Chuck Hagel and why Republicans don't like him
Republicans have long been skeptical that Hagel is truly one of them, and it’s not just because of his opposition to the Iraq war or his comments about Israel. In fact, there are several reasons dating back to before his first Senate campaign in 1996.
1. Donating to Democrats: Hagel’s endorsement of Democratic former senator Bob Kerrey in the 2012 Nebraska Senate race wasn’t the first time he has crossed over to back a Democrat. He also endorsed Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D-Pa.) 2010 Senate campaign, and before his first campaign, he contributed $1,000 to Kerrey.
When Hagel backed Kerrey last year, Republicans including Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) questioned whether Hagel was really a Republican anymore. Hagel responded: “On whose standard is he judging me? That’s the problem with the Republican Party today. That has to stop.”
Hagel also inflamed the GOP when he declined to back John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, despite their once-close friendship. Hagel’s wife backed Obama in what was seen as a proxy endorsement, and Hagel himself suggested he would be open to being Obama’s running mate that year.
2. Evolving positions on social issues: The year before the 1996 election, Hagel changed his positions to be against an assault weapons ban and against allowing abortion in the cases of rape and incest. The Omaha World-Herald reported in October 1995:
When he announced his candidacy in March, Hagel said he opposed abortion except to protect the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest.
In an issues booklet Hagel’s campaign released last week, Hagel said, “I am pro-life with one exception – the life of the mother.” Hagel came under some fire from opponents of restrictions on gun ownership this year when he gave qualified approval to the federal ban on the sale of assault weapons. He said Wednesday that he would vote to repeal the assault-weapons ban.
The discrepancy “is my fault,” Hagel said. “I was not ready to respond. I didn’t have the facts.” On the assault-weapons ban, Hagel said during a television appearance on KMTV-Channel 3 in May, “I probably would have voted for it.” Hagel qualified his statement by saying he hadn’t read the assault-weapons bill and understood there were some questions about the weapons named in the ban.
The reporter interviewing Hagel then asked, “So in general then, you could see yourself favoring a ban on assault weapons?” Hagel responded, “Yes.” Hagel said Wednesday that he should have never answered that question without reading the bill. The Omaha investment banker said that was a lesson he learned.
“It’s a bad bill,” Hagel said. If he were in the Senate, Hagel said he would vote to repeal the ban.
Hagel suggested at the time that exceptions for rape and incest were unnecessary since those exceptions were rarely used in Nebraska. “If I want to prevent abortions, I don’t think those two exceptions are relevant,” he said. He wound up defeating conservative Don Stenberg for the GOP nomination — how many times has Stenberg run for Senate and lost! — and later won his first of two terms.
3. Foreign policy apostasy: Hagel began as a supporter of the Iraq war and voted for the Patriot Act. But eventually, he became one of the biggest critics of the war — in either party — and also spoke out against the Patriot Act (though he voted to reauthorize it in 2006) and the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program.
In fact, the Washington Post editorial board even argued that Hagel is to President Obama’s left when it come to foreign policy matters, and Republicans worry that Hagel would allow significant military budget cuts.
4. Spouting off: Hagel has made a habit of speaking his mind in no uncertain terms, including when it comes to bashing the GOP. During a forum in 2008, shortly before he retired from office, Hagel offered some harsh criticisms of his GOP colleagues.
On Rush Limbaugh: “You know, I wish Rush Limbaugh and others like that would run for office. They have so much to contribute and so much leadership and they have an answer for everything. And they would be elected overwhelmingly. … (The truth is) they try to rip everyone down and make fools of everybody but they don’t have any answers.”
On GOP leadership: “But when you ask the question: ‘Has (our approach) worked? I don’t think many people will say it has worked. … God knows I would never question the quality of our elected officials, that’s why I’m so popular with many of them.”
And this: ”There is always going to be a certain know-nothing element to democracy. That is their choice. But in a world that is so vitally interconnected, it does help if you try to understand the other side. … Ask them: ‘What is it that scares you about the French so much?’”
He even went so far as to suggest impeachment for George W. Bush in 2007: “Any president who says, ‘I don’t care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else,’ or ‘I don’t care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed’ — if a president really believes that, then there are — what I was pointing out — there are ways to deal with that.”
And this is just a small sampling.
5. Israel: Hagel’s statements about Israel have already been well-circulated. ”The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” he said in 2006, but “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”
But it’s hard to under-estimate how important the issue is to the GOP — particularly given the GOP’s existing reservations about Obama’s Israel policy and also because Hagel would be responsible in large part for dealing with the Middle East. This is very much a litmus test for many in the Republican Party, and it will make it difficult for any Republican senator to vote for him — not to mention pro-Israel Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
So what has he done that they agree with? (from his Wiki page)
According to David Boaz, during the Bush administration, Hagel maintained a "traditionally Republican" voting record, receiving "a lifetime rating of 84 percent from the American Conservative Union and consistent A and B grades from the National Taxpayers Union." On the Issues describes Hagel as a "libertarian-leaning conservative". According to Boaz, among his most notable votes, Hagel:
On October 11, 2002, Hagel, along with 76 other Senators, voted in favor of the Iraq Resolution. Hagel, a later critic of the war, commented on his vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq saying,
How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism, and a bit more humility.
In July 2007, Hagel was one of three Republican Senators who supported Democratic-proposed legislation requiring a troop withdrawal from Iraq to begin within 120 days. He told Robert D. Novak "This thing is really coming undone quickly, and [Prime Minister] Maliki's government is weaker by the day. The police are corrupt, top to bottom. The oil problem is a huge problem. They still can't get anything through the parliament—no hydrocarbon law, no de-Baathification law, no provincial elections". In 2008 along with then-Senator (and presumptive democratic nominee for president) Barack Obama, and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Hagel visited Iraq in a congressional delegation trip, meeting with U.S. service members, General David Petraeus, and the Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki. While talking to reporters in Iraq, Hagel said “Each one of us who has a responsibility of helping lead this country needs to reflect on what we think is in the interests of our country, not the interest of our party or our president.” 
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hagel voted in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 23, authorizing “necessary and appropriate U.S. Military force” in Afghanistan against those who planned or aided the September 11th attacks.During his tenure in the Senate, Hagel continued his support for NATO involvement, and funding in the War in Afghanistan. In a 2009 The Washington Post op-ed after being nominated as Chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence advisory board, Hagel said that “We cannot view U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan through a lens that sees only ‘winning’ or ‘losing,’ Iraq and Afghanistan are not America's to win or lose.” And that “We can help them buy time or develop, but we cannot control their fates.” In 2011, after he left office, Hagel stated that President Obama needs to start “looking for the exit in Afghanistan”, and that “We need to start winding this down.”
In his first term in the Senate, Hagel voted in favor of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Threat Reduction Act, establishing criminal penalties for possession of Chemical or Biological weapons, and he cosponsored the American Missile Protection Act, deploying an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the U.S. against limited ballistic missile attacks. Hagel voted to establish the United States Department of Homeland Security, and supported increasing Defense Department spending, voting in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act every year he served in the Senate. Hagel voted for spending increases in preventing AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria funding, and voting against caps on the U.S.’s Foreign aid budget.
In 2007 Hagel introduced Senate Amendment 2032, amending the Defense Authorization bill limiting the deployment of U.S. service members serving in Iraq 12 months. The amendment needed 60 votes in the senate to pass, but was ultimately defeated in 52-45 vote. In 2008 Hagel was a principal co-sponsor with two other veterans in the Senate of Senator Jim Webb's "21st Century GI Bill" which passed congress as the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, expanding education assistance to veterans who served after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. During his tenure in the Senate Hagel supported the Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, barring openly LGBT members of the armed forces from serving, but is now described as “pro-ending don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In 2001, Hagel voted in favor of the USA PATRIOT Act. Although Hagel originally indicated a “nay” vote in reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Patriot Act in 2006, Hagel voted in favor of reauthorization. After calls from the Bush Administration for the House and Senate to reform FISA, the House introduced the Protect America Act of 2007, expanding provisions allowing electronic surveillance of foreigners outside of the U.S. with a warrant. In a 68-29 vote, the Protect America Act of 2007 passed the Senate, with Hagel voting to expand FISA’s provisions on warrantless surveillance. Hagel voted in favor of Senate Amendment 2022, restoring habeas corpus, the right to due process, to American citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, but voted against a similar resolution restoring it to all prisoners detained at Guantanamo. In response to the Bush Administration’s intentions to permanently keep Guantanamo Bay open, Hagel said the military prison is why the U.S. is “losing the image war around the world,” and that "It's identifiable with, for right or wrong, a part of America that people in the world believe is a power, an empire that pushes people around, we do it our way, we don't live up to our commitments to multilateral institutions." 
Hagel co-sponsored the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. He supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and, with Senator Bob Menendez proposed an amendment to allow immigration authorities to consider family-unification petitions submitted by people for an additional two years, which would have allowed approximately estimated 833,000 additional individuals to seek permanent residency. The proposal received 51 votes but was defeated by a procedural maneuver. The bill failed to pass. Hagel voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which aimed to build a 700-mile (1,100 km) double fence along the Mexico–United States border and appropriated $1.2 billion for the fence and a systematic surveillance system.