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Colin Powell goes to bat for Chuck Hagel

Colin Powell’s praise of Chuck Hagel contrasts with continued GOP criticism of the defense secretary nominee.

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/file

Colin Powell’s praise of Chuck Hagel contrasts with continued GOP criticism of the defense secretary nominee.

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, received a resounding vote of support on Sunday from a fellow Republican moderate, Colin Powell, who said the former senator from Nebraska was ‘‘superbly qualified’’ to lead the Pentagon.

‘‘I think he will make a very, very spirited defense of his position — and I think he’ll be confirmed,’’ Powell, a former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.’’

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Republicans have been criticizing Hagel since his name began circulating as the possible nominee, and the criticism continued on the Sunday morning political talk shows.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, on CBS’s ‘‘Face the Nation,’’ said Hagel’s early opposition to the troop surge in Iraq was ‘‘bizarre.’’ He said he would have many questions for Hagel when he appears before the Armed Services Committee for confirmation hearings. McCain is the committee’s ranking Republican.

Another Republican, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, appeared to open a new front on Sunday against Hagel, saying that he had questions about his ‘‘overall temperament.’’

Corker, who is not on the Armed Services Committee and said that he did not know Hagel well, offered little elaboration. But he said that there were ‘‘numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them.’’

Corker’s comments on ABC’s ‘‘This Week’’ seemed to suggest that he considered Hagel, who has a reputation for speaking his mind, overbearing or erratic.

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Until now, Hagel has been criticized mainly for what some lawmakers and interest groups consider his overly cautious attitude toward Iran and his tough approach on Israel. But Powell said that Hagel had shown that it was possible to be ‘‘a good supporter of Israel’’ while still criticizing it.

Hagel’s past reference to ‘‘the Jewish lobby’’ has been widely criticized, and he has apologized for it. His position on Israel, including an openness to negotiations with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, has drawn pointed criticism from some pro-Israeli groups and from neoconservatives.

Last week, Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that Hagel had ‘‘some kind of problem with Jews.’’ But the council’s president, Richard N. Haass, said on ‘‘This Week’’ that he had known Hagel for years and that any accusations of anti-Semitism were ‘‘preposterous.’’

Powell finds Republicans’ ‘shift to right’ troubling

WASHINGTON — Colin Powell said Sunday that the Republican Party had undergone a ‘‘significant shift to the right’’ and as a result lost two presidential elections in a row.

Powell, a former official in both Bush administrations, voted twice for President Obama. In an interview on “Meet the Press,’’ he suggested that the party’s immigration policy was badly out of touch with a country in which blacks, Asians, and Hispanics would soon collectively outnumber the white population.

Powell, who is black, said he was troubled that Republican leaders would brook the extremists who question Obama’s place of birth, and he said some prominent members of the Republican Party had made remarks that he considered to be borderline racist.

He said there was a ‘‘dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party’’ that must be addressed.

‘‘You’ve got to think first about what’s the party actually going to represent,’’ Powell said. ‘‘If it’s just going to represent the far right wing of the political spectrum, I think the party is in difficulty.’’

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