- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2013

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Sunday vigorously defended President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to run the Defense Department, saying the former Republican senator is “superbly qualified.”

Despite the support of some Republicans, Mr. Hagel is expected to face tough scrutiny during upcoming Senate committee hearings on his nomination, particularly from hawks in both parties who suggest he would be soft in prosecuting the nation’s fight against terrorism and who question his commitment to Israel.

Mr. Powell, who headed the State Department during President George W. Bush’s first term,but endorsed Mr. Obama in both his presidential runs and was harshly critical of the tea party again Sunday, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Mr. Hagel has a “very, very distinguished public service record that he can stand on” and that he “will do a great job as secretary of defense.”

Mr. Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said Mr. Hagel’s decision to volunteer for the Vietnam War, where he was wounded twice in combat, “show[s] you the kind of courage this guy has and what he believes in.”

“This is a guy who knows veterans, knows the troops,” he said. “He knows what war is, and he will fight a war if it’s necessary, but he’s a guy who will do it with great deliberation and care.”

Confirmation hearings await former Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to head ... more >

Mr. Powell added that Mr. Hagel’s 12 years in the Senate and his current faculty position with Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service make him a “gentleman who knows all of these issues in depth.”

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said Mr. Hagel “brings some unique quality to this job” because of his military and political leadership experience. He told ABC’s “This Week” that he thinks the former senator from Nebraska will be confirmed “with strong support.”

“One thing that’s terribly compelling — and it goes to his credibility with the forces — he’s been a combat soldier,” Mr. Reed said. “He’s fought. He has literally walked in their boots. That, I think, will inspire great confidence in the military officers and enlisted men that he deals with, and women.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, who is staunchly pro-Israel, told “Fox News Sunday” that he isn’t fully comfortable with the nomination and has questions for Mr. Hagel. But he said the former senator is “someone of stature” and a “war hero,” and predicted he will be confirmed.

But Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on “This Week” that he has concerns that Mr. Hagel’s “overall temperament” could make him ill-suited to run the Pentagon.

“I think there are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them,” Mr. Corker said. “I have, certainly questions, about a lot of things.”

Mr. Corker said his concerns were not “disqualifying” and that he begins “all of these confirmation processes with an open mind.”

Mr. Hagel’s nomination has stoked criticism from conservatives who have doubts about the depth of his support for Israel and his willingness to get tough with sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said last week that it was hopeful that a Hagel-led Pentagon would improve relations between Tehran and the United States.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, said Mr. Hagel’s nomination sends the wrong message to Iran and Israel.

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