Chuck Hagel is reportedly endorsing Democratic Senate nominee Bob Kerrey:
“I think at the end of the day, people are going to look at this endorsement and see it for what it is,” said Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, a personal friend of Hagel’s who pointed out that the former senator angered the GOP with criticism of former President George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. “It’s a step in his path to try to build those bona fides that he is truly an Obama person and deserves a place in his cabinet.”
At a news conference later Thursday to announce his endorsement of Kerrey, Hagel dismissed the criticism. Hagel said if he were angling for a Cabinet position under Obama, “I’d be out in Virginia or Ohio campaigning for the president, not Bob Kerrey.” He demurred when asked if he would consider any future Cabinet post offer from Obama.
Unfortunately, Hagel’s endorsement seems to be driven more by the bipartisanship fetish than it is by anything else. As Hagel says in the report, “We must put an end to this senseless and irresponsible partisan paralysis that has locked down our government.” I assume that he is endorsing Kerrey to demonstrate what he believes to be the importance of bipartisanship, and he probably also doesn’t mind that he’s poking the GOP in the eye in the process. Considering the way that the party treated Hagel from 2007 on, they deserve the rebuke. While I am hardly a fan of Hagel and I regarded his criticisms of the Iraq war to be too little and too late, the speed with which he was turned into persona non grata inside the GOP because he happened to disagree with the “surge” in Iraq was remarkable.
Yesterday, Alana Goodman laughably referred to Hagel as a “a strong opponent of the war in Iraq” and “no friend of Israel.” Neither of these things is true, but this is how Republican hawks choose to describe someone who was a reliable supporter of Republican foreign policy goals until the failures of the Bush administration made it impossible to continue doing so. It’s telling that Hagel’s minimal dissent against the conduct of the Iraq war starting in 2006-07 has been enough for Republican hawks to write him off completely. Viewed that way, it’s no surprise that Hagel wouldn’t endorse the Republican candidate in his home state. Most Republicans renounced him a long time ago, so it’s not clear what he still owes them.
I doubt that Hagel has an Obama Cabinet post in mind, but if Obama wins next week and felt the need to appoint some Republicans to his new Cabinet Hagel would not be a bad choice for Defense or State. He obviously no longer has much of a future in the modern GOP, and there’s no realistic chance that Romney would appoint him to anything important. It says something significant about the nature of the foreign and military policies of a possible Romney administration that someone like Hagel would never even be considered for a major appointment in it.