White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the at times rough questioning of Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel on the Iraq War and other issues as “political posturing” and said President Barack Obama remains convinced he will be an excellent secretary.
Hagel came under particularly heavy fire from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for his opposition to the Iraq “surge.” McCain called the surge a success, but Hagel continued to question whether it was necessary, saying it cost 1,200 soldiers’ lives.
Carney said questions about the Iraq War seemed to be the usual political posturing and were about the past rather than the future.
Carney also defended Hagel’s support for a world without nuclear weapons, noting that the same sentiment has been expressed by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, former State Secretary Henry Kissinger, former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Obama.
“You know, the world would be a better place if we could rid it of nuclear weapons,” Carney said. “Until that time comes about, we maintain the most serious and credible nuclear deterrent, as we should.”
Several Republican senators said they were troubled by Hagel’s support for a nuclear-free world, even as he repeatedly stated that he supports modernizing American nuclear forces for now and does not favor unilateral disarmament.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.