Senator Hagel’s speech today — posted below — was quite superb in articulating a smart stragegy for American engagement in the Middle East.
I asked the Senator about his views regarding John Bolton’s confirmation as the Senator was not able to attend the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings yesterday.
Senator Hagel has stated unambiguously that he is now “undecided” on John Bolton.
Here is the exchange:
Steven Clemons: Senator Hagel. Thanks for a very inspiring and unfortunately very sober (given these times we are in) speech.
Yesterday you were unable to attend the foreign relations committee hearings on John Bolton. And it occurs to me that Ambassador Bolton probably does not share the same level of concern you do that the “world’s trust and confidence in America’s purpose is eroding.” And I’m interested — while I agree with virtually every word that you said in your speech — I’m interested in how you maintain support for Ambassador Bolton’s confirmation when he seems to be so at odds with the spirit of what you talked about today?
Senator Chuck Hagel: From now on no smart people can ask questions. It’s a rule senators usually follow.
Let’s take first the question on Ambassador Bolton. I was not there. And I think your analysis of where he would be in regard to my observations and thoughts presented in the speech I suspect are about right.
I’ve never engaged Ambassador Bolton on some of the specifics that I have presented here this morning.
But get to the heart of your question, which is a good question, I would answer this way: I have not decided, if Mr. Bolton comes up for a vote, how I will vote.
I have supported his nomination in committee prior which as you know was reported out and never got a vote on the floor because the votes weren’t there. And I have generally taken a position. I’ve done this in the 10 years I’ve been in the senate where it’s a democratic president like when I first came to the senate president Clinton was in office or a republican president, that presidents deserve their people and if the president has confidence in that person and that person is qualified and not under indictment or detox or any other considerations, then generally I would have supported the president’s nominee.
And I think there’s only maybe one or two times in ten years I’ve not done that.
In this case I want to revisit Mr. Bolton’s performance. I think, just as you have noticed, if I actually believe what I have said, and I do, then there appears to be at least in your mind some disconnect in how I could support Mr. Bolton. And I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a fair question.
And I think the United Nations is a very important institution. I think it’s as important today as maybe it’s ever been. And I think America needs to have a standing there, needs to have relationships there, and needs to be seen not just as the biggest donor nation, but we need to do more than that.
I recognize that there are differences of opinion just as I have stated here just as Franklin Roosevelt spoke about that sixty years ago. And I don’t think weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done a very good job of factoring those differences into our policies and our relationships. That’s partly why I think were in trouble in the world.
So, bottom line answer to your question is, I haven’t decided yet how I’ll vote on Mr. Bolton.
The debate about John Bolton is now back in play.
— Steve Clemons
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