Hagel spars with Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who opened by arguing that Chuck Hagel's views are far outside the mainstream, questioned the former Nebraska senator aggressively on Iran, Israel and nuclear weapons at the Senate confirmation hearing for Hagel as defense secretary.

Inhofe first asked Hagel about his refusal to sign a letter in support of Israel's policy toward Palestinians. When Hagel asked about the details of the letter, Inhofe, worrying about his allotted time, moved on. (The letter was from 2001.)

The Republican senator went on to ask if Hagel had voted against labeling Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Hagel replied that he had and attempted to explain; Inhofe cut him off repeatedly, saying that he did not want to use up his time in that way.

Inhofe asked if Hagel's support for a group that aims to eliminate nuclear weapons was at odds with his stated commitment to maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal. His position has "never been unilateral disarmament, never, ever," Hagel said. "In a dangerous world... we're not going to unilaterally disarm.... It has to be bilateral. It has to be negotiated."

Finally, Inhofe asked why Hagel thought the Iranian Foreign Ministry has supported his nomination. (A ministry spokesman expressed "hope there will be practical changes" under Hagel.)

"I have a difficult enough time with American politics," Hagel replied. "I have no idea."

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Ed O'Keefe | January 31, 2013