WASHINGTON -- Former secretary of state Colin Powell strongly defended former Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-Neb.) nomination as secretary of defense on Sunday, dismissing the criticisms that have engulfed Hagel since it was first reported that President Barack Obama would nominate him to succeed outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta.
Hagel is "superbly qualified based on his overall record, based on his service to the country, based on how he feels about troops and veterans and families," Powell said on "Meet the Press." "I think he will do a great job as secretary of defense, and I think in his confirmation hearings, all of these issues that you have raised, others have raised, he will be prepared to deal with."
Opponents of Hagel's nomination have called into question the former Nebraska senator's positions on Iran and Iraq, as well as his commitment to Israel. Powell insisted that Hagel has never ruled out the option of military force against Iran -- a point Hagel himself reaffirmed in a meeting with senior Pentagon officials last week.
With respect to Israel, Powell said it is "disgraceful" to assume Hagel is anti-Semitic simply because he made a reference to the "Jewish lobby" and its power in Washington.
"[Hagel is] a very, very strong supporter of the state of Israel," Powell said. "That doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes."
The former secretary of state also took on those who have decried Hagel's gay rights record, arguing that his past anti-gay statements will not dictate his treatment of gay service members.
"I think he will go after these issues in a way that will be very consistent with the administration's position with the law and with the aspirations of our gay and lesbian men and women in military," Powell said. "He is now responsible for them. He is now responsible for them having a proper environment in which to do their jobs, and that will include making sure that … [the] elimination of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is fully implemented."
Powell said he believed that Hagel will be "broadly confirmed" for the position. Earlier on Sunday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also predicted that Hagel's nomination would be approved by the Senate.
Still, critics continue to cite a number of areas that should be examined prior to confirming any appointments. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) shifted gears from the focus on Iran and Israel during an appearance on ABC's "This Week," telling host George Stephanopoulos that he was concerned with Hagel's temperament.
"I think another thing, George, that's going to come up is just his overall temperament, and is he suited to run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the Pentagon," Corker said. "I think there are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them. I have certainly questions about a lot of things."
Corker added that he had spoken with Hagel over the phone last week and is set to meet with him in the coming week. But despite his calls for a thorough review of Hagel's record, the Tennessee Republican did not reject the nomination altogether.
"I certainly have concerns moving forward. They're not disqualifying concerns," Corker said.
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