Sen. Chuck Hagel, SecDef Nominee : Distortion Of My Record is "Astounding"

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebr.) fired back at detractors in an exclusive interview with the Lincoln Journal Star on Monday, just hours after President Obama formally announced his nomination for Secretary of Defense.

According to Hagel, critics have "completely distorted" his record, while he has been unable to fight back before President Obama announced his nomination.

Hagel has been "hanging out there in no-man's land unable to respond to charges, falsehoods, and distortions," he told the Star. Responding to vicious criticism from former colleagues in the GOP regarding his support of Israel and alleged weakness on Iran, Hagel said there is "not one shred of evidence that I'm anti-Israeli, not one [Senate] vote that matters that hurt Israel."

Hagel said he had not signed on to particular resolutions desired by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) because they were "counter-productive."

"How does that further the peace process in the Middle East?" the senator argued. Israel's real interest lays in finding Israelis and Palestinians "some peaceful way to live together."

Hagel also issued a rejoinder on Iran, saying he doesn't support unilateral sanctions because "they don't work and they just isolate the United States.... United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn't work."

"I have said many times that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism... I have also questioned some very cavalier attitudes taken about very complicated issues in the Middle East."

"We need to work to help to protect Israel so it doesn't get isolated," Hagel said.

Taken as a whole, Hagel concluded that "the distortions about my record have been astounding."