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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2013, file photo Republican Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator from Nebraska and President Obama's choice for Defense Secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Senate panel on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, abruptly postponed a vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary amid Republican demands for more information from President Barack Obama's nominee about his paid speeches and business dealings. - Photo by AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

— President Barack Obama’s pick to be defense secretary is unsuited to head the Pentagon, but Republican senators should stop stalling the nomination and allow a vote on Chuck Hagel, a leading opponent said Sunday.

“No, I don’t believe he’s qualified,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “But I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further, because I think it’s (been) a reasonable amount to time to have questions answered.”

Republicans have angered Obama by delaying the formation of his second-term national security team, which includes Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, and John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser who’s awaiting confirmation as CIA director.

Critics contend that Hagel, who supported Obama over McCain in the 2008 presidential race, isn’t supportive enough of Israel and is unreasonably sympathetic to Iran. The nomination also became entangled in Republican lawmakers’ questioning of how the White House handled the Sept. 11 attack against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

GOP senators also have challenged his past statements and votes on nuclear weapons, and his criticism of the President George W. Bush’s administration lingers.

Republicans last week held up a confirmation vote but have indicated that they eventually would relent and permit a vote when they return from their break on Feb. 25.

Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said Hagel, a Vietnam combat veteran, said was the right person to lead the Pentagon, and “has one thing in mind: How do we protect the country?”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who’s led the opposition with McCain to Hagel’s nomination, said critics were “doing our job to scrutinize ... one of the most unqualified, radical choices for secretary of defense in a very long time.”

“But at the end of the day,” said Graham, R-S.C., “this is the president’s decision. I give him great discretion. I can’t believe one Democratic colleague is not upset by this choice enough to speak out.”

Graham referred to a letter he received from Hagel in response to questions about past statements on Israel, and the senator said, “I’ll just take him at his word, unless something new comes along.”

McDonough was on ABC’s “This Week,” while McCain spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Graham was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

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  • ALDEN2
    February 17, 2013 at 10:52 a.m.

    It's good to know we will have a defense secretery who knows what its like to be a grunt in the U.S.Army. I'm sure he remembers sleeping in a GP Medium tent on the ground or on a cot; waking up to a c-ration breakfast and appreciating the little things an infantry soldier appreciates (like hot coffee or a day off). He might consider the impact our foreign policy decisions will have on the little guy. At least I hope he will.

  • cliffcarson
    February 17, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

    The GOP put on a Dog and Pony Show to be obstructionist - nothing else. This farce is a harbinger of things to come during Obama's Second Term. The Republicans did everything possible during Obama's first term to make the American 99% suffer. Their hope was that immoral ploy would cause enough suffering of the American people that the Republican purchased propaganda would be able to persuade the American people to oust Obama in 2012.

    But the American people saw through that savage plan and in the 2012 election told the Republican Party they weren't going to take the bait. They Re-elected Obama and brought more Senate seats to the Democrats in the House and the Senate.

    Not convinced that the American people were repudiating the Republican Plan , the Republicans are at it again. They are going to try and make the misery continue another four years. But there is one way to send a message the Republican Party can't ignore: In 2014 give the Democrats a large enough majority such that the Republicans can see the handwriting on the wall.

    That message will be that while the Republican Party was doing nothing to help America out of its Doldrums, The Democrats were doing everything they could to help the American people. By 2016 the Republican Party, if they don't change, will have gone past the point of no return, and will be fading away from memory, with each passing year, as some Ethical and Moral Independent Party comes forward to challenge the Democrats.

    If the Democrats don't straighten up, then they can be sure of what path they will follow - the path to oblivion in the style of the now defunct Republican Party. The American people will have learned their lesson and will no longer suffer corrupted Governance.