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The Hagel Dossier

A few TAC items to bookmark as the nomination of the former Nebraska senator as the next secretary of defense proceeds:

Scott McConnell — “The Hagel Brand

As Secretary of Defense, even in an Obama administration, Hagel will become one of the three or four most visible and prominent Republicans in the country. Moreover, he is an exemplary representative of a political type which used to be prominent, when the party was far stronger nationally; a type which has since become nearly invisible, to the party’s great detriment. Hagel is essentially an Eisenhower Republican–a fiscal conservative, with combat experience in war, roots in the American heartland, and an awareness that it is far easier to get into wars than get out of them.

Noah Millman  — “A Brief Word About Hagel

if we’re actually going to trim military expenditures, we need someone at Defense who isn’t captive to the interests who want to keep spending at a maximum. Whatever else Hagel may or may not be, he is somebody who has publicly called for cutting defense spending.

Daniel Larison — “Hagel and the Democratic Advantage on National Secuirty

Obama hasn’t had to do much to broaden the Democratic tent on foreign policy. He has simply had to be less aggressive and somewhat more competent than his predecessor, whose foreign policy record was so woeful that the Democratic tent on foreign policy was bound to grow for many years afterward. That tent was already expanding before Obama was a presidential candidate. That’s why Jim Webb switched parties in 2006, and why the Republican advantage on foreign policy was already long gone by the time Obama was sworn in.

Pat Buchanan — “Why the War Party Fears Chuck Hagel

Neocon hostility to Hagel is rooted in a fear that in Obama’s inner councils his voice would be raised in favor of negotiating with Iran and against a preventive war or pre-emptive strike. But if Obama permits these assaults to persuade him not to nominate Hagel, he will only be postponing a defining battle of his presidency, not avoiding it.

And Kelley Vlahos’s in-depth 2007 cover profile, “Hagel’s Dilemma.”

Iraq is something that Hagel likes to talk about—a lot. But it’s not what the CPAC faithful wanted to hear. In a recent interview in his Senate office, he explained why being conservative and condemning the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq—and in broader terms, Bush’s foreign policy in the Muslim world—aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Conservatives, I’ve always known, like this guy up there,” he said, gesturing to a framed picture of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “and Reagan, Goldwater, and others—[Sen. Robert] Taft, Mr. Conservative—were very protective in conserving our resources. And what is more significant in a country’s resource inventory than its people, its army? I think we have used our military recklessly and carelessly. I don’t think that’s conservative.” He continued, “I find it fascinating sometimes when I am challenged on this. I think I am the real conservative on the Iraq debate here.”

President Bush’s loyal congressional supporters, bolstered by the base, beg to differ. They find Hagel’s brand of realist internationalism, his hammering away at the Iraq policy as a misbegotten adventure akin to the Vietnam War he nearly died in, quite noisome. They’ve called him an appeaser, a traitor even. A personally popular senator with 35-year-old ties to the Republican Party, his detractors have done everything to marginalize him.

See also Paul Gottfried on one of his detractors’ more curious attempts: the neoconservative effort to apply a gay-rights litmus test against Hagel.

about the author

Daniel McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review, and Editor-at-Large of The American Conservative. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, The Spectator, The National Interest, Reason, and many other publications. Outside of journalism he has worked as internet communications coordinator for the Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign and as senior editor of ISI Books. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied classics. Follow him on Twitter.

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