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SEEKING TO SET RECORD STRAIGHT
If he is ultimately confirmed, Hagel would take over the Pentagon at a time of sharp reductions in defense spending, but with the United States still facing major challenges, including China, Iran and North Korea.
Hagel, speaking publicly for the first time since the attacks against his nomination began, at times seemed cautious and halting. He sought to set the record straight, assuring the panel that he backed U.S. policies of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and supporting a strong Israel.
“No one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record,” Hagel said in opening remarks to the packed hearing room.
“My overall world view has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world.”
In an unusual reversal of partisanship, Democrats, more than his fellow Republicans, gave Hagel sympathetic support and time to air his views.
The committee’s Democratic chairman, Carl Levin, said his concerns, especially over Hagel’s past comments about unilateral sanctions on Iran, had been addressed. “Senator Hagel’s reassurance to me … that he supports the Obama administration’s strong stance against Iran is significant,” Levin said.
Despite the harsh tone from many Republicans, some senators from the party approached Hagel more collegially.
Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia called Hagel by his first name and exchanged jokes with him during his testimony. He served alongside Hagel in the Senate. Roy Blount of Missouri had a cordial exchange about the strength of the country’s industrial base.