominee with thin qualifications whose views were well outside the mainstream.
He reiterated that he believed the president made a poor choice: “Can we do better than this? I think so.”