WASHINGTON (AP) — Texas' new U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that it's difficult for him to imagine supporting former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel if he is nominated to the Pentagon's top job.
"The president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel's record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel," Cruz, a Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday." It was his first appearance on a Sunday morning talk show since being sworn into the U.S. Senate Thursday.
Cruz is a member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, which would hold hearings on the nomination. Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, is considered the front-runner to be nominated to take over for outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Cruz's issues with Hagel stem from critical comments the former senator made about Israel and what he called Hagel's advocacy of "weakness with respect to our enemies," namely Iran.
The only specific instance Cruz alluded to were comments Hagel made about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on U.S. lawmakers. Hagel is quoted in former diplomat Aaron David Milller's book "The Much Too Promised Land" as saying, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."
"He repeatedly opposed Israel, criticized Israel, placed all the blame on Israel in dispute after dispute after dispute, and in fact, he's publicly said U.S. policy is dependent on what he called the Israel lobby which is a pejorative term that I think does not reflect the realities of the strong U.S. national security interest in maintaining that alliance," Cruz said.
Hagel has criticized discussion of a military strike against Iran and supported efforts to bring Iran to the table to talk about the future of Afghanistan.
Also Sunday, the Senate's Republican leader, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, said he would review Hagel's record and wait for hearings for deciding whether he was the right person for the job.