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Biden Defends Hagel, Calls GOP Criticism 'Ridiculous'

Vice President Joe Biden staunchly defended Hagel, dismissing Republican criticisms of the former Nebraska senator.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 1/31/2013, 6:10 PM

President Obama shakes hand of Chuck Hagel
President Obama shakes hand of Chuck Hagel
Reuters

Vice President Joe Biden staunchly defended President Obama’s highly controversial nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, calling Republican criticisms of the former Nebraska senator “ridiculous.”

In an interview with CNN, Biden was asked to respond to allegations that Hagel and newly confirmed secretary of state John Kerry (D-Mass.) would be ill qualified to defend U.S. interests abroad.

“Where have they been for four years?” asked Biden of the critics, adding that Obama’s first-term record should quell any lack of confidence in his foreign-policy agenda.

“The real President Obama has exercised force responsibly as boldly and as bravely as any president in American history,” he said. “This is the guy who's not backed away. And he's also ended wars that almost every military man out there will tell you we should not be engaged in again.”

“The idea of getting engaged again in a ground war in a country that is in transition is not a prescription any military man would suggest and to suggest that two, two war heroes, one with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, Silver Star, taking over both the foreign … State Department and Defense, is a dove or whatever the phrase was, is ridiculous,” Biden added.

Hagel will confront serious questions during his confirmation hearing on Thursday, including his alleged anti-Israel and anti-gay record, as well as his soft stance on Iran.

On Tuesday, the Senate, in a near unanimous 94-3 vote, confirmed Kerry to be the next secretary of defense, replacing Hillary Clinton.

In an attempt to alleviate opposition and concerns prior to his hearing, Hagel on Wednesday submitted answers on a number of policy questions to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The United States should take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he wrote in a 112-page questionnaire. “If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that US military is in fact prepared for any contingency.”

Meanwhile, though it has been recently revealed that in 2003 Hagel made staggering accusations against Israel, alleging that the Jewish state is keeping the “Palestinians caged up like animals.”

Hagel was quoted as making the comments on January 12, 2003 by the Lincoln Journal Star, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday.

While he does not elaborate on his charge, the comment is consistent with his long anti-Israel and anti-Jewish record.

The Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement upon first hearing of Hagel’s nomination, calling it “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel,” as it outlined his extensive anti-Israel record.