Sen. Hagel says Sarah Palin not ready for presidency

WASHINGTON — Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel said his party’s vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, lacks foreign policy experience and called it a “stretch” to say she’s qualified to be president.

“She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel said in an interview published Thursday by the Omaha World-Herald. “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything.”

Could Palin lead the country if GOP presidential nominee John McCain could not?

“I think it’s a stretch to, in any way, to say that she’s got the experience to be president of the United States,” Hagel said.

McCain and other Republicans have defended Palin’s qualifications, citing Alaska’s proximity to Russia. Palin told ABC News, “They’re our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

Hagel took issue with that argument. “I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,”’ he said. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”

Hagel, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In July, Hagel traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Though he didn’t expect to be asked, Hagel had said he would have considered serving as Obama’s running mate.

Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, which then had a population of 5,500, before becoming Alaska’s governor in 2006.

Palin visited soldiers in Kuwait and Germany last year and said in an interview with ABC News that her only other foreign travel had been to Mexico and Canada. She also said she had never met a foreign head of state.

Hagel said other governors have been elected to serve in the White House without experience in Washington. He said judgment and character were also important for the job.

“But I do think in a world that is so complicated, so interconnected and so combustible, you really got to have some people in charge that have some sense of the bigger scope of the world,” Hagel said. “I think that’s just a requirement.”

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