Senator Hagel: NOW UNDECIDED ON JOHN BOLTON

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Senator Hagel’s speech today — posted below — was quite superb in articulating a smart stragegy for American engagement in the Middle East.
I asked the Senator about his views regarding John Bolton’s confirmation as the Senator was not able to attend the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings yesterday.
Senator Hagel has stated unambiguously that he is now “undecided” on John Bolton.
Here is the exchange:

Steven Clemons: Senator Hagel. Thanks for a very inspiring and unfortunately very sober (given these times we are in) speech.
Yesterday you were unable to attend the foreign relations committee hearings on John Bolton. And it occurs to me that Ambassador Bolton probably does not share the same level of concern you do that the “world’s trust and confidence in America’s purpose is eroding.” And I’m interested — while I agree with virtually every word that you said in your speech — I’m interested in how you maintain support for Ambassador Bolton’s confirmation when he seems to be so at odds with the spirit of what you talked about today?
Senator Chuck Hagel: From now on no smart people can ask questions. It’s a rule senators usually follow.
Let’s take first the question on Ambassador Bolton. I was not there. And I think your analysis of where he would be in regard to my observations and thoughts presented in the speech I suspect are about right.
I’ve never engaged Ambassador Bolton on some of the specifics that I have presented here this morning.
But get to the heart of your question, which is a good question, I would answer this way: I have not decided, if Mr. Bolton comes up for a vote, how I will vote.
I have supported his nomination in committee prior which as you know was reported out and never got a vote on the floor because the votes weren’t there. And I have generally taken a position. I’ve done this in the 10 years I’ve been in the senate where it’s a democratic president like when I first came to the senate president Clinton was in office or a republican president, that presidents deserve their people and if the president has confidence in that person and that person is qualified and not under indictment or detox or any other considerations, then generally I would have supported the president’s nominee.
And I think there’s only maybe one or two times in ten years I’ve not done that.
In this case I want to revisit Mr. Bolton’s performance. I think, just as you have noticed, if I actually believe what I have said, and I do, then there appears to be at least in your mind some disconnect in how I could support Mr. Bolton. And I think that’s a fair question.
And I think the United Nations is a very important institution. I think it’s as important today as maybe it’s ever been. And I think America needs to have a standing there, needs to have relationships there, and needs to be seen not just as the biggest donor nation, but we need to do more than that.
I recognize that there are differences of opinion just as I have stated here just as Franklin Roosevelt spoke about that sixty years ago. And I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of factoring those differences into our policies and our relationships. That’s partly why I think were in trouble in the world.
So, bottom line answer to your question is, I haven’t decided yet how I’ll vote on Mr. Bolton.

The debate about John Bolton is now back in play.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

41 comments on “Senator Hagel: NOW UNDECIDED ON JOHN BOLTON

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    Reply

  2. The Dawg says:

    Thanks for posting the speech and posing the question, Steve. I’m a Dem, but I like Hagel a great deal, despite his weak response to the NSA wiretapping. He strikes me as a conservative who deals with reality, deals with quantifiable facts, when it comes to issues of war and peace. (Like Scowcroft, Lugar, and Wilkerson.) I hope he votes against Bolton. I was terribly disappointed (and surprised in no small measure) to see George Voinovich cast his lot with the ambassador. I find the latter senator’s increasingly docile attitude toward the administration troubling, to say the least.

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  3. Carroll says:

    Tell me x…what is the European agenda?

    Reply

  4. Carroll says:

    That’s interesting Mearsheimer….actually seeing an article on it…they started coming out last year for the 2008 elections…
    Their theme, (the “liberal ones) is that if we don’t support Israel the dems wil lose the election because it will prove we are all anti-semites and the Jews won’t vote for them…..and AIPAC is just another example of “free speech”……(yawn)
    Some of the Jewish pro Israel activist are quite honest and able to talk sense about the Israeli deal but most of them just repeat the same old we are all anti-semites, the holocuast, the dirty Arabs, the Bible deed, everyone wants to kill the jews, we have no Palestine partner to talk to….ad nausum.

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  5. Mearsheimer says:

    this might explain some of the recent posts:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,174-2289232,00.html

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  6. xman says:

    “Well x, I guess that’s just the price I pay for reading the European papers and not watching Faux News.”
    european media?! well that explains your bias. of course “european” media is always completely reliable with no agenda of their own, right?

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  7. Matthew says:

    I bet the photo shops in Tel Aviv are working overtime producing “evidence” that today’s mass murder wasn’t their fault. By Wednesday, we’ll be shown a video of the 1-day-old Lebanese they murdered today actually launching a rocket into Haifa. Israel could boil Lebanese in oil and Bush wouldn’t criticize them. He’stoo afraid that Pelosi would threaten to walk out during his next State of the Union.

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  8. Carroll says:

    “if you really believe this to be the case it shows you how little you know about what is happening right now in lebanon and israel.
    Posted by xman at July 30, 2006 02:13 PM
    Well x, I guess that’s just the price I pay for reading the European papers and not watching Faux News.

    Reply

  9. Carroll says:

    Nothing misplaced about it darling…I believe everyone should start sharing this war..especially the portion that supports it from afar…then it would end fast.
    As for disrupting American lives…well I am willing to have my life disrupted..yours too…we need some disrupting to wake up the earthworms who think being an American as opposed to being an XXX is anything more than an accident of birth.

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  10. xman says:

    “which does give weight to the claim in Lebanon that hezbollah is not mingling with the civilian population during this fight.”
    if you really believe this to be the case it shows you how little you know about what is happening right now in lebanon and israel.

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  11. GQ says:

    Yoo Hoo, oh Saudis…are you listening?…please cut off all our oil now..yes just shut it down for our own good… and tell China and Japan to start selling the dollar off and to call in all our i.o.u.’s….take the car keys and cut off our allowance…before Isrmerica starts WWIII.
    Actually, you’re proposed actions would start WWIII, not prevent it. Additionally, your proposals would devestate the lives of millions of Americans while issuing in more violence and uncertainty throughout the world, including the Middle East. To me, that seems no better than Bush Administration policy guised in moral superiority. Idealism and fanaticism–on any side–is dangerous. Misplaced moral certainty can be just as damning as directed immorality.

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  12. Carroll says:

    Well, evidently Condi walked out on her meeting with Olmert in Isr also….because Israel blew up a building and killed 56 people, women and children, while the meeting about a cease fire was going on…
    Now Faux has pictures on from Isr to show how rockets were coming from the area “near” the building…the rockets look to me to be coming from a distance behind the building, not near it….and they say the building they hit “looked a lot like” the building in the picture.
    Ho hum….excuse me…now Isr is saying the building is “similar”….
    Except I can’t figure this out…they are showing pictures of the rockets path coming from behind a “similar” building…. Shouldn’t they be showing us pictures of the “exact” bulding they hit “with” the rockets coming from near it instead of a “similar” building with rockets coming from near it.
    Reporters on the scene are saying only women and children were killed now…no Hezbollah to be seen…which does give weight to the claim in Lebanon that hezbollah is not mingling with the civilian population during this fight.
    People in Beruit have broken in to the UN and are giving it a trashing.
    Yoo Hoo, oh Saudis…are you listening?…please cut off all our oil now..yes just shut it down for our own good… and tell China and Japan to start selling the dollar off and to call in all our i.o.u.’s….take the car keys and cut off our allowance…before Isrmerica starts WWIII.

    Reply

  13. Carroll says:

    Wow, the BBC just announced in the aftermath of the bombing massacre in Kana, that Lebanon’s Prime Minister is refusing to meet with Rice in the absence of a cease fire.
    How low we have fallen in terms of being an honest broker in the world.
    Posted by Dirk at July 30, 2006 05:07 AM
    Wow is right!…I wonder what is up?..the Israeli papers aren’t matching up to what European papers and AP and several others are saying…
    The Isralis write like Isr is just taking a pause in their Hezbollah campaign…and we are sending more missiles to Isr, this time thru Scotland.
    While the others are saying Hezbollah has agree to a cease fire if international troops can be brought in…hummmm, if I were Hezbollah I would be verrrry wary.
    And if I were Lebanon I would be intergrating the Hezbollah into my regular army right away…they might need them since I don’t think Lebanon will make nice with Isr any time soon….and dirty tricks are no doubt on the way. No one takes Isr’s word for anything and now the US’s doesn’t mean squat either.
    I mean we have sunk so low Hezbollah comes off as heros to half the world.

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  14. Matthew says:

    Qana = Sabra & Shatila. Watch Bush & Rice squirm….

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  15. Dirk says:

    Wow, the BBC just announced in the aftermath of the bombing massacre in Kana, that Lebanon’s Prime Minister is refusing to meet with Rice in the absence of a cease fire.
    How low we have fallen in terms of being an honest broker in the world.

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  16. RichF says:

    Can anyone make up a lecture as patronizing and Orwellian alec @ 10:44’s as the one upthread? It wasn’t a conversation.
    I say alec & lee siegel are irresponsibly Orwellian due to the sheer inversion of fact in tagging patriotic, principled liberals as ‘treasonous’ merely for offering constructive and sorely needed dissent.
    0.758
    6+
    It is liberals (and others!) who’ve been tossed out of public forums for daring to criticize the president, to exercise their right to assemble and speak as they see fit — or merely attend.
    Bush is about to sign into law a bill making it legal for the Administration to hold ANY AMERICAN citizen without cause, counsel, or reason, or accountability.
    Siegel writes “The left-liberal blogs have become a playground of reckless, bullying invective. (I expect it on the right.)”
    Can that mean what is says?? Does Seigel really mean he expects, perhaps desires, “reckless, bullying invective…. on the right”? Repression and abuse of peers and of discourse itself and of the public domain — by the Right — is understandable, even expected?? Surely liberals have room for improvement, but is it reasonable to scold them at all in view of neocons much more egregious violations?
    How is it reasonable? How dare Siegel and David Brooks assert liberal “blogosfascists” conduct ‘Inquisitions’?? — as they actually ever had any power??
    Particularly when Lee Siegel’s own website address appears to be Il.Duce.blogspot.com. Il Duce being Mussolini, the (must I spell this out?) Italian fascist dictator.
    Either Lee Siegel thinks we are very stupid, or he himself is very stupid — or he is very ruthless, and willing to telegraph what he is about to do and the Orwellian means to that end. He can work at until the next millennia rolls around, but it shall not set him free.

    Reply

  17. susan says:

    The New York Times agrees with Steve:
    July 30, 2006
    Still the Wrong Man for the U.N.
    When President Bush nominated John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations last year, we argued that this convinced unilateralist and lifelong disparager of the United Nations should not be confirmed. The Senate agreed. Mr. Bush sent him to New York anyway, using the constitutional end run of a recess appointment. That appointment expires in January.
    Now the Senate is being asked to confirm Mr. Bolton again. With one of last year’s critics, George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, having recently changed sides, confirmation seems more likely. But after a year of watching Mr. Bolton at work, we still believe the Senate should reject his nomination.
    As ambassador, Mr. Bolton’s performance has been more restrained than many of his opponents feared. He has, as far as we know, faithfully carried out any instructions he was given. And on some issues, like this spring’s botched reform of the United Nations’ human-rights monitoring body, Mr. Bolton was right not to accept a bad result.
    But over all, American interests at the U.N. have suffered from Mr. Bolton’s time there, and will suffer more if the Senate confirms him in the job. At a time when a militarily and diplomatically overstretched Washington needs as much international cooperation as it can get — on Iraq, on Iran, on North Korea and now on the latest fighting between Israel and Lebanon — Mr. Bolton is a liability, not an asset at the United Nations.
    No ambassador, however tactful and multilateral-minded, can persuade other countries to change their votes on high-profile issues in the face of contrary instructions from their home governments. But some of the most important business that goes on in the U.N. does not fall into that category. On a wide range of issues — winning the support of smaller countries for needed management reforms, mobilizing a strong international coalition to halt genocide in Darfur, attracting wider European support for stabilization and economic development in Iraq — an effective ambassador can make a huge difference.
    Mr. Bolton, by temperament and conviction, is far too dismissive of the results that can be achieved by this kind of traditional diplomacy. That is what makes him the wrong man for the job. America desperately needs to repair the alliances and relationships damaged by the shoot-from-the-hip diplomacy of the Bush first term. It simply cannot afford to write off the possibility of winning back hearts and minds at the United Nations.

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  18. Nancy/Ca says:

    hey there Mrs.K8! I had a good laugh the other day watching Coleman speaking at Boltons hearing because I immediately flashed onto the memory of “Kill the Wabbit!” from the last batch of hearings. Great to see alot of the old posters on here from last time,havent seen anything from JF?
    I must admit even though I find myself agreeing with “Pissed Off American” a number of times your choice of name and language leaves me feeling rather faint! Carroll is great to read too.

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  19. btree says:

    Here’s how this
    “administration”
    “does”
    “diplomacy”
    —-
    http://tinyurl.com/zg9mc
    For Syria’s envoy, no calls from the White House
    Tom Shanker, NYT
    Published: July 27, 2006
    WASHINGTON – Syria’s ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, has not had a single meeting with any senior Bush administration official in a year and half. Even in the current crisis, his phone does not ring.
    The Bush administration may explicitly state that Syria can rein in Hezbollah, whose fighters in Lebanon captured two Israeli soldiers and ignited the fighting that now threatens a wider conflict. But the White House has made no calls to start any kind of dialogue with Syria on resolving the crisis, Moustapha said, nor has the State Department.
    — Btw, shades of WG Sebald…
    The image now at the top of the [ambassador’s] blog, under the title “Lebanon and Israel,” is Goya’s gruesome 1819 painting, “Saturn (Devouring His Son).”

    Reply

  20. GQ says:

    Good question, Steve! We need to get Republicans to start matching their votes/actions with their rhetoric and getting them on the record as much as possible. The same for “conservative” foreign policy professionals differential to the President. They can’t say one thing and support a President who does the opposite. That’s dishonest, cynical and dangerous.

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  21. Mocu says:

    This is Hagel’s classified ad announcing he’s available for barter.

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  22. Kathleen says:

    Emptywheel:
    Lugar is not so fond of Bolton because he supported Marcos in the Phillipines when Lugar and the SFRC supported Aquino.
    For me the most critical issue at the moment on Bolton’s confirmation or NOT, is whether the Senate is going to defend its Constitutional role of Advising and consenting or not consenting, from the subversive circumventions of the Constitution by the Unitary Executive currently occupying the Oval Office.
    If the role of Advising and Consenting is to be more than a mindless rubber stamp, all Senators should refuse to vote on Bolton’s confirmation unless and until the SFRC receives the documents they requested last time, PERIOD.
    The Senate’s first duty is to the nation and our Consititution and to executing their duty diligently, as to preserving the seperation of powers and maintaining the co-equality of the three branches of gov’t. Either we have three branches or we don’t.

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  23. Punchy says:

    Mr. Clemons fantasizes:
    “The debate about John Bolton is now back in play.”
    Two words, sir. Alan Specter.
    ‘Nuff said. NO ONE in this party actually votes against Bush. Never. Talk big, and carry a toothpick.

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  24. Friendly Fire says:

    Great comments from POA and Carroll.
    Hagel is just chaf for us to really think that their are humanitarian brains at 1600.
    More of the same from Israel, in a war they have lost already.

    Reply

  25. ahem says:

    ‘Morrow’: “We are the ones running around with “S”s on our capes.”
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t stand for what you think. Also, superheroes don’t exist in the real world. Sorry about that.
    Right now, if Hagel weren’t an important voice of sanity on the ‘R’ side of the aisle w/r/t foreign policy, I’d suggest that he get the nomination. Not that Bush would ever nominate him, of course. If Bolton’s huffy arrogance in front of the Senators on Thursday is any indication of how he behaves at the UN, he has no place in the diplomatic corps.

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  26. Pissed Off American says:

    Gee, another poster that never posts telling us how we should post here. You gotta love it.
    And hey, how about all these “patriotic” Americans here that ONLY post to issues pertaining to Israel.
    There are those here that claim Carroll and I are calling American jews “traitors” because they “support” Israel, and pro_Israel policies, such as having this rabid ass Bolton represent us at the UN. Nope. This isn’t about American jews supporting Israel. Its not even about jews. Its about traitors in our government that are PAID OFF to place Israel’s interests above our own. Its about tacking obscene billions onto bills so that Isreal gets the money while domestic constituencies go wanting for health, educational, and infrastructural needs. Its about Israeli whores in our government, such as Bolton, who cannot be trusted to represent OUR interests above the interests of Israel. It about lobbies that are so strong, and so intimidationg that if they are not BRIBING our public officials they are THREATENING our public officials, so that these cowards like Hagel will only “imply” criticism, and force them to sit on the fence on NO BRAINER ISSUES like whether or not some drooling rabid asshole like Bolton should be representing us in ANY diplomatic position, much less as our amassador to the UN.

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  27. Frank says:

    Steve, forget it…don’t look for a life preserver re foreign policy sanity from Hagel. They, the repubs have brought new meaning to the term “two step”, as one of your responders opined. The two step shuffel “performed” with analyzers like yourself, is shifted to the goose step ala McCain, Spector, Hegel, Roberts, Lugar, Voinovitch et al too many times for me to have any hope that courage is extant in the republican controlled senate. AIPAC is in full mobilization in support for Bolton’s nomination. Oy vey!

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  28. Carroll says:

    Dear Hagel,
    Monkey boy and Bolton and all the other delusional war criminals and midget nazis will attack Iran unless we do an immediate 180.
    We will lose. Here’s why. None of them have the first f****** clue about human nature. And those new “non state actors” quaintly called terrorist…get use to them they are here to stay and have become the “legitimate” counter balance to “terrorist State Nations” in the minds of the Arabs.
    Lebanese wounded turn cold shoulder on Jordan aid
    28 Jul 2006 15:48:36 GMT
    Source: Reuters
    By Laila Bassam
    BEIRUT, July 28 (Reuters) -Tent after green tent stands just off one of Beirut’s fashionable shopping areas, part of a field hospital sent by Jordan to treat Lebanese wounded.
    Jordanian soldiers sit idly in the shade nearby and a peek into one tent reveals the beds are empty.
    Lebanese casualties are rejecting aid from Jordan in protest at what they view as its failure to press for an end to Israeli air strikes in the 17-day-old war against Hizbollah.
    “They’ve been here three days and we have seen no casualties treated here,” said a parking attendant near the field hospital in the Verdun area.
    “They cannot give the green light for this strike against us and then show up to treat us. We don’t want their sweetness or their bitterness.”
    Beirut airport opened for the first time since July 13 to allow in three Jordanian planes bringing the field hospital and meant to take out Lebanese wounded.
    The planes returned empty, as have two other flights carrying humanitarian aid from the kingdom.
    “I asked casualties to travel to Jordan for treatment but they refused either because they feel everything is available here or because they don’t want to leave their country,” Lebanese Health Minister Mohammed Khalife said.
    “They said … if the Arab countries want to do something, they should use their influence to stop the aggression against us.
    “This was shocking to us — even those who had lost their legs refused.”
    Up to 600 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon. At least 51 Israelis have also been killed by Hizbollah attacks since the war was sparked on July 12 when the guerrilla group captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.
    IMMEDIATE END
    Arab countries have called for an immediate end to the hostilities and Jordan and Egypt, which both have peace treaties with Israel, have condemned the Israeli air raids.
    But U.S.-allied Arab countries partially blame Hizbollah for the crisis and privately worry that Shi’ite Muslim Iran is fuelling the conflict with its support of the guerrilla group.
    The humanitarian crisis is biting in southern Lebanon where many casualties still lie buried under the rubble.
    The Jordanian field hospital cannot reach those areas without guarantees of safe passage through roads that have been severed by Israeli air raids and remain under fire.
    Even if Jordanian aid did reach the south, it is not clear that the Lebanese there would accept it.
    Some Lebanese say Arab condemnations of Israel have been half-hearted and aimed mostly at allaying domestic anger.
    Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Shi’ite Muslim Amal movement allied with Hizbollah, told Al-Jazeera Television of one of the wounded who declined a seat on a plane to Jordan.
    “One woman with an amputated hand was invited to go to Jordan to fit a prosthetic limb and she said: ‘My house is gone, my son and husband are gone, what do I need my hand for?’.
    “The plane returned without a single casualty.”

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  29. Carroll says:

    This is off topic but does anyone know why Russia was recently kept out of the WTO?
    Their response to this was to forbid any US oil companies from having any access to their oil. Not that I care about the oil companies.
    But we just keep asking to get our ass whupped with our obnoxious behavior to everyone in the world.

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  30. Carroll says:

    Well I think Father Ted is making sense in his comment.
    I like to know what Hagel based his original vote for Bolton on…I can’t remember that far back.
    And although I thought his speech was more lipstick on the pig instead of a clarion call…if he meant what he “implied’ there would be no way he could logically vote for Bolton.

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  31. Robert Morrow says:

    I remember Jesse Helms quote on Bolton: “John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon.”
    That quote will really get the liberals head spinning, a la Linda Blair. As for the rest of the world, I don’t care what they think. I don’t want to be like them. We are the ones running around with “S”s on our capes.
    They need to take notes and copy the USA, not the other way around.

    Reply

  32. alec says:

    Phew. 9 posts into this thread and we haven’t descended into a vitriolic abyss.
    I want to bring the following article to the attention of this community. Over the last few weeks, particularly since Hizbollah attacked Israel, we have all witnessed the decay of civil and intelligent discourse on this blog. Perhaps some of us have even contributed to this blight. If so, we have surely let ourselves and each other down. I ran across this article tonight and I thought it was particularly fitting to bring this to everyone’s attention. Honest disclaimer: I agree. Hope i don’t get attacked too 🙂 Have a peaceful night!
    http://www.tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20060807&s=diarist080706
    Il.Duce.blogspot.com
    by Lee Siegel
    Post date: 07.28.06
    Issue date: 08.07.06
    I violated Godwin’s Law a few weeks ago. No, not William Godwin, Shelley’s mentor and the proto-socialist husband of Mary Wollstonecraft. That’s too old. I mean Mike Godwin, the American computer law attorney. He drew up his law in 1990. It states that the longer an online discussion, the more likely it is that someone will compare someone else to a Nazi or to Hitler. At that point, tradition commands that the thread shall be shut down. I ran afoul of the law in a very big way. On my own New Republic blog, I called the entire political blogosphere fascistic and coined the term “blogofascism.” Everybody went nuts. I was a “douchebag.” I was “mentally unbalanced.” My writing was “spittle.” According to one cognitively inclined blogger, “Lee Siegel has comprehension problems.” One reply was especially hurtful: “I don’t know what Lee Siegel looks like, but in my mind I picture a confused, angry Burt Reynolds.”
    I don’t blame people for getting upset. The word “fascist” summons up historical nightmares, yet it also puts you in mind of the infantile left’s hotheaded invective. Both associations were, in fact, my hotheaded point. Godwin’s Law didn’t come out of nowhere. The left-liberal blogs have become a playground of reckless, bullying invective. (I expect it on the right.) The Iraq war fomented a polarized politics more antagonistic than at any time since the Vietnam war, and that condition crystallized the left-liberal blogosphere’s obstreperousness. Like its right-wing counterpart, polarization and rage are its meat and drink. George W. Bush’s criminal incompetence is the engine that drives it.
    But it’s not exactly effectual to be sustained by what you hate. Politics is about persuading your adversary’s supporters to come to your side. It’s not about reassuring everyone on your side–under the guise of “thinking strategically”–that you and they are absolutely right. The Republican right wing pushed its party to an extremist fundamentalism. That, in turn, created its mirror image in the fevers of the left-liberal blogosphere, which is now trying to push the Democrats to an extremist fundamentalism. Fascism, having begun as a syncretic socialism, wasn’t always evil. It started out in radically polarized circumstances and consisted of extremist and fundamentalist rhetoric. It was a style before it became a movement. I wasn’t stigmatizing a politics. I was characterizing a mode of expression.
    A good fight is certainly not something I mind–if you dish it out, et cetera. Yet, having been stung by my charges of dictatorial bullying, the left-liberal blogs proceeded to prove my point. They bunched together in a corner of the schoolyard and solicited one another’s approval by heaving bigger and sloppier mudpies. It wasn’t a good intellectual and rhetorical fight at all. But, beyond the blogofascist aside, I had made an argument that I waited futilely for someone to address. I had questioned the effectiveness of blogospheric rage and suggested that blogger fanaticism had a lot to do with the inability of bloggers to apply themselves to serious reflection. All the bite-sized thoughts, rapid disses, and inanely meandering threads make it hard to concentrate on anything for very long. Linking is no substitute for thinking. So people scream because they can’t focus. You have the impression of bloggers who are so pacified by shouting their rage–and so appeased by smugly shared sentiments–that they turn off their computers at night and go to sleep feeling empowered and relaxed. No wonder, several years after the blogosphere allegedly became a people powerhouse, the country is mired even deeper in Iraq and successfully distracted by one false public alarm after another. Catharsis is for art, not politics.
    All this is fairly tragic, because blogging is full of promise. Blogs–and I don’t mean only political blogs–offer newer and wider opportunities to all sorts of people. We all know by now how they can shame the mainstream media for its uptight passivity, its infinite degrees of complicity with the status quo, its sight- and hearing-impaired hubris. But maybe blogs’ brightest capacity is to create new inroads for gifted writers and thinkers excluded, by the whimsy of circumstance, from the established venues. Why did so many powerful mainstream editors finally bend both ears to the bloggers? Because, throughout their lives, their elite social reflexes had prompted them to avoid friction or antagonism at all costs. And here were these sudden antagonists, inhabiting an unfamiliar environment, loudly and publicly attacking them right where they lived. So the powerful, prestigious editors heeded their social reflexes, reached out to the bloggers, and opened a few doors for them.
    Yet the specter of the blogosphere’s gradual assimilation into the mainstream is just as disheartening as the blogosphere’s complacent groupthink and insular chitchat. It points to a certain buried diffidence, which you can see in the mask of anonymity so many bloggers hide behind. Is it too much to ask people to put their name where their mouth is? Even for bloggers who use their own names, all the compulsive linking–to a degree, linking is the new logrolling–is a way never to say anything provocative without nervously assuring the reader that someone else said it first. Maybe the blogosphere is in such danger of slipping into the status quo because a lot of bloggers have the mainstream editors’ very same social reflexes, but in reverse.
    I would love to see a million blogs bloom with real idiosyncratic thinking, real provocation outside any group’s agenda, real argument, real eloquence, and even real investigative reporting. “People power” doesn’t have to be a synonym for “lack of daring and originality.” The question the blogosphere has to ask itself is whether it truly has become a rejuvenating alternative to the status quo in journalism and politics or a dumping ground for the mainstream’s worst aspects–political extremism, narcissistic fantasy, cowardly herding. Or, as Burt Reynolds put it in Sharky’s Machine, “You know, Frisco, when we used to flush the toilet upstairs, we always wondered where it came to.”

    Reply

  33. Rick B says:

    Steve,
    I am really glad you asked that question.
    Of course, to state that he “unambiguously replied” that he is “undecided” is a great oxymoron, fully worthy of something Derek Fowlds on the British comedy “Yes, Minister” would then go on to explain the impossibility of at great comedic length.
    I’ll be chuckling about that much of the evening.

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  34. Father Ted says:

    I thought Hagel’s comments were interesting for the emphasis he put on the Beirut Declaration of 2002. Which is essentially an acknowledgement that unilateralism – ours and Israel’s – has been a disaster, and that there is not going to be a more stable Middle East unless we genuinely embrace a 2 state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders.
    McCain was interviewed about 2 months ago in Ha’Aretz and implied that it’s going to take a return to the 1967 borders to bring progress in the Middle East. And though he had Ha’Aretz issue a clarification later in the week to the effect that he hadn’t explictly said Israel has to return to the 1967 borders, I was surprised to see him hinting at it at all.
    It will be like Return to the Future if Hagel and McCain campaign in 2008 on a “realist conservative” foreign policy platform, while the Democratic contenders jostle to see who can be more Israeli than the Israelis: before you know it, George H W Bush will be cutting off Yitzhak Shamir’s loan guarantees, and James Baker will be making undiplomatic comments about the Jewish vote.

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  35. RichF says:

    Ordinarily I’d see all this “Undecided” sentiment on the Republican side as a sign of reasonable progress.
    But these guys all seem to have a long-standing pattern of dancing the Arlen Specter Two-step.
    That’s where you reluctantly pay a little lip-service to your job, harumphing that you’ve got to hold some hearings (in Specter’s case, on NSA surveillance) — but then two weeks later, you quietly let the matter drop.
    Like John McCain did on torture.
    CHuck Hagel has often spoken as a ‘moderate’ or nominally ‘undecided’ Senator, but I wonder if the ‘thoughtful’ face put forward — hasn’t always masqued an intention to vote party-line while maintaining a publicly viable demeanor.
    I have to catch up on this last series of posts. But after watching Specter, Chafee, Voinovich, Hagel, and McCain all talk a good game the last time around on Bolton (some obviously on other issues) — I have to see their votes and actions on behalf of the Legislative Branch (& thus the country) — before we celebrate them as prodigal Constitutionalists.
    Nice series of posts! — NOw I have to play catch-up.

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  36. emptywheel says:

    It’s worth pointing out one of the sins the Neocons accused Condi of the other day: Consulting with Hagel and Lugar. And the article suggests that Bolton is one of the people behind the attack on Condi.
    I’m kind of curious how Lugar feels, particularly given Hagel’s “if it comes up for vote.”

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  37. Mrs. K8 says:

    Mr. Hagel sure does an awful lot of tap-dancing to finally spit out “I don’t know” how he will vote.
    Why does he have any question about Bolton at all? You’d have to be blind as a bat not to see that Bolton’s role is to DESTROY any effectiveness the U.N. might have, and to help the U.S. steamroll over everyone else using the very antithesis of diplomacy, i.e., bullying.
    If Hagel wants to show leadership in a “new” direction for America’s role in the world, hemming and hawing is not the way to do it. What is he scared of? Rove?
    No wonder he didn’t like your question!

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  38. Mimir says:

    I think you missed an important qualifier in Hegel’s statement:
    “if Mr. Bolton comes up for a vote”
    Maybe Hegel already knows how he would vote on cloture.

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  39. Matthew says:

    Steve: Is Hagel running in ’08? Is he the real deal? Or will he turn into McCain (and visit Liberty University)? We need someone to believe in…

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  40. ManagedChaos says:

    Perhaps I’m the one living in an alternate reality…but isn’t John Bolton precisely the type of person who shouldn’t be an ambassador to the UN? Or is he just there to be, as the Zionist Organization of America calls him, “one of Israel’s truest friends in the world.”?

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  41. jf says:

    Steve, thanks SO much for your question, for being one of the “smart people”. I didn’t see Hagel’s speech (I hope C-SPAN makes it available–were they there?), but I read his prepared remarks on the Brookings site. It’s very chastening to the administration. I hope Hagel can find it in his heart (& brain) to vote against Bolton; I think that the Senate’s refusal to support sending him back to the UN is the *only* thing that might–just might–lead to a change of course in our foreign policy.

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