Texas Senator Ted Cruz made the most of his five-minute questioning opportunity at Chuck Hagel’s Secretary of Defense confirmation hearing by pulling out a visual aid: a YouTube clip of Hagel taking a caller’s questions during an Al-Jazeera appearance in 2009.
Cruz said that the clip showed Hagel agreeing with the callers’ statement that Israel had committed war crimes against the Palestinians and called on Hagel to defend whether or not he thinks Israel is guilty of war crimes still. Cruz didn’t play Hagel’s full responses. This is the clip (the section in question starts around 6:30):
The “war crimes” part is basically an aside in a longer, rambling speech, the style of which is familiar to anyone who watches C-SPAN call-in shows, that ends with a question about whether the world needs strong moral leadership — which is the sentiment Hagel is saying he agreed with. The caller also used the example of the Sri Lankan government cracking down on the Tamils.
It’s true that Hagel’s response did not explicitly condemn the caller’s comment about the Palestinians. Hagel responded that he agreed with the broad idea of countries having better moral leadership.
“The reality is, we are going to continue to have, unfortunately, moral conflict in the world,” Hagel said. “But we can’t as leaders of the world stand back and say oh, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The second part in that same interview that Cruz played is the oft-quoted aside about what America can do to change its image as “the world’s bully” — the questioner’s words, for what it’s worth, not Hagel’s.
“Her observation is a good one and it’s relevant,” Hagel said. “Yes to her question.”
Hagel went on to lay some of the “bully” perception on the Bush Administration.
“We are now in our seventh and eighth year in two long wars, that’s not all America’s fault, of course not,” Hagel said.
Cruz posted a truncated version of the Al-Jazeera interview on his Twitter after the hearing went into recess:
The third part of Cruz’s argument — that Hagel accused Israel of a “sickening slaughter” — is also shaky, as Hagel was condemning the “sicking slaughter on both sides,” as Dave Weigel points out.