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Chuck Hagel says John McCain is 'treading on some very thin ground'

July 27, 2008 | 12:15 pm

You'd expect Democrats to vociferously attack John McCain's new advertisement that criticizes Barack Obama for canceling a visit with wounded U.S. troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. But a Republican?

Granted, the Republican was Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, whose reputation as a party maverick now outshines McCain's -- and who has even been mentioned as a possible running mate for Obama. (That's on the Democratic ticket, mind you.)

But he still is officially a member of McCain's political party -- and a longstanding McCain pal, to boot.

Hagel says McCain 'is treading on some very thin ground here.' Hagel, along with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), accompanied the Democrats' presumed nominee on a six-day fact-finding visit to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan that ended early last week.

Hagel and Reed returned to the United States from Jordan, while Obama continued on to Israel, Germany, France and Britain.

"At that point, it was a political trip for Sen. Obama," Hagel said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think it would have been inappropriate for him -- and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and, probably should have been -- if, on a political trip in Europe, paid for by political funds, not the taxpayers, to go essentially then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign."

Hagel also lit in to McCain for, as host Bob Schieffer put it, stating that Obama's views on Iraq were based on political expediency, "that he chose -- and these are Sen. McCain's words -- 'a political path that would get him the nomination.' "

"I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives, and when we start to get into 'You're less patriotic than me, I'm more patriotic,' " Hagel replied, adding: "John's better than that." See video below.

Hagel did say that he and McCain have a good relationship and speak often. And as recently as July 16, during a campaign swing through Hagel's home state, McCain described his fellow Vietnam veteran as "a very dear and close friend of mine, and I cherish his friendship and have for many, many years."

But with friends like these ...

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo credit: Associated Press

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