"Every president, that we know of, has complied with the law (FISA)," Hagel said. "No president is above the law. We are a nation of laws and no president, majority leader, or chief justice of the Supreme Court can unilaterally or arbitrarily avoid a law or dismiss a law. If the vice president holds a different point of view, then he holds a different point of view."
Based on the facts that are out there concerning whether domestic spying abuses were taking place, Hagel said, there was a "breakdown."
"I take an oath of office to the Constitution," he said. "I don't take an oath of office to the vice president, a president or a political party. My obligation and responsibility are to the people I represent and the country I serve. I do what I think is right for the people I represent and the country I serve." [...]
Hagel, referring to President Ronald Reagan, said people trusted him because he was not a "vitriolic person or one to impugn the motives of people who disagreed with him."
"Never did he do that," Hagel said. "There is no place for that in politics because it debases our system and our process. You can agree or disagree with your leaders and say whatever you like about your elected leaders and throw them out, but I do draw the line on the vilification and impugning of motives because someone disagrees with you."
He said the American people are "sick and fed up" with that type of politics.
"Cheney's poll numbers are very, very low," Hagel said. "This should be about elevating the debate and enhancing America and finding the solutions that we need to move forward. It doesn't help when you characterize people who disagree with you or threaten them or characterize them as unpatriotic or not caring about our people or our security. The American people see through that and it is beneath the dignity of this country."