Hagel on the defensive over past statements

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel has been put on the spot today by Republican members of the Senate panel considering his nomination to be defense secretary.

He's been challenged over his past statements on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons.

Sen. John McCain, a supporter of the troop "surge" in Iraq in 2007, tried to get Hagel to admit he was wrong in opposing that influx of 30,000 U.S. troops. Hagel -- who has said the Iraq war shifted the focus from Afghanistan -- said he would "defer to the judgment of history" to sort that out.

Republicans repeatedly questioned Hagel about a study that he co-authored last year that called for an 80 percent cut in U.S. nuclear weapons, and elimination of all nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Hagel said the report was illustrative, and that it wasn't realistic to consider unilateral reductions.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham was harshly critical of Hagel for failing to sign letters in past years on designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization and backing Israel.

Pushing back against the criticism, Hagel said there's no one vote or statement that defines him or his beliefs.

Hagel appears to be on a path to confirmation despite the Republican opposition.

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238-a-10-(Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing)-"judgment to history"-Senator John McCain pushes Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel to say whether Hagel was wrong to oppose the Iraq troop surge. (31 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *238 (01/31/13)>> 00:10 "judgment to history"

227-a-11-(Chuck Hagel, defense secretary-designate and former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, in confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee)-"or my record"-Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel says lawmakers parsing his record shouldn't try to pick out one item or another in a career spanning thousands of votes and speeches. (31 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *227 (01/31/13)>> 00:11 "or my record"

226-a-13-(Chuck Hagel, defense secretary-designate and former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, in confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee)-"terrorist rocket attacks"-Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel says he's committed to Israel's security. (31 Jan 2013)

<<CUT *226 (01/31/13)>> 00:13 "terrorist rocket attacks"

GRAPHICSBANK: Chuck Hagel headshot, testifying at US Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for US Defense Secretary, Washington, DC, graphic element on gray (31 Jan 2013)

APPHOTO DCSW110: Republican Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (31 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO DCSW110 (01/31/13)>>

APPHOTO DCSW112: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., asks a question of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's choice for defense secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., sits at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (31 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO DCSW112 (01/31/13)>>

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