Conservative group to intensify campaign to defeat Hagel
A conservative advocacy group, the American Future Fund, is intensifying its campaign to defeat Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary nominee, with a new national ad highlighting some of his comments from last week's confirmation hearing widely-panned by critics.
The ad, entitled "Novice," is set to air nationally on some of the talk shows this coming Sunday and uses clips that paint Hagel's testimony in a poor light. In one clip he is asked about past comments he made that Israel was keeping "Palestinians caged up like animals." When asked about the remark, the ad uses part of Hagel's response aid at the hearing when he said "I don't remember the context or when I said it."
A second comment -- and "By the way, I've just been handed a note that I misspoke"-- used in the ad was Hagel trying to clarify his own remarks talking about the administration's policy towards Iran's nuclear program saying he supported the president's position on containment. The administration actually wants to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Following Hagel's admission he misspoke, he said "I obviously meant to say we don't have a position on containment." Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin then stated "We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment...I just wanted to clarify the clarify."
Some supporters of Hagel's nomination have told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger even they don't think he did well in that hearing and that he was unprepared.
The ad, which quotes the Wall Street Journal as saying the former Nebraska senator would be "a novice at a dangerous time."
Despite the criticism, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday the White House still expects the Senate to confirm Hagel.
The Senate Armed Services Committee delayed an expected vote on Thursday because of concerns raised by some Republicans about Hagel's past financial dealings. Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin called the GOP requests for more detailed information unprecedented because they are asking for more information than that of past nominees.
A source familiar with the nomination says supporters are confident all 55 Senate Democrats and independents will vote for Hagel. Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, and Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, announced their support Thursday. Two Republicans (Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, and Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Nebraska, have announced their support of Hagel. Several other as well GOP Senators have said they would not back a filibuster so supporters believe they have the 60 votes needed to defeat any filibuster attempt in the Senate.
Hagel continues to work Capitol Hill by meeting with seven Democratic senators on Thursday. He will have sat down with about 75 senators by the end of this week, a source familiar with the nomination told CNN.
Carney said Hagel has provided extensive information already to the Senate. Supporters of Hagel's pick point out that many of the Republicans raising concerns were already against the nomination and that is last ditch effort to stop the nomination.
Opponents, such as the American Future Fund, Americans for a Strong Defense, and the Emergency Committee for Israel, are waging basically an unprecedented political campaign against Hagel complete with television ads, online efforts and outreach to Capitol Hill.
This is America Future Fund's third ad against Hagel, and a source familiar with its buy told CNN "it will grow."
The Emergency Committee for Israel also is ramping up its opposition. It released a new ad that starts airing Friday on cable in New York and Washington, D.C. and will also be shown on some of the Sunday shows. This spot particularly focuses on the Iranian issue. Hagel has come under criticism for previously not supporting unilateral sanctions against Iran.
To try to stem the criticism, Hagel said in his confirmation hearing that he was "fully committed to the president's goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" and that "all options must be on the table to achieve that goal."
The committee's ad, Endorsed, highlights some of Hagel's comments on Iran at the hearing, such as when he said Iran had an "elected legitimate government."
Later, pressed on those statements, Hagel told the committee the "term legitimate was not the term I should have used. I should have used recognized. That is the more appropriate term. And I was referring to the fact that it is a nation that is a member of the United Nations. It has embassies from all of our allies. It is a recognized nation."
But he also repeated Iran did have an elected government although experts have said it is not believed to be the real decision making power in the country.
"I just explained that I should have said recognized instead of legitimate, which I did earlier today. There was an election and there will be another presidential election in June of this year for president of Iran," Hagel told the senators. The last part of that statement, where he mentions the coming election, is also highlighted in the ad.