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The Return of Hagel?

Chuck Hagel is reportedly endorsing [1] 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.

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Yesterday, Alana Goodman laughably referred [2] 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.

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17 Comments To "The Return of Hagel?"

#1 Comment By American but not Conservative On November 2, 2012 @ 4:58 am

Hey Daniel, did you hear about Freddie de Boer’s recent funny tribute to you? He included you in his list of favorite bloggers.

[3]

Now, based on what he said, I’m wondering what *kind* of snacks you’d bring down to me while I play D&D. Cool stuff like cheez-its and popcorn? Or something more like celery sticks?

#2 Comment By Jake Meador On November 2, 2012 @ 9:27 am

I’m a Nebraskan so I’ve been following the senate race here pretty closely. Two main thoughts:
1) This is a super savvy move by Hagel in that if he had done it three months ago and then Kerrey lost by 10 or 15 points, well, his name is linked with a campaign Nebraskans have clearly rejected. By waiting till now – when polls have drawn surprisingly close – he has made himself a potential deciding factor in the race.

2) Several Democrat friends were crowing about this on Facebook and I couldn’t help snarking back: “You mean an independent former Nebraska senator currently living on the east coast and teaching at an elite academic institution is endorsing an independent former Nebraska senator only recently returned from living on the east coast and working at an elite academic institution? I’m shocked.”

Basically, if you know anything about Hagel and Kerrey, you saw this coming. Only way it’s “news” is if you take the nonpartisan angle in looking at the story – but Nebraskans are extremely independent people who tend to be less rabidly partisan than most great plains states (see Fortenberry, Jeff; Nelson, Ben; and Hagel and Kerrey). Just look at our state politics – we have a unicameral and the entire legislative body is nonpartisan. To anyone who knows Nebraska and knows these candidates, this endorsement makes a lot of sense.

#3 Comment By Clint On November 2, 2012 @ 9:45 am

Chuck Hagel fought with The 9th Infantry in Nam and has seen war up close and personal.

The man has the credentials and the right to speak out against the neoconservatives’ and chickenhen Alana Goodman’s agenda.

#4 Comment By tbraton On November 2, 2012 @ 10:04 am

“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. ”

Your observation about Hagel should make one appreciate the narrow gauntlet Romney had to run in just to obtain the Republican nomination. There were two notable occasions in the last two election cycles when Romney attempted to take a small step off the narrow path, and he got slammed each time. The first occurred during the 2008 South Carolina debate when Romney said the surge in Iraq “appeared to be working,” and he was immediately criticized by Sen. McCain, to wild applause from the audience. The second occurred during an early Republican debate in 2011 when Romney stated that the U.S. shouldn’t be fighting Afghanistan’s “war of independence,” and he got slammed the next day for his “isolationism” by McCain’s traveling mate, Sen. Lindsey Graham. It’s not as if Romney had a lot of room to spare in order to get the nomination. What is hard to understand is how the neoconservative forces have managed to get such a tight grip on the Republican Party’s foreign policy, despite their dismal and disastrous record.

“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. ”

Your observation about Hagel gives one a renewed understanding of the gauntlet Mitt Romney had to run in order to get the Republican nomination. There were two notable instances when Romney attempted to step outside the line in two election cycles. The first time was in the 2008 South Carolina debate when he remarked that the Iraq surge “appeared to be working,” and he got slammed immediately by Sen. McCain. The second time was in an early Republican debate in 2011 when he stated that the U.S. shouldn’t be fighting Afghanistan’s “war of independence,” and he got slammed the next day /7for his “isolationism” by McCain’s traveling mate, Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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#5 Comment By tbraton On November 2, 2012 @ 10:48 am

Sorry about the double post in one. My rambunctious kitten must have worked his magic when I wasn’t looking. His computer skills are still somewhat imperfect.

#6 Comment By reflectionephemeral On November 2, 2012 @ 11:50 am

Alana Goodman laughably referred to Hagel as a “a strong opponent of the war in Iraq” and “no friend of Israel.”

I know that this Republican rhetorical style is very old news at this point, but I still care enough about rational debate to find this mode of argumentation infuriating.

Because movement conservatism and membership in the Republican Party no longer involves any matter of principle, people who dissent from within the tribe can’t simply be rebutted, they must be cast out as evil.

In an AEI debate in June about the extremism of the GOP, Norm Ornstein cited “conservative Bruce Bartlett” in making a point about how fiscal policy works. By way of rebuttal, [4]. He offered no substantive rebuttal to Ornstein’s point. He’d already won: Bartlett is not One Of Us!

The manner of Bartlett’s excommunication is irrelevant, to tribal advocates like Hayward. So it’s irrelevant to him that Bartlett was fired and declared an unperson for the crime of… raising concern about the deficit. But he wrote in early 2006, when Republicans held Congress and the presidency, so, for actions detrimental to the interests of the Party, he was purged. The substance of his positions didn’t matter, not to Republicans like Hayward in 2006, and not to Republicans like Hayward today.

Look, Hagel may well be wrong, we all are sometimes. Go ahead and make the argument! But as someone who likes America and wants it to do well, the dominance of Goodman-style logic among Republicans remains frustrating.

#7 Comment By MBunge On November 2, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

“Your observation about Hagel should make one appreciate the narrow gauntlet Romney had to run in just to obtain the Republican nomination”

And this observation makes it sound like Romney deserves credit for placating irrational, pro-war agitators.

“What is hard to understand is how the neoconservative forces have managed to get such a tight grip on the Republican Party’s foreign policy, despite their dismal and disastrous record.”

Hint – Candidates kissing neo-con ass during the GOP primaries is one way that grip is tightened.

Mike

#8 Comment By Sean Scallon On November 2, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

“The second occurred during an early Republican debate in 2011 when Romney stated that the U.S. shouldn’t be fighting Afghanistan’s “war of independence,” and he got slammed the next day for his “isolationism” by McCain’s traveling mate, Sen. Lindsey Graham. It’s not as if Romney had a lot of room to spare in order to get the nomination. What is hard to understand is how the neoconservative forces have managed to get such a tight grip on the Republican Party’s foreign policy, despite their dismal and disastrous record.”

And Romney lost South Carolina anyway and still won the nomination. And such a statement certainly didn’t lost for him Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Ohio, all these big states with lots of delegates who aren’t exactly into neoconservatism. Indeed, many of the states Romney preformed poorly in were Republican strongholds and it didn’t matter to the overall outcome and Texas was too late to change anything.

It’s too bad despite both campaigns clandestine contacts that Romney didn’t adapt more of the Paulian rhetoric to his campaign other talking about looking into an audit of the Fed. An establishment figure talking about breaking up the big banks, auditing the Fed, talking a more “humble” foreign policy would have run a more interesting and dynamic campaign, win or lose, instead of spending one half of the year saying one thing and the other half saying the exact opposite and expecting voters to somehow trust that person. It’s not easy beating an incumbent President but the economy, a fired-up base and Obama’s own limitations letting down so many of his previous supporters it certainly was there for him to win. Maybe he will in the end but unless it’s a smashing triumph sweeping all before him, it’s hard to see what mandate he gets from the voters other than they don’t like Obama.

#9 Comment By Sean Scallon On November 2, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

Maybe the the timing is better but I would have respected Hagel more if had jumped in when Kerry’s cause looked hopeless rather waiting for the tide to roll in and jumping aboard the boat. The disconcerting thing about the return of Bob Kerry is not anything that has to do with “bipartisanship.” It has to do with a vain man’s attempt to have the spotlight on him again. The Dems’ may hold the seat but the may live to regret it when Kerry holds out in budget negotiations, not so much to gain something crass for himself or the state of Nebraska, but just to once again say “Look at Me! I’m the most important Senator in the universe!” That’s exactly he acted to Bill Clinton and he’ll do the say to Obama too. Even Hagel was sometimes the same way (remember when he would call press conferences tons of reporters would attend to say exactly nothing of any importance?) Independence is not a bad thing but not in such away it’s all about you rather than the principle you are supposed standing up for. That’s the thing about “moderates”, the only side you can be sure they’re on is their own.

#10 Comment By IanH On November 2, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

Despite this, I still don’t think Kerrey will win.

#11 Comment By Daulnay On November 2, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

“driven more by the bipartisanship fetish”

As our political parties divide more rigidly, bipartisanship becomes less of a fetish and more an attempt to keep the Republic whole. Bitter factionalism rises higher every election cycle. Other republics collapsed under factionalism, so its rise, a dysfunctional legislature coupled with presidents who expand their arbitrary power, and delegitimization of the electoral process are worrisome.

Since it doesn’t look like we’re going to curtail presidential war powers, and the electoral process gets scepticism from right (voter IDs) and left (worries about Republican interests in voting machine companies and voter suppression), bipartisanship looks more productive and helpful than ever.

#12 Comment By MBunge On November 2, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

“As our political parties divide more rigidly”

A clarification. Our political parties are not dividing more rigidly. The GOP has become a radical, destabilizing, irrational actor in the public square, which is forcing Democrats slowly down the same path.

Mike

#13 Comment By Partridge On November 2, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

@Clint “chickenhen Alana Goodman’s agenda”

Old school chickenhawks didn’t serve themselves but wanted other people to fight wars for our country or our “way of life”.
The neocon chickenhawks didn’t serve themselves but want other people to fight wars for somebody else’s country, while the people of the other country sit on their backsides and watch.

It’s a little late, but I hope 9th ID vet Chuck Hagel’s endorsement resonates with voters.

#14 Comment By tbraton On November 2, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

“And Romney lost South Carolina anyway and still won the nomination. And such a statement certainly didn’t lost for him Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Ohio, all these big states with lots of delegates who aren’t exactly into neoconservatism.”

Yeah, Romney’s quest for the nomination was a cakewalk, just like Iraq. He barely won Ohio by 1% on March 6. Had Santorum won Ohio, the race would surely have taken a different direction. Sean Trende of RCP, a pretty decent analyst, was predicting as late as April that Romney wouldn’t have the nomination nailed down before the convention. So I don’t buy your argument that Romney had nothing to lose. Need I point out that the candidate for the nomination who took a clear stance against foreign involvement, Ron Paul, ultimately got 10% of the vote. Even when Gingrich and Santorum started sounding dovish as far as Afghanistan was concerned after the Afghan soldiers started killing American soldiers, you could tell Romney was tempted to follow suit, but the fear of being called a “flip-flopper” made him bite his tongue. I firmly believe (based on his performance in the recent debates) that Romney would have joined Gingrich and Santorum and renewed his doubts about Afghanistan and taken a similar stance had he felt more secure about the nomination. And it would have put him in a much better position vis-a-vis Obama in the general election.

BTW Romney’s remarks about Iraq occurred during the 2008 Republican debate and he wound up losing to McCain in South Carolina in 2008. He also lost South Carolina in 2012, but it was not because of anything he said about Iraq during the South Carolina debate.

#15 Comment By matt On November 2, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

I’m worried about the return of Hegel, and his tripartisanship fetish.

#16 Comment By William Dalton On November 2, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

Chuck Hagel was my early favorite for the Republican nomination in 2007-8, who I thought to be more a mainstream conservative and more electable than the didactic Dr. Paul. Had he stuck it out longer, and prepared to come back for the 2012 campaign, as Romney did, standing against the neo-con foreign and military policy positions each step along the way, this may have been a very different and more encouraging campaign. The Republican Party should have had the good sense to repudiate the Iraq War in 2004, but they certainly were without excuse by 2008 and their treatment of Hagel was inexcusable. Had they been more interested in keeping the White House at that time instead of circling the wagons to defend their “welfare-warfare state” record, we might today be observing the expected reelection of President Hagel.

#17 Comment By Daniel On November 3, 2012 @ 12:03 am

If I recall correctly, chuck is terrible on immigration