McCain and Hagel: no longer a perfect blendship

By Laurie Bennett

January 31, 2013 at 5:23pm

If Sunday’s “Sixty Minutes” interview of President Obama and Hillary Clinton provided insights into political foes-turned-friends, Thursday’s Senate grilling of Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense gave the reverse.

The faceoff between Sen. John McCain and Chuck Hagel was anything but amicable.

When Hagel sidestepped a question about the 2007 surge of American forces in Iraq, McCain drilled down.

“I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you’re on the wrong side of it,” McCain told him.

A decade ago, the two Republican senators, both Vietnam veterans, were close friends. Hagel co-chaired McCain’s 2000 run for the presidency.

During the George W. Bush years, however, the two expressed increasingly different views on foreign policy, particularly on Iraq and Iran.

Hagel did not endorse McCain for president in 2008 and criticized his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. His wife Lilibet supported Obama.

Yet when the New Yorker interviewed him for a profile published in November 2008, he said the friendship was still strong.

“It’s hard, it seems, for some people to comprehend how John and I can be on such different paths on something so important, and still fundamentally have a relationship that’s pretty deep,” he told writer Connie Bruck.

That was then.

On Thursday, McCain and other Republicans made clear their dissatisfaction with nominee. While their tough questions certainly must have been anticipated, Hagel failed to deliver as good as he got.

Before the hearing was even over, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), announced he would oppose the nomination.

McCain told Politico he hadn’t made up his mind, but noted that Hagel’s refusal to answer his question was “certainly a factor.”

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