Scott Paul on Hagel: What Could Have Been

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I’m a big Chuck Hagel fan. His roll call votes rarely turn out the way I’d like since he’s been a party loyalist for most of his career, but he’s been an important voice for comity in the political process and multilateralism in foreign policy for a long time. The Republican Party and the country need him very badly.
I want him to run for president or for re-election to his senate seat. Either in the senate or in presidential debates, his ideas need to be heard.
But I can’t help wishing he could have run for president under different circumstances. I wish he hadn’t needed to come out so forcefully against the president on Iraq – and he did need to come out forcefully.


Here’s my reasoning: I want Hagel to pick a fight in the Republican Party over the direction of our foreign policy.
His general outlook on America’s role in the world is mostly in line with mine, and if polls are to be trusted, mostly in line with the majority of Americans and even Republicans. I wanted him to give voice, through the primary process, to the many internationalist Republicans who President Bush and Party leaders have ignored. Outside the foreign policy realm, Hagel is arguably the most conservative Republican senator in the presidential field, so his candidacy would have made a great test case.
That can’t happen anymore because Hagel has become the anti-Iraq-war candidate. While most Republicans share his general views on foreign policy, a majority of them – especially the base voters – have rallied to support President Bush on Iraq. If Iraq accounts for most of the foreign policy debate, as it did in the 2006 midterm elections, the larger differences – on which Hagel could really build momentum among Republicans – will be obscured.
I don’t believe Republicans will support an anti-Iraq-war candidate. Chuck Hagel did the right think by voicing his opposition as vocally as he has – it has certainly changed the dynamics of the debate for the better, and for that I am very grateful. The cost of that opposition will unfortunately be an opportunity to test whether Republicans really support the kind of foreign policy that their leaders practice.
— Scott Paul

Comments

60 comments on “Scott Paul on Hagel: What Could Have Been

  1. Arun says:

    How much attention was paid during the 2000 campaign to the Project for the New American Century folks, and their ties to Bush?
    Let us not go by just what the candidates say, but by what think-tanks and organizations are backing them.
    So, who all in the think-tank business back Hagel?

    Reply

  2. Arun says:

    Words, words, words!
    How much does this White House’s foreign policy line up with the 2000 campaign promises?

    Reply

  3. Pissed Off American says:

    “My support of a Democratic candidate is not unconditional…it’s just not. I want Hillary, Obama, and the rest to move towards Hagel’s position. They won’t unless he enters the race.”
    Steve, they will not move in the direction of Hagel’s RHETORIC, (which we must assume is ALL it is, considering his voting history), because both Obama and Clinton are solidly held in AIPAC’s stead.

    Reply

  4. JohnH says:

    Susan: thanks for the info on Hagel. Sounds like a Republican (lies), acts like a Republican (cheats), must be a Republican. Question is: with this record, why isn’t he the front runner?

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  5. Marky says:

    Steve, what about Richardson?
    Do you think he offers much alternative to the Democrats who are currently declared?
    Also, what is Hagel’s position on energy security?
    I think this is the most important question, and certainly can’t be ignored in discussing foreign policy. As far as I am concerned, Reagan was an unmitigated disaster for this country, possibly worse than Bush, for turning away from conservation and looking for alternative energy sources. We lost 25 years because his simple, sunny optimism about the future was turned into a policy of willful blindness.
    The problem with Hagel, or any Republican, is the extremely cozy relationship between the oil companies and the GOP. Oil is absolutely vital to our survival, no question, but the oil companies have a vested interest in discouraging conservation and development of alternative energy sources. The oil companies will shepherd us through Peak Oil in a fashion designed to create maximum profit, and nothing else—we may see the first trillionairs from Peak Oil exploitation.
    The need to end reliance on current oil reserves is an economic opportunity, but only for those outside of the oil industry. A related issue is global warming. Where does Hagel stand on that?
    As far as I am concerned, the likelihood that the next GOP President will be as petro-friendly as Bush and Reagan is a reason to favor Hillary or any other Democrat in 2008.

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  6. Steve Clemons says:

    NCProsecutor — Hagel is not a liberal — and he votes conservatively frequently. Read the Guardian article I posted a while back though. On a number of key “social issues”, Hagel is more moderate than conservative — but that doesn’t matter to me, as I have written before.
    On the issue I care about most — which is the country’s national security position and foreign policy, he is one of the few who reflect a course that I think the country needs to adopt. What should one do in that case? Should I because many other lesser areas of concern of mine are reflected in the candidacies of Hillary or Obama adopt them over a candidate who is with me on what matters most? I think not.
    My support of a Democratic candidate is not unconditional…it’s just not. I want Hillary, Obama, and the rest to move towards Hagel’s position. They won’t unless he enters the race.
    When Hagel enters, perhaps Wes Clark will enter too — and in my view, that would be excellent.
    So, you are hereby answered. I have rosters of concerns, priorities, and no candidate out there — not a single one — is compelling in all arenas to me. So, I have to choose. And rather than picking 2nd or 3rd tier issues, I am going with the one I care most about.
    I respect your reasons for not doing so. We are different. We can each go our own ways — but I will stand with the importance of Hagel entering this presidential race because of what I think will be the systemically positive impact that will have on the foreign policy/national security positions of other Democratic and Republican candidate franchises.
    All the best — and you can feel free to use all caps.
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  7. NCProsecutor says:

    Dear Steve and Scott,
    I will continue to ask these tough questions until one of you deems me to be a “serious person” and addresses the issues more directly.
    Scott, you said this: “On foreign policy, Hagel’s talk will define him more than his votes…” I simply cannot understand this. Hagel spoke against Bolton’s nomination. How did he vote? Hagel spoke against Bush’s escalation plan in Iraq. How did he vote? If your point is that by saying one thing and then doing another, Chuck Hagel is some sort of GOP hero, I think you are confusing the word “hero” with the word “hypocrite.”
    If Hagel were a moderate, I could understand why you would want to support him. I would disagree with that support (in favor of a moderate Kansas Democrat, but whatever), but I understand the concern that Steve has raised about keeping moderate influences alive in the Republican Party (such as Linc Chafee). BUT CHUCK HAGEL IS NOT A MODERATE!!! He is a conservative Republican who has, in the end, and with his votes in the Senate, supported nearly every foreign policy move made by this administration. Neither you nor Steve can deny this — and neither of you has even tried.
    Oops. I suppose serious people don’t use all caps…
    Sincerely,
    NCProsecutor

    Reply

  8. urbino says:

    “But you also have to take into consideration the circumstances of those past periods when those actions were taken.”
    Agreed, MP, but you also have to take into account the fact those “periods” aren’t fully “past.” The Bush/Cheney approach to foreign policy and their views on executive power remain current issues, and as votes in congress continue to demonstrate, still have broad support in one of our 2 major parties.
    Those theories need to be clearly rejected by whoever next sits in the oval. Clearly and fully rejected. As Marky notes, Rove has given all the candidates a perfect opportunity to do so.
    Will Hagel use it? Will others?

    Reply

  9. HAS says:

    The commentary on these postings is another example of what a great addition Scott is to the best foreign policy blog around…nice work!
    Like Scott, Hagel is not my kind of voter in the Senate, however I do respect Hagel’s views on foreign policy in general. For that reason I think he’d be a great member of an Obama cabinet, like Secretary of Defense or State?

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  10. Marky says:

    Hey, here is a great piece of news.
    Rove says future Presidents will embrace Bush Doctrine.
    http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Rove_Next_President_will_embrace_Bush_0309.html
    Why is this good news? Because it gives a topical way to pin candidates down on their support for the Bush Doctrine. For Hagel, let’s see if he can simply say “Rove is wrong, and no, I don’t embrace it”.

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  11. MP says:

    Moreover, you have to factor in a learning curve when it seems reasonable. For example, a LOT congresspeople felt totally duped and cowed by the Bush Administration on the vote for the use of force. It wasn’t admirable of them, and I’m not excusing them.
    But I don’t think they are likely to make that mistake again.
    Hillary is a good example. Also ole Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones isnt’ going to be sticking it to the French the next time they advise against foreign adventures in the ME. Some folks learn, so I think it’s important to take that into consideration when looking at past actions.

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  12. MP says:

    “I would suggest that you look at the individual’s record. A person’s past behavior is the best predictor of his future behavior.”
    Normally, yes. But you also have to take into consideration the circumstances of those past periods when those actions were taken.

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  13. TruthSeeker says:

    Welcome Scott! So, you’re a fellow New Yorker? Great, I like you already but; don’t expect me to cut you any slack 🙂 I’m also living and working in another state and I have to warn you, the homesickness doesn’t go away.
    Steve, thanks for your response. I will reluctantly take your advice and keep my eyes on ALL the presidential candidates.

    Reply

  14. susan says:

    MP says:
    “The key is to try to discern what they’re going to do in the future…”
    I would suggest that you look at the individual’s record. A person’s past behavior is the best predictor of his future behavior.

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  15. MP says:

    “I like what he’s saying now, and I’m open to being convinced he’s serious about it. But more rhetoric doesn’t close that credibility gap. A tough tone of voice and a war record don’t close it. He has to *do* something on the subjects he’s talking about if he wants to make that talk credible.”
    Urbino, I guess we’ll see what he does. But words generally precede actions, and he hasn’t been saying the right things for that long. So time will tell. I agree with your point about purity.
    I guess my point was…with any experienced politician, and lots of unexperienced ones, there’s always a lot of unfortunate stuff you can hang around their necks. The key is to try to discern what they’re going to do in the future.
    This whole discussion of Hagel reminds of the one we had on Chafee before he lost the election. Steve’s point on this–I think–is that if we’re going to get back to a politics that, for lack of a better word, is normal or balanced or sane or within the bounds of the Constitution or isn’t hijacked by extreme groups, we should try to encourage the “reform of the Republican Party.” And that means giving support to folks like Chafee and Hagel who seem to want a party like that and who could fit wtihin it.
    When a boat is listing badly to one side, the question is…do you put all your weight on the other side…or do you try to move the weight toward the middle?

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  16. MP says:

    Sorry, POA, I was reading upthread, rather than down thread.
    If true, it seems pretty damning.

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  17. MP says:

    POA writes: “… and his past unethical treatment of his disclosure obligations in regards to ES&S…”
    What is ES&S?

    Reply

  18. Gene says:

    “Most of the people who are currently in the race for President are part of the failure, part of the problem. So is Senator Hagel. Their judgement is suspect, their values are suspect (e.g., valuing party and self over country).”
    I would take this one step further. US foreign policy will continue to fail until our leaders, and the American people in general, start realizing that to value the state of humanity everywhere IS our national interest. As long as us Americans consider our national interest to be cheap oil and sweatshop labor pools in foreign countries, we are on the path to failure. Because that is empire, and empires always fail, eventually. We as Americans are so proud of our democracy and our equal opportunity and think everyone else deserves the same, but when will our foreign policy start to reflect that? When will we (all Americans, not just dying US troops and their families) be willing to make actual sacrifices to help it happen outside the US? That is where real US “security” ultimately lies.
    As for Hagel, I like what he says, I think he has the right ideas, at least on Iraq. One thing I agree with is that having him in the race is sure to improve the dialogue. But I have a hard time trusting anyone who has given Bush a pass last few years, be it necessary for their political health or not. Same applies to the mainstream Democrats.

    Reply

  19. Pissed Off American says:

    It is interesting to me that neither Scott or Steve comments on the total lack of substance that Hagel’s rhetoric has when compared to his voting record. They cite his commentary while ignoring his actions. And their lack of comments about Hagel’s direct role in the electronic voting debacle, and his past unethical treatment of his disclosure obligations in regards to ES&S speaks of a marketing ploy on Hagel’s behalf rather than an honest critique of the potential candidate’s qualifications.
    We don’t need another lying posturing crook in the Oval Office.

    Reply

  20. Arun says:

    Most of the people who are currently in the race for President are part of the failure, part of the problem. So is Senator Hagel. Their judgement is suspect, their values are suspect (e.g., valuing party and self over country). Don’t give me the crap about keeping their political viability, etc., there are plenty of soldiers out there who have lost all viability because of these morons.
    If everyone exhibited the dedication to self-preservation that these politicians do, we would have no country. There are still, fortunately, lots of people who are able to do the right thing, though it may not be good for them personally.
    The Hagels can come and speak sweet words now, but they are unconvincing. Those words were not spoken when they could have made a difference, and even more importantly, the votes were not cast to make a difference. Cheerleading by Steve Clemons and Scott Paul can’t hide the tinsel quality of these politicians.
    We need someone from one of the state mansions with a reasonable record to ascend to the Presidency. And over the next three election cycles we need to retire virtually everyone who is currently in the Senate and Congress.

    Reply

  21. Carroll says:

    I would comment on Scott’s last comment by saying that if someone can’t take Iraq and tie it to our overall foreign policy and personalize it for Joe Lunchbox in terms of how it affects him and his family in Yourtown USA then they need to lose their frame shop job to a timeshare salesperon.

    Reply

  22. rich says:

    Scott Paul:
    “But I can’t help wishing . . . I wish he hadn’t needed to come out so forcefully against the president on Iraq . . Here’s my reasoning: I want Hagel to pick a fight in the Republican Party over the direction of our foreign policy.”
    I disagree that “Hagel has become the anti-Iraq-war candidate.” –and I take issue with your idea that speaking to the national interest on the biggest foreign policy issue currently dragging down the country is somehow bad for Hagel, “bad for the country and the world.”
    We’ve had FIVE YEARS of evading the issue, now suddenly America’s going to be hurt by a little honest talk?
    1. You say: “Few candidates .. have .. ability to zoom out from Iraq to see the big picture.”
    The last thing we need is more ‘perspective.’ The last thing pols & policy folks need is more critical distance, or a more intellectualized unwillingness to grapple with the problem. Iraq IS the big picture. Along w/the constitutional root.
    Regional geopolitics matter, but Iraq & American foreign policy are inseparable.
    Electorally, there’s no benefit to Hagel in taking your advice. He’s got rock-solid conservative credentials, so the base is sewn up. Running to the right will hemorrhage moderate voters of all stripes. That strategy’s exhausted anyway, thanks to Rove-Bush. No candidate will take the White House by counting on a die-hard 25 or 30% core incapable or renouncing abjectly failed policies.
    Hagel has to prove himself by running to the center–as comments in this thread verify. Unlike Giuliani, who has to prove himself by running to the right, Hagel can speak to all points in the spectrum–on Iraq AND foreign policy–IF he can get Iraq & the Constitution right. Rudy can’t hold onto what he’s got.
    “[Hagel’s] general outlook on America’s role in the world is mostly in line with mine, and if polls are to be trusted, mostly in line with the majority of Americans and even Republicans.”
    This is so overly broad it’s hard to respond. I disagree the polls confirm that your view aligns with the majority of Americans. Even Chuck Hagel is catching up.
    We need a Senator that operates in real-time. Keeping your powder dry is only useful when there’s a poinmt at which you’re willing to fight.
    Hagel can create politial space for ‘conservatives’ to peel away, and to remake their partys.

    Reply

  23. Barack Obama says:

    I am 100% certain that Hagel will run. I am sad about this, not because I don’t think he has good and serious things to say about American foreign policy, but rather because I know that his reputation and character is going to be attacked by the sleaze balls on the Right, and I don’t want to see that happen to such a decent American.

    Reply

  24. susan says:

    How will the Hollow Hagel spin this?
    Diebold
    Hagel, a former Chairman, continues to owns a huge stake in ES&S, the second-largest electronic voting machine company after Diebold.
    From Wikipedia:
    Chuck Hagel, the previous chairman of ES&S, another major manufacturer of voting machines and still a $1m stock-holder in McCarthy & Co which owns a quarter of ES&S [17], became a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1996. Hagel’s Democratic opponent made a formal protest to the state of Nebraska over the conflict of interest. Hagel had significant AIS holdings when the company counted the votes for his surprise election victory. Hagel has been scrutinized by the Senate Ethics Committee over his investments in the McCarthy Group. ES&S, which counted 80% [18] of the votes when Hagel was elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2002, is a subsidiary of the McCarthy Group, according to The Hill. [19],[20]
    When Hagel stepped down as head of this company to compete for the Senate, he became “…the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, nearly all on unauditable machines he had just sold the state … including many largely black communities that had never before voted Republican”. (Source [21])
    Hagel also was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics Committee, and was on a short list of George W. Bush’s vice-presidential candidates. [22]
    Chuck Hagel also voted for the Allard amendment last week, which would have allowed states to pay their own minimum wage instead of the federal minimum wage. In some states the legal state minimum wage is under $3 an hour.
    This has to be hung around his neck, and those of McCain and Brownback, during every debate and press conference from now until November of ’08.

    Reply

  25. easy e says:

    ………….And how about the ***taboo*** subject. What is Hagel’s relationship with A—C and his position on the A—C/Larry Franklin/Iran docs matter?
    http://www.forward.com/articles/defense-for-aipac-duo-says-groups-refuse-to-testif/

    Reply

  26. easy e says:

    Marky makes some excellent points at 10:20pm. Just what are/were Hagel’s positions on withdrawal, the initial invasion, and preventative war.
    And more.
    How about the current Iran situation as sanctions talks falter. “Bomb ’em” with Israel or “let’s talk”?
    http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Flurry_of_diplomatic_consultations__03082007.html
    And how about the ***taboo*** subject. What is Hagel’s relationship with A—C and his position on the A—C/Larry Franklin/Iran docs matter?

    Reply

  27. Pissed Off American says:

    “Votes are ACTIONS. Are both of you so blind that you cannot see the difference — and the meaninglessness of the first without the second? If you are not blind to this distinction, are you choosing to ignore it in your posts?”
    Yeah. Well, try to get them to talk about Hagel’s history in regards to ES&S. Mums the word I guess.

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  28. Pissed Off American says:

    “If Hagel can find a way to rhetorically split that hair so the GOP base will somehow hear him being critical of the war without being critical of the president, I think that will work in his favor.”
    If a candidate is not openly critical of this President, he is either a damned liar, or a fool. Our nation already has such a creature in the Oval Office, we sure as hell don’t need to elect another one.

    Reply

  29. easy e says:

    Sidenote: How about Bush’s “warm welcome” in South America! Even a great slideshow on corporate MSNBC. Hopefully America will finally wake up.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17515421/
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/03/08/bush.latinamerica/index.html

    Reply

  30. Marky says:

    Easy E, good questions, but what exactly is Hagel’s position on Iraq, besides that Bush fucked up?
    Does he favor withdrawal? I don’t think so.
    Does he believe that the invasion was a mistake in the first place?
    What is his position on the Bush Doctrine of preventive war?

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  31. easy e says:

    Iraq is a criminal catastrophy, so let’s move on to another question:
    WHERE DOES HAGEL STAND ON IRAN, ISRAEL/PALESTINE, ETC., ETC.???
    – “All options on the table” or diplomacy?
    Shrub hoodwinked comatose U.S. public into notion that roadmap to peace goes through Baghdad (where U.S. has g_d-given right to control Iraqi fossil fuels).
    What are Hagel’s positions on the real issues that will impact our next generation and future???

    Reply

  32. urbino says:

    I haven’t heard anyone in this thread say Hagel’s problem is that he isn’t pure, MP. Hagel’s problem, as described here, is that he hasn’t *done* anything — anything — in the Senate to back up his maverick rhetoric. (And no, co-sponsoring a non-binding resolution doesn’t count. It’s still just rhetoric. Votes are doing something. Rounding up others to vote with you is doing something.)
    I’ve never voted for a “pure” candidate. (Hell, I voted for Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton. Who’s pure in that list?) I’ve never even seen a pure candidate. The problem for Hagel isn’t purity; it’s credibility. His long record of actions doesn’t match his recently admirable words. I don’t think anyone expects the two to line up perfectly for any politician, but Hagel’s gap is especially large — words: “biggest foreign policy blunder,” “go sell shoes,” etc.; actions: the most loyal Bush voter in the Senate.
    That’s not a little impurity. That’s a huge credibility gap.
    I like what he’s saying now, and I’m open to being convinced he’s serious about it. But more rhetoric doesn’t close that credibility gap. A tough tone of voice and a war record don’t close it. He has to *do* something on the subjects he’s talking about if he wants to make that talk credible.

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  33. Marky says:

    Here’s yet another way to look at Hagel, or any other candidate who is trying to buck the current foreign policy direction. Forget about Hagel’s constituency among voters of either party, what is the power bloc that will support him? Among the powerful forces acting on our foreign policy are the oil lobby, the Israel lobby. The latter clearly plays both sides, while the former clearly favors the Republicans.
    Would Hagel get the support of either of these groups?
    If not, from who then? A foreign policy change—especially in the ME—cannot be created in a vacuum. I’m not going to wade into Israel-US politics here, but in terms of oil, until we have a substitute for oil, you wont see the imperialism stop. In fact, as the oil market tightens, it probably IS in our national interest to have more troops in the region, extremely distasteful though that may be.

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  34. Brigitte says:

    Discourse on this blog is much more sophisticated, serious, and civil than on most other sites I have followed. Mr. Hagel is a conservative Republican with many positions I do not agree with. But I admire nevertheless his courage to go against the majority of the Republican elite with respect to Iraq. His presence in the field of presidential candidates will asure a more rebust Iraq debate on both the Republican and Democratic side. Therefore, I very much hope that Mr. Hagel makes his candacy official.

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  35. MP says:

    “Little did I know, Scott, that it would be you to drag me into the comments section more frequently — something I am loathe to do.”
    Steve, if you don’t stop these ad hominem attacks, you’re going to force us to cut you off -:)

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  36. MP says:

    One the saddest parts of our politics right now is the degree of purity partisans demand of their candidates. Can’t vote for Hillary because she didn’t enough or anything to stop Bush. Can’t vote for Hagel for the same reason, even though he’s great “for a Republican.”
    Look, voting for a candidate is always a crapshoot. You never really know what they’re going to do in the future. LBJ ran against Goldwater as the “peace candidate.” Nixon opened up China. Harry Blackmun (to change gears a bit) was a conservative judge before he wrote RvW.
    Point is, you aren’t going to find a pure candidate with no blemishes. And you’re never going to find a candidate who doesn’t end up surprising you in good and bad ways.
    (Even good ole Dennis Kucinich was, at one time I’m told, anti-choice–which makes sense given his district.)

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  37. Scott Paul says:

    Commenters, thanks for making my first week of writing here an interesting one.
    The discussion here seems to break down along three fault lines.
    1. Does what you say matter? As a senator, it depends. In Hagel’s case, it does. He has created space for others – in both parties – to take bold stands. In the Bolton battle, for example, which I worked on closely, I doubt Senators Voinovich or Chafee would have stepped forward to block the nomination had Hagel not first voiced serious concern and then qualified his support. Would I have preferred he vote the right way? Absolutely. Did he play as big a role as Voinovich or Chafee? No. But that should not take away from the valuable role he played. As a presidential candidate, talk matters even more. On foreign policy, Hagel’s talk will define him more than his votes and force other candidates to confront the facts in a different frame. That’s why I hope he runs.
    2. Will Hagel be able to keep the Iraq debate about what’s best for the country instead of supporting or opposing the president and the troops? Enough to give people something to think about (and enough that it’ll be well worth his entry into the race), but probably not enough to shift the debate altogether. Keep in mind, there will be between 5-10 other Republicans in the race. Their positions may diverge slightly, but all of them will have the same talking points in front of them. That’ll make it hard for Hagel to change the frame.
    3. Will/can Hagel use Iraq as an entry point to discuss broader foreign policy/national security issues? Again, I hope so and I think he’ll try, but I doubt it. Few candidates in the race, in either party, have interest in or ability to zoom out from Iraq to see the big picture. I’m afraid Iraq will continue to dominate the foreign policy debate and, for reasons I’ll expand on in a later post, I think that’s bad for the country and the world. I know it’s bad for Hagel.
    I should put a disclaimer on this comment – I’m not going to be able to engage this deeply in the comments on all of my posts, but since I’ve been home sick today and am currently watching the NY Rangers struggle for a playoff spot out of the corner of my eye, I’ve been fortunate to go back and forth with you. Thanks again for making this such an interesting place to share thoughts.
    Scott Paul

    Reply

  38. daCascadian says:

    Hagel better than Biden.
    I certainly agree with Steve on that but big deal, they may not be the bottom of the barrel but they ARE down there close.
    I`m not interested in week old produce, just the fresh stuff & I don`t see any so far.
    “Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” – Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

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  39. Marky says:

    Let me turn around Urbino’s question: Let’s give Hagel credit for his articulated policy vision, and for his outspoken criticism of the war. Against that, we weight his record, which is the most pro-Bush in the Senate. Call that party loyalism or something else, it needs and explanation. Now let’s move ahead in time. Suppose Hagel wins the nomination. Will it be because Republicans agree with him, or because he has the best chance of winning? To me, it’s clear the Republicans would nominate Jeff Gannon if they thought he’d win—the latter consideration is overriding.
    Now suppose Hagel becomes President. He’ll be dealing with the same Republicans (and many Democrats) who want to continue with Bush’s imperialist foreign policy. On what basis does one conclude that Hagel will be able to effect a change in course? Doesn’t he need to show tangible leadership, now, before he gets our trust?
    Look, Hagel is not special in his outlook on foreign policy—not in the least. What makes him special is that he is a sitting US Senator with several terms of experience behind him.
    If he were green, one could make an argument for supporting him based on his ideas, but since he is not, he MUST answer for his record, and he MUST use his position in the Senate now to create a basis for trust. I really wish Edwards were in the Senate now, because only in the Senate, now, could he most effectively dispel the taint of his earlier war support.

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  40. urbino says:

    “What evidence is there that Hagel tried to accomplish what he talks about?”
    That remains my question, too. His 5.5 years of not actively opposing the policies he now says he opposes hasn’t been addressed by Steve, Scott, or any of Hagel’s supporters here. Does it not bother you guys?
    (NB: I probably need to restate that, by and large, I find Hagel a refreshing voice in the GOP. I respect his willingness to at least talk about a draft. But he needs to do more than talk. He needs to act, and he needs to show the ability to lead others to act with him. I just haven’t seen it.)

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  41. gq says:

    Steve,
    I have no problems with you bringing up the deficiencies with the Democratic candidates or office holders. In fact, I think the Edwards-Obama-Clinton game ignores the problem Iraq plays in broader middle east policy. I also think the House is doing the same thing right now.
    You mention trust (in reference to Schumer) and I do think that is important. My criticisms of your writing deals specifically with trusting Hagel. What evidence is there that Hagel tried to accomplish what he talks about? After all, he never actually voted against Bolton even though he mentioned concerns. In the end Chafee stymied Bolton flat out. I’m looking for an effort by Hagel along those same lines: where he stuck his neck out and accomplished something–or did so via parliamentary tactics or his votes. Something real and tangible, not words.
    Until then, I cannot trust Hagel. I already disagree with him on every other issue, how can I trust him–really trust him–on middle east policy? Incidentally, I’d be interested in more of Hagel’s specific views on FP beyond the middle east: china, russia, venezuela, cuba, etc. and since this is now The Hagel Note, what better place to find that out :o).

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  42. Carroll says:

    I agree with Steve.
    And I think Hagel might have a chance at the GOP nomination because his voting record has been rank and file GOP for the most part…so the only real position he can be attacked on by the gop wingers is the Iraq war.
    I also think Hagle is too smart to be trapped into the anti Iraq war label. He’s loud, he’s clear, he can run right over that label and make it about the “direction” of America. Which is what he has been talking about…Iraq is the most visible and one “example” of the wrong direction.
    Now I want the Clark dems to get busy and get him in the race. I think they are the two who could spark a long overdue all out discussion about what both the foreign and domestic “job” of America goverment should be.
    And cynical as I normally am, I still believe that there are basic American values, although recently forgotten, that are still lurking underneath out here that could be tapped by the right person(s) using that approach.

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  43. urbino says:

    What do you mean by “serious person,” Steve?

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  44. Steve Clemons says:

    TruthSeeker — I respect what you are saying. I’m going to be writing a lot more about all of the candidates — not just highlighting one. You and I have a disagreement over Senator Hagel’s qualities as a candidate. These are admittedly complicated choices as I want to see a Democrat succeed Bush, but my support is not automatic.
    I had to go through a ridiculous tap dance with Senator Chuck Schumer — though I think he is generally unaware of how miffed I was at him — about his support of John Bolton just before the November elections. Now he is part of the crowd calling for withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2008. Should I throw in with Schumer on all scores? I think not — can’t trust him. The Bolton Battle was a key proxy for many other issues.
    On Hagel — the fact is that NONE of the other candidates. Strike that — except Kucinish and Wesley Clark — were out there with clearly thought out alternative schemes that both addressed our overstretched military situation in Iraq and the broader problem of US foreign policy and national security decision making. The next best has been Biden — and Hillary and Obama have generally remained in incrementalist grooves that are the same narrative and frames that George W. Bush is using.
    This was caused by the early and important — and damaging — impact of Peter Beinart’s article, “A Fighting Faith.” Something more serious and compelling has been needed to reframe broad national security choices on the Dem side, but that rival alternative to what Beinart put on the table — and which has been highly influential with Hillary Clinton and others — has not emerged.
    I hoped to be the one to write this book, or article — and I have not yet done it. This is frustrating for me.
    But in the mean time, much of what Hagel has articulated is hijackable and stealable by any of the Dem candidates — and I think that that would be extraordinarily helpful to their candidacies and my support of them.
    I’m writing all this to you to respond to your points seriously. I’ve been consistent for quite a long time about where I hoped to see Dem alternatives go in their foreign policy articulations — and it’s not happening. The fact that Hagel is out there and is clearly significant for many — though not you — is not necessarily something you should disconnect from but rather observe, even from a distance.
    Anyway — you are a serious person so wanted to give you a serious counterpoint regarding your concerns.
    Best regards,
    Steve Clemons

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  45. TruthSeeker says:

    urbino, I’m not opposed to reading opinions with which I disagree. I’ve basically spent my life doing that. It’s just that this is one of the few blogs that I read in-depth. Right now, I rather spend my time gathering more information on the candidates I think are worthy of the presidency, not the ones that I believe are not.

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  46. California Jim says:

    I really do not or have not seen the anything positive from Hagel — well let me ammend that; he sounds good in sound bites on the 5PM News and on the Sunday Bobblehead shows but when it comes to the actual vote, it is always the same: GOPER.

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  47. JohnH says:

    I have to agree with Steve on this one. Hagel’s entry will show spineless Democrats for what they are–both in the presidential race and in Congress. Hagel’s entry will also legitimize candidates who advocate alternatives.
    I can’t wait to see Hillary squirm…

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  48. NCProsecutor says:

    Dear Scott and Steve,
    Another post, another Chuck Hagel lovefest. Scott, you admit front and center that “[h]is roll call votes rarely turn out the way I’d like since he’s been a party loyalist for most of his career.” You then go on to praise his “voice.”
    This is sheer lunacy. I suppose it’s fair enough to give credit to a politician for an idea s/he puts forth in a speech, or for calling for “comity in the political process.” But speeches are WORDS. Votes are ACTIONS. Are both of you so blind that you cannot see the difference — and the meaninglessness of the first without the second? If you are not blind to this distinction, are you choosing to ignore it in your posts? Perhaps we’ll hear more from Steve about how Hagel and others like him in the GOP are “keeping their powder dry” without explaining what exactly they’re waiting for.
    As I’ve said before, please help a poor country lawyer from North Carolina understand the complexities of this issue.
    Sincerely,
    NCProsecutor

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  49. urbino says:

    You can’t read the blog because you disagree?

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  50. TruthSeeker says:

    I’m currently sitting at my desk with my mouth wide open after reading Steve’s comments. The Dems don’t have to “mimic” Hagel. Hagel is just doing a better and more forceful job of impersonating them! Just because you say something the loudest doesn’t mean you said it first. Nothing Hagel has said thus far is original. It’s obvious he is indulging in a bit of opportunism. Now that Bush’s poll numbers are in the toilet, he comes out swinging? Where the hell was he with his bright ideas and glorious foreign policy strategy in 2001, 2002, or 2003? If he could so easily snooker Steve into cheerleading for him despite his stances on other issues; I shudder to think how the general public will receive him. If Hagel enters the race and helps to clarify and narrow the debate, that’s fine. I welcome him. But in my opinion, Hagel is not the man for the job, period. Since Steve and I obviously disagree, I might have to give this blog a rest for a while until he regains his senses 🙂

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  51. carsick says:

    Since the primary area I agree with Hagel is in the foreign policy arena, I still think Sec. of State is a roll he has grown to fill.
    Getting through the primaries, when the base sees him as a turncoat despite his strong support of the admin. in all other areas outside the war, will be very hard though – despite the weak republican line-up. His consistent domestic views and personal life would certainly appeal to the evangelical part of the base but can he convince the war dead-enders.

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  52. urbino says:

    Bingo, gq.

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  53. gq says:

    Where was Hagel on oversight during the GOP majority? The Dems were calling over and over for oversight. I’d like a little evidence that he at least tried to push the GOP to do some real oversight. Did he think no oversight was needed? Did he think the GOP was doing enough oversight?
    I respect him for saying people should be allowed to criticize the war but not claiming critics were aiding the terrorists, a la McCain. But beyond mere words, I don’t see evidence of Hagel backing up his words with his deeds. I’d like the insiders to show me what he was doing while the GOP controlled DC. Now it’s fashionable to oppose Bush, what was he doing BEFORE it was fashionable. Steve has yet to convince me he did anything of substance beyond words.

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  54. John B. says:

    I agree Steve B.
    I think that is spot on…

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  55. Steve B says:

    Hagel’s position will gain over the next months as the reality comes home. The Anti-War contingent can only grow — even among Republicans — as the surge proves a failure and the situation deteriorates beyond repair. Then he can truly say “I told you so, and now look where we are”.

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  56. urbino says:

    ISTM that being the anti-Iraq War candidate instead of the anti-Bush foreign policy candidate could actually be an advantage for him, Scott. I don’t think the GOP base supports the Iraq War, per se, so much as they support their president (“My president, wrong or right.”), and they don’t like to hear him criticized. I don’t think they’d take well to a candidate who’s going around being the “anti-Bush foreign policy” candidate while Bush is still in office.
    If Hagel can find a way to rhetorically split that hair so the GOP base will somehow hear him being critical of the war without being critical of the president, I think that will work in his favor.
    Unfortunately for him, I don’t see any way that could possibly be pulled off.

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  57. Scott Paul says:

    In fact, I’m going to correct the post. I could see how the third para could be misleading. In case you can only read the updated post, it used to read:
    “But I can’t help wishing he could have run for president a year ago, before he had to come out so forcefully against the president on Iraq.”

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  58. Steve Clemons says:

    Little did I know, Scott, that it would be you to drag me into the comments section more frequently — something I am loathe to do.
    I think you are wrong on the second nuance too. Hagel is the candidate that is against “false choices” in our foreign policy. His opposition to the Iraq War is a small piece of a broader foreign policy game plan that he does a good job articulating.
    I don’t know if Senator Hagel can win the nomination of the Republicans. I clearly hope he does.
    But his entry into the race will impact Republicans and Democrats. And I’m must concerned about getting the Democratic contenders to shape up. I think with Hagel in the race — they will have little choice but to mimick his views on the Iraq War and foreign policy.
    Wes Clark played this role on being the first significant political player to endorse direct negotiations with Iran.
    Hagel will stir the pot in good ways. Americans need to get to know him to see if the other issues they care about mesh with the Senator’s views — but on foreign policy and national security and Iraq — I think he gets it right.
    So, there…
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  59. Scott Paul says:

    To clarify:
    I’m not criticizing the Hagel campaign to wait so long to enter the presidential fray. That was a political decision dictated by the dynamics of the race, and if he’s going to enter on Monday, it’s as good a time as ever. And, as I said, I hope he does run.
    Rather, I’m lamenting the fact that Hagel will be 2008’s anti-Iraq-war candidate instead of its anti-Bush foreign policy candidate. Not his fault – his conscience dictated that he jump into the Iraq debate full-on. But it’s too bad he had to do that, because I think it hurts what otherwise would have been an even more intriguing candidacy.

    Reply

  60. Steve Clemons says:

    I respectfully disagree with Scott. Hagel is picking a fight with both parties — but particularly the President and Vice President — on the character and conduct of American foreign and national security policy.
    He did not have the prominence of this issue or the delineation with McCain’s position until recently — and to compete, he needed the juggernaut of the McCain campaign to stall.
    He made the correct choice waiting — or he might have withered already fighting and not winning a battle when it was the wrong time to fight.
    So, glad to read your thoughts — but don’t think you are on the right wave on this one.
    Steve Clemons
    (in Las Vegas)

    Reply

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