Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday tore into defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel over an appearance the former senator made on Al Jazeera in 2009.
At the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Hagel's nomination, Cruz played a clip of Hagel answering questions from Al Jazeera audience members. One woman wrote in to ask, "Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the United States is that of the world's bully? Don't we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms, nuclear or otherwise?" Hagel responded on-air, "Well, her observation is a good one and it's relevant. Yes to her question."
Cruz used the woman's question -- and Hagel's answer -- to suggest that the defense secretary nominee agreed with the statement. "Sen. Hagel, do you think it's appropriate for the chief civilian leader for the U.S. military forces to agree with the statement that both the 'perception,' quote, 'and the reality' is that the United States is, quote, 'the world's bully'?"
Hagel said he didn't hear the woman's question that way. "I think my comment was it's a relevant and good observation. I don't think I said that I agree with it."
"With respect, I think the record speaks for itself," Cruz said. "It was in writing that she said the U.S. is the world's bully, that it is the reality, and your response, you did say you agree with it. You said her observation is a good one, it's relevant, yes to her question. You explicitly agreed with the characterization of the United States as the world's bully. And I would suggest that is not a characterization -- I think the United States has spilled more blood, more treasure, standing for freedom, liberating people across the world. And to go on Al Jazeera, a foreign network broadcasting propaganda to nations that are hostile to us, and to explicitly agree with the characterization of the United States as the world's bully. I would suggest is not the conduct one would expect of a secretary of defense."