The trio of senators who led the months-long wave of criticism against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are suddenly focusing their attention on Obama's potential pick for Secretary of Defense: Chuck Hagel, who's been widely reported as the nominee. Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain — whose problems with Rice ended with her withdrawal from consideration for Secretary of State last week — all spoke out today against the former Nebraska senator, questioning his lack of fealty to the Republican Party; his increasinhly controversial views toward Israel and Iran; and, in the case of Lindsey Graham, unspecified allegations about "some of the things that are being attributed to him."
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Compared to conservative commentators like William Kristol, Jennifer Rubin and Bret Stephens (and McCain & Co.'s own campaign against Susan Rice), the trio's criticism is fairly mild. But a potentially contentious confirmation battle is still weeks away, and right now it's notable not for its content but its coordination.
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Ayotte, via The Washington Post:
In response to press inquiries she replied, “I appreciate Senator Hagel’s record of public service. While he has not yet been nominated, I am concerned about his prior positions with regard to Israel and Iran. If he is nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense, I intend to vigorously question him on those prior positions.”
Graham, via Bloomberg:
“There’s a lot of serious push-back from a wide variety of corners,” Graham said today in an interview. “I like Chuck personally, but some of the things that are being attributed to him I didn’t know about and are quite frankly stunning. So if he’s nominated, the hearing would be unusually important.”
And McCain, via Politico:
McCain scoffed at claims that Hagel would be a Republican voice in a mostly Democratic Cabinet, saying to “allege that Hagel is somehow a Republican — that is a hard one to swallow.”
McCain's comment is striking, by the way, because as former McCain staffer John Weaver points out on Twitter,
@therrera3501 Hagel was McCain's national co-chairman.— John Weaver (@JWGOP) December 20, 2012