Sunday, December 12, 2004

Hagel Today


HAGEL: Well, the secretary of defense reports to the president of the United States. I've had my differences with this secretary of defense, and I have been very clear on it.

I don't like the way he has done some things. I think they have been irresponsible. I don't like the way we went into Iraq. We didn't go into Iraq with enough troops. He's dismissed his general officers. He's dismissed all outside influence. He's dismissed outside counsel and advice. And he's dismissed a lot of inside counsel and advice from men and women who have been in military uniforms for 25 and 30 years.

One of the reasons we've got this problem, Wolf, in my opinion, is that we were unprepared for what we were going to face, what we are facing, in a post-Saddam Iraq. And this is just one more manifestation of the problem.

Listen, when I talk to these young troops that come back from Nebraska, National Guard Reserves, active duty, and I sit down with them alone in a room and no one there, no cameras, I ask them -- I was hearing some of these same things over the last year: not the right kind of weaponry, personal body armor they didn't have. They didn't have armor for their vehicles.

But yet too many of our leaders in this administration were going around the country telling and reassuring Americans our troops had everything they wanted. Certainly the Congress was passing a lot of money to make sure they had everything they wanted.

So there are a lot of pieces in this.

I do think there is some good news. I do think the military is working to resolve these issues. I do think we are putting more armor on those vehicles and we are getting the personal armor to these troops and the weapons.

But it goes beyond that, Wolf.

BIDEN: Hey, Wolf, can I make one...

BLITZER: I want to take a quick break, Senators. Hold on one second.


BLITZER: But very briefly to you, Senator Hagel, were you disappointed that the president asked Rumsfeld to stay on?

HAGEL: The president's decision is his decision. He will live with that decision. He'll have to defend that decision. And that's all I want to say about it.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. We're going