On CBS' "Face The Nation," Chuck Hagel responded to John McCain's recent attacks on Barack Obama's trip abroad and withdrawal plan: "John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, 'You're less patriotic than me. I'm more patriotic ... "it's just not responsible to be saying things like that."
Hagel also said he doesn't think McCain's new ad bashing Obama for not visiting troops in Germany is "appropriate."Partial transcript:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this, Senator Hagel. You're a Republican. For a long time you were very, very close to John McCain-I want to ask you later, are you still that close-but he has been very, very hard on Senator Obama all this week. And I mean the gloves have really come off. This morning in an interview on ABC he said, I think it was seven times, that Senator Obama simply doesn't understand the stakes in Iraq. he doesn't understand the situation there. And earlier in week, we'll look at some tape here, here is how he put it at one point.
JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign.
BOB SCHIEFFER: He said this morning that Senator Obama's strategy was based, basically, on political expediency, that he chose-and these are Senator McCain's words-"a political path that would get him the nomination."
CHUCK HAGEL: Well, let me begin by making this comment in answering your question. Both of these men are smart, capable, decent men who love their country. I think we, as a nation, are far better off for these two capable men-one will have to govern this country and bring the country together as well as lead the world and bring the world together-and that's going to take a bipartisan consensus, to govern. They're better off to focus on policy differences. I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, "You're less patriotic than me. I'm more patriotic." I admire and respect John McCain very much. I have a good relationship. To this day we do. We talk often. I talked to him right before I went to Iraq, as a matter of fact. John's better than that. And he's not asked for advice on this, but since you've asked me the question, I think both he and Barack have to be very careful here because it's just not responsible to be saying things like that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well let me-just in line with what you said, the McCain campaign came out with a new ad because Senator Obama chose not to visit those troops in the hospital in Germany. Let's take a look at this.
NARRATOR: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hadn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. And now he made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops. McCain-country first.
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
CHUCK HAGEL: Let me add to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds-not the taxpayers-to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign. I think the judgment there-and I don't know the facts by the way. I know what you've just read. No one has asked me about it other than what you've just asked about. But I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing. We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops. We wanted to see those troops. And that's part of our job to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that ad was appropriate?
CHUCK HAGEL: I do not think it was appropriate.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You do not.
CHUCK HAGEL: I do not.
Read more of the transcript here.