On Thursday’s broadcast of “Hannity,” host Sean Hannity debated conservative commentator Pat Buchanan and former Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on whether or not former Republican Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel is qualified to serve as secretary of defense.
Although he was wrong on the 2007 U.S. surge in Iraq, Hagel is qualified for the job, Buchanan said, pointing to Hagel’s eventual disapproval of the U.S. presence in Iraq as one of those qualifications.
“I think Chuck Hagel is a good man, he is a patriot,” Buchanan said. “He has got an independent mind. I disagreed with him on the surge. I supported it. But I’ll tell you, I myself said that the Iraq War, the invasion and occupation of that country and killing thousands and thousands of people to deprive it of weapons it did not even have, weapons of mass destruction that were not there, I thought that was one of the greatest blunders in the American military history.”
Hannity insisted one of the disqualifications for Hagel was his recognition of the Iranian regime as legitimate. But Buchanan noted the United States had diplomatic relations with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin at one time as well.
HANNITY: Come on, let’s go through this here. He said Iran’s government is elected and legitimate. His comment about —
BUCHANAN: All right. Let me explain why.
HANNITY: Come on, Pat?
BUCHANAN: All right. Look, we had an embassy in Nazi Germany for eight years recognizing the government as legitimate. Was it wicked and evil? Yes. FDR recognized Stalin and his government in the middle of the wholesale massacre of the Ukrainian people.
HANNITY: Do you really think that this is a legitimate, an elected government in Iran?
BUCHANAN: Unfortunately, it’s legitimate, I think they stole the last election, but is it in the United Nations? Yes, it is. Should we talk to them? Yes, we should.
HANNITY: Talking to them and whether or not they are legitimate and elected is a different story.
Another point of contention for Hannity was Hagel’s position on nuclear arms.
HANNITY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let’s go through some of the things he said. He said the United States must eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. He said we must eliminate all nuclear weapons globally. He said that the Israelis are keeping the Palestinians like caged animals.
HANNITY: His comments on — what?
BUCHANAN: Sean, Ronald Reagan wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons. Would you disqualify him to be secretary of defense?
HANNITY: Ronald Reagan believed in peace through strength, and Ronald Reagan had a very different mentality than … Chuck Hagel here.
BUCHANAN: Get rid of nuclear weapons.
HANNITY: Well, he did, but he also believed in strength. The difference between him and Chuck Hagel is Chuck Hagel wants to pare down military so it doesn’t have the gap of vulnerability that Reagan fixed after Jimmy Carter became president.
RICHARDSON: I think Sean, what you have to look at is the record. For 12 years, Chuck Hagel had a very pro-Israeli voting record. He is somebody that is very committed to peace in the Middle East. He knows the region. He is strong on Israel. On Iran, he made that comment 12 years ago.
HANNITY: He said this, wait a minute.
RICHARDSON: All of us have 30 years of public record of votes. But I think you have to look at the context of him being nominated right now. He is a Republican. He is from Nebraska. He is a war hero.
HANNITY: He’s from Nebraska. There’s a qualification. I love Nebraska, but that is not a qualification to be defense secretary.
RICHARDSON: I meant he is a conservative like you. You should like him.
BUCHANAN: Sean, he has got a voting record, he’s got a voting record that would like yours if you had been in the Senate.
One of Hannity’s last arguments against Hagel was his position on the Israel-Palestine conflict. But Buchanan, author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?,” said that even the Israelis would say the Palestinians “are caged like animals.”
HANNITY: He says the Israelis, the Palestinians are caged like animals. His comments, he got burned badly by Lindsay Graham today, looked foolish and the same with Ted Cruz and the same with John McCain. He did not seem like he was equipped to answer a single question today, Pat?
BUCHANAN: Look obviously he is being political right now. But would you not agree, even Israelis would agree that the condition of the Palestinian people now is not ideal. That is why they want a two-state solution. There is real disagreement with how they are treated in Gaza. Why can an American not say the same thing?
HANNITY: Patrick J. Buchanan, I don’t think the Israelis have put them like caged animals or that quote, “they’ve been chained down for many years.” Israel have been the victim of thousands of rockets fired into their cities that Israelis are helping them.
BUCHANAN: You have to listen to Israelis themselves. People like Ehud Olmert are saying, we are becoming an apartheid state. That is the term they are using in Israel.