Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey predicted Friday night that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would ultimately support former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary.

“I think it’s unlikely John votes against Hagel,” Kerrey said on the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher.

McCain’s support could prove crucial to the Republican Hagel’s confirmation, but Hagel has been criticized by some as being too soft on Iran.

Maher suggested to Kerrey that McCain would oppose Hagel because of their differences on Iran, but Kerrey disagreed.

“Do you think he wants a war in Iran, though?” Maher asked, referring to McCain.

“I would say he’s a little too bellicose when it comes to Iran for my taste,” Kerrey responded. “You know we just finished the war in Iraq and Iran’s got 80 million people. I don’t want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and I think the sanctions are working relatively well. I think you’ve got to keep the pressure on the Iranians, but put it this way – they don’t call it the Persian Gulf for nothing. You know, this is a big country. Right now most of the people in Iran actually like the Americans. We go to war with them, that’ll change. So I think being cautious the way Senator Hagel has been is the best approach.”

Maher suggested Hagel might also support cutting the defense budget, which Maher called the “most important thing we should do now.”

Kerrey quoted Erskine Bowles in saying that if we went to war with China at this point, we’d have to borrow from the Chinese to pay for it.

Kerrey, a Democrat, made an unsuccessful bid to return to the Senate last year, losing to Republican Deb Fischer.

Maher ended the interview by telling Kerrey:

“I’m sorry you lost but I’m glad you’re out there,” Maher said.

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