Nightly News | January 31, 2013
>>> now to a dramatic and contentious day of testimony for the man the president wants to run the pentagon. former republican senator and decorated vietnam combat veteran, chuck hagel , already under fire before today . he got a rough treatment at today's hearing. kelly o'donnell is on the hill tonight with details. kelly , good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. tough questions were expected, but the real surprise today came in how chuck hagel handled the all-day scrutiny. at times appearing unprepared or off his game. and that's after hagel had dozens of personal meetings with senators, trying to win their support to become the next secretary of defense.
>> right up the stairs, sir.
>> reporter: chuck hagel would break new ground as the first enlisted man, first vietnam veteran , to run the pentagon. and first cabinet nominee to get the super pac treatment. tv ads against his confirmation.
>> chuck hagel is not a responsible option.
>> reporter: but it was hagel 's former colleagues and even friends who waged a coordinated attack today on hagel 's judgment. john mccain seized on hagel 's vocal opposition to the surge of troops in iraq in 2007 .
>> the question, senator hagel , the question is, were you right or wrong. that's a pretty straightforward question.
>> well, i'm not going to give you a yes or no answer.
>> reporter: hagel knew he who damage control to do.
>> i should have used another term, and i'm sorry.
>> reporter: over his 2008 comments related to israel that a, quote, jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people in congress.
>> name one person, in your opinion, who is intimidated by the israeli lobby in the united states senate .
>> well, first --
>> name one.
>> i don't know.
>> reporter: outside the hearing, senators of both parties were critical.
>> i'm going to be candid. i think that chuck hagel is much more comfortable asking questions than answering them.
>> i don't think it's going very well.
>> reporter: hagel was repeatedly pressed by both democrats and republicans to make clear his commitment to israel 's security.
>> i strongly support israel .
>> reporter: and clarify his stand on iran . hagel had voted against declaring iran 's revolutionary guard a terror organization. and today, incorrectly referred to the u.s. policy on iran and nuclear weapons as containment.
>> by the way, i've just been handed a note that i misspoke.
>> reporter: hagel said he fully backs the president's position that iran cannot be allowed to get nuclear weapons and says the u.s. should talk to iran .
>> engagement is not appeasement. engagement is not surrender.
>> reporter: and tonight administration officials tell me that while this was not a perfect performance, they have no indication that democrats have turned against hagel . no sign that his confirmation is in trouble. brian?
>> kelly o'donnell on the hill for us tonight. kelly , thanks.