Sens Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed appeared on "Face The Nation" Sunday to talk about their recent trip overseas with Barack Obama, and although they may hail from different political parties, both senators agreed that John McCain's latest misleading ad is divisive and inappropriate.
Hagel: "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, 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, matter of fact. John's better than that."
As he states very clearly, Chuck Hagel has been friends with John McCain for a long time. I think it speaks volumes when even he condemns these ads and says "John's better than that."
The most ironic part about this whole attack against Obama is that while Team McCain is accusing him of disrespecting the troops for not going to see them -- which itself is a bald-faced lie -- it is actually the McCain campaign who is disrespecting the troops by using them as political pawns. Had Obama made the visit while on the official campaign leg of the trip, he would have been accused of inappropriately using the soldiers for a photo-op. When he correctly decided it was wrong to make the visit while on a political trip, the McCain team then accused him of snubbing our wounded warriors.
In other words, he would have been criticized no matter he did. I'm happy to see senators from both parties willing to point that out and condemn McCain for his opportunistic and shameless smear.
Full transcript below (.pdf):
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...
Sen. HAGEL: Mm-hmm.
SCHIEFFER: ...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...
Sen. HAGEL: Mm-hmm.
SCHIEFFER: ...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 the week--we'll look at some tape here--here is how he put it at one point.
Sen. HAGEL: Mm-hmm.
Senator JOHN McCAIN: Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign.
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."
Sen. HAGEL: Well, let me begin by making this comment and 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, 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, matter of fact. John's better than that. And he's not asked for my advice on this, but since you've asked me the question, I think both he and Barack have got--have to be very careful here, because it's just not responsible to be saying things like that; again, if for no other reason, for the good of this country and the world. One of these two men, on January 20th of next year, is going to have to bring this country together, and the world, to deal with huge problems. I think the next president is going to inherit an inventory of challenges as big as Franklin Roosevelt inherited on March 4th, 1933.
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...
Sen. HAGEL: Mm-hmm.
SCHIEFFER: ...in Germany. Let's take a look at this.
(Excerpt from John McCain political ad)
SCHIEFFER: Senator Reed, now, you've done a lot of these trips. They call them CODELs, congressional delegations. Go--are you ever allowed to take cameras when you go in to visit to wounded troops? I thought that was sort of the general rule that everybody knew about.
Sen. REED: I don't think Senator Obama would have done that. Senator Hagel, Senator Obama and I visited the combat support hospital in Baghdad to thank those nurses, those doctors, to see patients that were there, to bring a bit of greetings from home and profound thanks. That should be in the ad that Senator McCain is running. I think Senator Obama made a very wise choice. If it's any suggestion that a visit to a military hospital would be political, he made the wise choice not to go. But when we were in Baghdad we made a point, at the end of a very exhausting day, to go in, see these magnificent young Americans and those doctors and nurses that give such tremendous care without a lot of fanfare, just to say thanks. He did it--the same thing. We went--
we didn't stay in Kabul, we went to Jalalabad to see the soldiers of the 173rd. We stopped in Basra to see our soldiers down there. We went into Anbar province to see soldiers there. Now, that is a completely distorted and I think inappropriate advertisement.
Sen. HAGEL: Let me add to the--to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you refer 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 I've just read, and no one's asked me about it other than what you just asked about. But I think it's--it would be totally inappropriate for him, on a campaign trip, to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. And I--so I think he probably, based on what I know, he did--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--that's part of our job, to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think that ad was appropriate?
Sen. HAGEL: I do not think it was appropriate.
SCHIEFFER: You do not.
Sen. HAGEL: I do not.