‘Superbly qualified’ for top defense job
WASHINGTON – Retired Gen. Colin Powell defended Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary Sunday and predicted he would be confirmed, even as a top Senate Republican questioned Hagel’s temperament.
Powell, former secretary of state to President George W. Bush and a respected member of the GOP, had voiced strong support for Hagel shortly after President Barack Obama named the former Nebraska senator to replace Leon Panetta. On Sunday, Powell called Hagel, a fellow Republican, “superbly qualified.”
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he lauded Hagel’s “distinguished public service record,” noting that he volunteered for the Vietnam War, showed courage in quitting his post at the Department of Veterans Affairs to protest poor treatment of veterans, and led the USO, which provides services to troops, while running a private cellphone company.
“So this is a guy who knows veterans, knows the troops, knows the USO,” said Powell, a retired four-star general in the Army and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. “And when people say, ‘Well, that doesn’t necessarily make him a good candidate for secretary of defense,’ I’ll tell you who thinks that makes him a good candidate for secretary of defense: the men and women in the armed forces of the United States and their parents who know that this is a guy who will be very careful about putting their lives at risk, because he put his life at risk.”
Powell called Hagel a “good supporter of Israel” and predicted he would be confirmed.
Also Sunday, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Hagel’s “overall temperament” would come up in confirmation hearings.
“Is he suited to run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the Pentagon?” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee asked on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think there are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them,” he said.