WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam War veteran, is “superbly qualified” to run the Pentagon, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.
Powell, like Hagel a Republican, rejected criticisms from other party members over a comment the former Nebraska lawmaker made about the “Jewish lobby” and a 2007 vote opposing designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.
“He is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “It doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position the Israeli government takes.”
Hagel, 66, has come under attack from Republicans including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas, members of Senate Armed Services Committee that will handle the nomination. Cornyn has said he opposes the nomination.
While Powell was leading the State Department under Republican President George W. Bush, Hagel criticized the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that Powell supported. Sunday on NBC, Powell said Hagel “is a solid guy who speaks his mind.”
“He’s ultimately superbly qualified based on his overall record, his service to the country, how he feels about the troops and their families,” Powell said.