NEW YORK: Former US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has called President Donald Trump “an embarrassment” and said he “is doing great damage to our country internationally”. in an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star.
In an interview published in the Lincoln Journal Star, Hagel, a former Nebraska Republican senator, said the United States and the world have entered “a defining year, a year of volatility and uncertainty and great danger.”
His criticism of Trump on numerous fronts comes amid continued fallout from the president reportedly referring to Haiti and African countries as “shitholes” during a closed-door immigration meeting with congressmen.
The former defence chief expressed disgust at Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community, saying the country has “a president who minimizes his own intelligence community, and that is quite astounding.”
He also accused the president of “intentionally dividing the country and the world,” pulling away from alliances that have benefited the U.S. and withdrawing from trade agreements that have been in American interests.
“I was philosophically a Republican with a conservative voting record, but that did not mean I would always go along with the party,” Hagel said.
He stressed that politicians “take an oath of office not to a president, not to a party, not to a philosophy, but to the Constitution of the United States,” and that in the end every person must “make a decision based on the right thing for the country.”
Hagel was also critical of Trump in other areas, saying that “‘my button is bigger than yours’ is irresponsible kind of talk,” referring to a tweet that Trump aimed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The former defence secretary said the United States should initiate negotiations with Pyongyang, because “engagement is not surrender. Great powers are not afraid of talking to people, and it’s up to us to take the first step.”
Hagel has criticized Trump’s leadership before. Last May, he said Trump didn’t understand governing and needed to “listen and learn” but was “doing just the opposite.”
“I hope he will take a different tack soon, before it’s too late, before he loses the credibility and the confidence to govern,” he told the Omaha World-Herald.
Months later, Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said he was “offended” by Trump’s handling of a call to a widow of a soldier killed in Niger and the president’s accusations that Obama had not called the families of fallen soldiers when he was in office.
“I’m offended by the way he’s handled it,” Hagel told USA Today at the time. “You just don’t use the families of the fallen to score political points, especially to take jabs at your predecessor. “I’m very unhappy about this.”