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Hearings bring many issues for nominees Brennan and Hagel

February 13th, 2013

Chuck Hagel and John Brennan both dealt with tough senators and heavy questioning during their respective confirmation hearings. Defense Secretary-designate Hagel was questioned repeatedly in his eight-hour hearing on Jan. 31 about the Iraq war, Iran and Israel. According to a number of sources, including current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Hagel seemed unprepared when addressing the questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Panetta spoke about the hearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Feb. 3, saying, “What disappointed me was that they talked a lot about past quotes, but what about what a secretary of defense is confronting today? What about the war in Afghanistan? What about the war on terrorism? What about the budget sequester and what impact it’s going to have on readiness? What about Middle East turmoil? What about cyber attacks?”

The White House is confident in Hagel and his abilities. So is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid said on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos that he is confident that Hagel will be confirmed and that he is being unfairly judged.

In contrast to Hagel’s performance, CIA director nominee John Brennan was able to answer questions regarding drones and torture clearing and seemingly to the best of his knowledge. According to U.S. News and World Report, Brennan focused on what he would do differently with the agency if he were confirmed as director.

When discussing drone strikes, he made it clear that they are not used to punish terrorists. He said, “We only take such action as a last resort to save lives when it’s determined that no other action can be taken,” according to a report on PBS. Brennan was also able to comment on the controversial 6,000-page intelligence report on torture and counterterrorism techniques.  According to CNN, Brennan said he is waiting for the final review of the report before drawing any conclusions.

In his opening statement to the committee, Brennan said, “I believe my CIA background and my other professional experience have prepared me well for the challenge of leading the world’s premier intelligence agency at this moment in history, which is as dynamic and consequential as any in recent decades, and will continue to be in years ahead.”

It is clear that Brennan is confident in his abilities and carried himself confidently during his confirmation hearing. Hagel, on the other hand, did not exude the confidence the Senate was looking for in a new secretary of defense.

Information from NBC News, US News and World Report, PBS, and CNN contributed to this report.