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Sen. Bob Corker raised questions Sunday about former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s “temperament,” adding another element to the debate over President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next secretary of Defense.
The Tennessee lawmaker said his concerns about Hagel were not “disqualifying” going into the confirmation hearings, but he wanted answers for some of his questions.
“I begin all of these confirmation processes with an open mind,” Corker, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”
Corker said he was interested in learning more about Hagel’s stances on Israel and Iran and his “overall temperament.”
“I think there are a number of staffers who are coming forth now about the way he has dealt with them,” Corker said.
Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, raised the same concerns in a Friday blog post that dealt with Hagel’s Israel policy stance and alleged anti-Semitism.
“Certainly, I do not know that he is one, nor am I convinced he is not,” Pletka wrote. “I suspect that he is a man of uneven temperament; that, I can attest to personally, having worked with his staff for some years.”
Hagel was in recent weeks accused of possible anti-Semitism, based in part on a comment about the “Jewish lobby” in a larger discussion about the country’s relationship with Israel.
Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, also appearing on “This Week,” dismissed the anti-Semitism charges as a “preposterous” and an “ad hominem” attack.
“There have been a lot of one-liners,” Corker acknowledged. “I want to dig in and find out whether that’s really Chuck Hagel’s view of the world or if they’re taken out of context.”
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., also on “This Week,” said that he has traveled with Obama and Hagel and that they appear to have a good working relationship.
“I also understand that Chuck has the wherewithal and the ability to speak truth to power. That is a value that’s incredibly important to the president,” Reed told Stephanopoulos.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he wants to learn Hagel’s views on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan during an upcoming meeting.
“It’s going to be a very interesting conversation that I look forward to having,” Manchin said.
Manchin, a former governor, said that based on his executive experience, he would give the president “every consideration” to put together his own Cabinet.