The trio of senators who led the months-long wave of criticism against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are suddenly focusing their attention on Obama's potential pick for Secretary of Defense: Chuck Hagel, who's been widely reported as the nominee. Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain — whose problems with Rice ended with her withdrawal from consideration for Secretary of State last week — all spoke out today against the former Nebraska senator, questioning his lack of fealty to the Republican Party; his increasinhly controversial views toward Israel and Iran; and, in the case of Lindsey Graham, unspecified allegations about "some of the things that are being attributed to him."
Compared to conservative commentators like William Kristol, Jennifer Rubin and Bret Stephens (and McCain & Co.'s own campaign against Susan Rice), the trio's criticism is fairly mild. But a potentially contentious confirmation battle is still weeks away, and right now it's notable not for its content but its coordination.
Ayotte, via The Washington Post:
In response to press inquiries she replied, “I appreciate Senator Hagel’s record of public service. While he has not yet been nominated, I am concerned about his prior positions with regard to Israel and Iran. If he is nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense, I intend to vigorously question him on those prior positions.”
Graham, via Bloomberg:
“There’s a lot of serious push-back from a wide variety of corners,” Graham said today in an interview. “I like Chuck personally, but some of the things that are being attributed to him I didn’t know about and are quite frankly stunning. So if he’s nominated, the hearing would be unusually important.”
And McCain, via Politico:
McCain scoffed at claims that Hagel would be a Republican voice in a mostly Democratic Cabinet, saying to “allege that Hagel is somehow a Republican — that is a hard one to swallow.”
McCain's comment is striking, by the way, because as former McCain staffer John Weaver points out on Twitter,
@therrera3501 Hagel was McCain's national co-chairman.— John Weaver (@JWGOP) December 20, 2012