McCain started out friendly enough saying that he was pleased to see his old friend Hagel but then asked if he stood by his comment on the surge:
I stand by ’em because I made ’em’,” Hagel replied. “I would defer to the judgment of history.”
As Hagel offered to “explain” his remarks, McCain cut him off. “I want to know whether you were right or wrong. That’s a direct question, I expect a direct answer.”
“The surge assisted in the objective,” Hagel said. “But if we review the record a little bit—”
“Will you please answer the question?” McCain jumped in. “Were you correct, or incorrect, when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam? Were you correct or incorrect? Yes or no?
“Were you right or wrong? That’s a pretty straightforward question,” McCain said.
“I’m not going to give you a yes or no answer,” Hagel said. “If you would like me to explain why—”
“No, I actually would like an answer, yes or no,” McCain said, cutting him off.
“I’ll defer that judgment to history,” Hagel repeated. But he added that his Vietnam comments referred to “the overall war of choice, going into Iraq” and called the March 2003 invasion “the most fundamentally bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam.”
“I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you’re on the wrong side of it,” McCain said. “And your refusal to answer whether you were right or wrong about it is going to have an impact on my judgment as to whether to vote for your confirmation or not.”
“I hope whether you will reconsider,” McCain said.
(if you cannot see video below please click here)
There was more confrontation at the hearings as Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the ranking Republican on the
committee, said Hagel has been wrong on many policy issues in
the past and that he believe he was backpedaling on his controversial stances in an effort
to get confirmed. Really a politician would do that?
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“This apparent willingness to walk by or alter
his position, possibly for the sake of political expediency on such
important issues, is deeply troubling and sends a concerning message to
our allies and our adversaries, alike,” Inhofe said.
More on the hearings later.