WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday defended former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel’s qualifications to be the next defense secretary, saying in a lengthy interview that he expects Hagel to be confirmed.
“I think he gets confirmed,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think he’s ultimately superbly qualified, based on his overall record, based on his service to the country, based on how he feels about troops and veterans and families. I think he will do a great job as secretary of defense.”
Powell, who endorsed Hagel the day President Obama announced his nomination, pushed back against concerns some senators have raised about Hagel’s record on Iraq, Iran and Israel.
“There are people who are very supportive of the state of Israel,” Powell said.
“I’m very supportive of the state of Israel. So is Senator Hagel, and you’ll see that in the confirmation hearings, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes.”
Powell criticized what he saw as the Obama administration floating names — including Hagel’s — for Cabinet positions in advance of the president announcing his official nominations. Such moves, Powell said, can do more harm than good to the potential nominees.
“In both the Susan Rice case and in the Chuck Hagel case, if they were sure that’s who they were going to nominate, I think it should have been done promptly. But all of these sort of test nominations that they send out there, I think just cause the media to naturally focus on it, and potential opponents of that nomination just pile on,” Powell said.
Across the Sunday talk-show landscape, some senators defended Hagel, with others raising concerns about him.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that questions about Hagel’s “temperament” will be raised during his confirmation hearings.
“I think there are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them,” Corker said. Appearing on the same program, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, defended Hagel’s record.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that there are “legitimate questions” that need to be asked of Hagel.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said she is “very troubled” by Obama’s decision to nominate Hagel. While she stressed that she had not made up her mind about whether she will vote to confirm him, Ayotte said Hagel’s confirmation hearings will be “very consequential.”