Chuck Hagel on the Judd Gregg Withdrawal: ‘It Was Sloppy. It Was Awkward’

Feb 13, 2009 6:11pm

On this weeks’ ABC News Shuffle podcast: former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., the new chairman of The Atlantic Council.

You can listen to it on iTunes or HERE.

Hagel admitted that he "was a little surprised when I first learned that Judd Gregg was going to accept an appointment to the Obama Cabinet." Hagel said he admires Gregg a great deal, but also thinks of him as holding "a clear set of political principals about the role of government and governance and I never saw any daylight there — at least that I was aware of — between Obama and Judd where in fact the two of them could be together within some kind of a framework in joining of even a general philosophical approach to how we should govern over the next four years."

So he was "not surprised when I heard yesterday that, based on all the reasons Judd presented, that he just thought he couldn’t go forward and I respect that. It’s too bad both for Judd and the president that it had to be done this way. It was sloppy, it was awkward, I don’t think anyone was covered with any great deal of glory over how this was handled."

Hagel said he has spoken with both President Obama and Vice President Biden in the past few months, but he wouldn’t be specific about whether he’d been offered a Cabinet position. (He also wouldn’t tell me whom he voted for, though he brought up that his wife had endorsed Obama.)

"I’ve told President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden … I told them I would help them in any way I could," Hagel said, "and we have discussed many things but to go beyond that would break some confidentiality and that’s something I don’t want to do."

Would he consider joining the Obama administration?

"I think any American who cares enough about his or her country — if you believe you can make a contribution — would always be in a position to entertain any requests from the president of the United States. I don’t think that’s unique to me. … We’ll deal with it as it comes," he said.

Hagel is succeeding Marine Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) as chair of the Council, which works to promote "constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st century." Jones, of course, is now President Obama’s National Security Adviser.

Hagel says the U.S. has "to find some new frameworks of policy that will engage the world, put America back in a position where we are respected, where we are trusted, where we have developed, and people have confidence in our leadership and I think that’s what Obama and his team are going to have to do."

Asked why the U.S. has to beg NATO countries to help send more troops to Afghanistan — as recently happened at the Security Conference in Munich — Hagel said, "I think some of the policies and the way we’ve handled these issues over the last few years has not enhanced brining a relationship together based on cooperation and common interest. For example, the former secretary of defenseā€¦ Secretary Rumsfeld went to that conference a few years ago — I was there — and that’s where he of course got into his famous ‘old Europe’ and ‘new Europe’ and really, whether was intentional or not, laid down the framework for dividing Europe, and it did not help us, it did not enhance us with our allies, and it’s those kind of things that have occurred over the years also have led to some divides here in the Atlantic alliance. But I think we have some real opportunities to put all that back together."

We also talked about Defense Secretary Gates, the Georgetown Hoyas, and other matters.

ABC News’ Huma Khan produced the podcast, with Lindsey Ellerson. My ABC News White House booth-mates Sunlen Miller and Karen Travers kicked in some help as well.

Again, you can listen to the ABC News Shuffle on iTunes or HERE.

– jpt

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