Schumer says he’ll be watching Hagel ‘like an eagle’

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Obama, with Hagel and John Brennan. ()
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Sen. Chuck Schumer defended his early endorsement of Chuck Hagel on a Jewish radio program this morning, saying he had asked "probing" questions in his 90-minute meeting with Hagel at the White House.

"His answers were not pat, were not check the box," Schumer told Nachum Segal, the host of "JM in the AM." (The interview was helpfully posted online by Jacob Kornbluh, who writes at the blog The Bibi Report.)

"You know, Nachum, I've been around, I've been in politics 37 years and I've been fooled on occasion, but not too often," Schumer said. "I think I have a pretty good, as they call it, b.s. detector.

"And he was in fear. He basically said, look, the bottom line is the world has changed since 2005, '06 and '07. Iran is far more dangerous and far more militant than it was then. Everyone would agree with that. George Bush wasn't shutting down Iran in 2005, '06 and '07. He said Hamas and Hezbollah are closer to Iran and more militant and worse, and my positions are these, and he enunciated them. And I made them public afterwards."

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Segal asked about the timing of Schumer's announcement, which was seen as crucial early support as Hagel heads into the nomination process.

"What if there's a revelation, during that week or whatever period of time it takes, which is not satisfactory to you, which raises a red flag to a very important part of your constituency?" asked Segal.

"I asked him these questions, he gave me the explanations," Schumer said. "I asked him in yes or no fashion, so there was no wiggle room.  I then said to him, I'm going to make this public and you're going to be asked these very same questions at the hearing and he said I will answer them in exactly the same way.

"So I think it actually helps the process. Now he satisfied my concerns. I'll be watching him, you know, like an eagle. I'll be on top of not just him, but the administration."

Schumer dismissed the criticism that he was trying to curry favor with the administration by backing its nominee.

"When I disagree with them, I make it public," he said. "I think I'm basically the only major Jewish official, or any official, who has disputed their view of Israel and Palestine. In other words, whatever you think of settlements, whatever you think of borders, the reason there's no peace is because the Palestinians don't want to recognize a Jewish state."

"In this case, Hagel convinced me that he had changed his views," he added.