Defense Secretary Nominee Chuck Hagel(AP)

In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star, Chuck Hagel–the former Nebraska senator and new nominee for defense secretary–responded to the weeks of criticism leveled at various aspects of his records as he gears up for what will likely be a rough nomination process.

At last, Hagel said, with his nomination announced by the president, he has an opportunity to set the record straight.

While he has been “hanging out there in no-man’s land unable to respond to charges, falsehoods and distortions,” Hagel said, a negative assessment of his record by critics and opponents took on a life of its own.

But the fact is that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel.”

“I didn’t sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn’t solve a problem,” Hagel said.

Beyond some troubling statements, critics charged that Hagel’s failure to vote for non-binding resolutions about Israel and Iran signal his (at best) indifference toward important matters of defense with regard to Israel as well as Iran’s nuclear program. His supporters, largely unable to enter the fray given that Hagel’s nomination was a rumor for about six weeks, became more vocal over the weekend. On his vote against unilateral American sanctions on Iran, Hagel added this:

“I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone they don’t work and they just isolate the United States,” he said. “United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn’t work.”

“The distortions about my record have been astounding.”

Jon Chait has a great take on the decision to nominate Hagel, which he doesn’t entirely deplore, but like many, he is confused by. Especially the fact that Obama seems as if he’ll have to defend the parts of Hagel’s record that run counterpoise to his.

Why, though, should Obama have to defend positions he doesn’t agree with? Why waste political capital picking a fight that isn’t essential to any policy goals?

In other words, what are we missing here?

Earlier: Making the Case for Chuck Hagel
Hagel Says Critics Distort His Views on Israel, Iran
Nominating Hagel Most Un-Obama Thing Ever [NYMag]