Jan. 31 - Former Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican who broke with his party over the Iraq War, faces tough questioning at his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of defense. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Chuck Hagel, named to be President Barack Obama's defense chief, on Thursday (Jan. 31) told a skeptical Senate panel considering his nomination that he backs U.S. policy of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and supports a strong Israeli military. Critics in Congress have sought to portray Hagel, a former Republican senator and decorated Vietnam war veteran, as a soft on Iran and anti-Israel, pointing to past comments that Hagel's supporters say were taken out of context or distorted. Although most observers expect Hagel will eventually be confirmed, at least three Republican panel members, including James Inhofe, the party's leader on the Armed Services Committee, have said they did not support his nomination. Hagel, speaking publicly for the first time since the attacks against his nomination began sought to set the record straight. "No one individual vote, quote, or statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record," Hagel said in testimony prepared for delivery at the hearing. "My overall world view has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world." Hagel, who broke with his Republican party over the Iraq War, was expected to face a much more confrontational panel. Beyond tough questioning on Israel and Iran, he was also expected to be grilled on his view of the Pentagon budget - Hagel is known as an advocate for tighter spending controls.