Why Chuck Hagel and No One Else?


biden hagel.jpg
Helene Cooper has a useful primer on which presidential contenders got a boost or got headwind from three major foreign policy issues last week.
She noted that President Bush hand signed a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, a man Bush had called a “pygmy” and who John Bolton several times called “human scum.” The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran also set back Iran hawks. Last, there was the news that the CIA videotaped the harsh interrogation (i.e. torture) of certain high value prisoners and then destroyed the tapes.
I mentioned that before even consider how the current campaigns were affected, one had to consider Chuck Hagel — even though not in the campaign. He is the one person whose profile in national security and foreign policy issues would have anticipated all these bits of news and is well positioned in the country on them. He is pro-engagement, anti-torture, pro-transparency, and wants the government to prepare for things as they are not as ideological fabulists would have them be.
From Helen Cooper’s article, “Winners and Losers of the Week in Foreign Policy“:

So, who among the presidential hopefuls was helped and who was hurt by the Bush administration’s foreign policy holiday presents?
Over all, political observers and foreign policy experts say the three developments hurt Republicans and helped Democrats.
“The Republicans as a whole lose because of these revelations,” said Steve Clemons, senior fellow and director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington. “If Chuck Hagel were running, he would be the beneficiary, but there’s no one like Hagel on the Republican side.”
Mr. Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska , has strongly criticized the Bush administration, particularly on foreign policy. He has also advocated dialogue with America’s adversaries, criticized some of the interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo, and called for less hawkish behavior against Iran.

The rest of the article is useful.
Cooper notes that McCain gets a slight boost because of anti-torture credentials, but that the Republicans as a whole were hurt by this past week’s news.
On the Dem side, Obama gets the biggest boost as the most pro-engagement of the candidates. Hillary gets some headwind because of the assist she gave the administration in supporting the Kyl-Lieberman Resolution calling for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be designated a terrorist organization.
Joe Biden gets a boost as one of the most experience foreign policy hands who has been opposed to over-hyping the Iran threat and has been offering a fount of serious tactical and strategic proposals for America’s engagement in the Middle East and globally.
Finally, John Edwards remains relatively unaffected despite the claim that his first action as President would be to fly around the world to work on reconstituting key alliances. Most see him as focused on middle class economic issues — and not the broad national security portfolio.
As I have written before, it would be wise for one of the candidates — now that Hagel is out of the presidential race — to copy Senator Hagel’s template for thinking about national security and foreign policy issues. Whether it is Obama, Edward, Clinton, or others — Hagel’s views are out there to borrow and run with.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “Why Chuck Hagel and No One Else?

  1. J Oz says:

    below is the real story about Bolton and Kim Jong-il. True, not very diplomatic, but hard to disagree with.
    “In July 2003, (Bolton) condemned North Korea’s Kim Jong-il for living like royalty, while for millions of his people, life was a “hellish nightmare”.
    Pyongyang was incensed, labelling him “human scum” and refusing to continue negotiating with him.”
    from the BBC
    So, it was Bolton who was called “human scum” by the Kim regime and not vice versa.


  2. p.lukasiak says:

    Hagel, like McCain, Spectre, and a few other GOPer’s, are big on rhetoric, but short on the votes to back up that rhetoric. Until very recently, Hagel has been a rubber stamp for Bush’s foreign policies (while he did vote against Kyl-Lieberman, he voted for the pro-torture Military Commissions Act). In fact, Hagel has “borrowed” the positions being advocated by Democrats long before he got around to supporting them — and the one thing we don’t need is a Democrat who is merely like the least bad of the GOP.
    (and how does Hillary benefit from her bad vote on Kyl-Lieberman, which was premised on a threat from a non-existent Iranian nuclear program? )


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Hagel, a Republican often critical of the administration on national security and Iraq, said he finds it hard to believe the White House did not know. “Maybe they’re so incompetent” they didn’t, he said. “I don’t know how deep this goes. Could there be obstruction of justice? Yes. How far does this go up in the White House, who knew it? I don’t know.”
    end quote….
    Yet he doesn’t think a special counsel or a special commission is needed. Once again, Hagel talks tough, yet his actions don’t match his words.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    December 11, 2007
    Bombed If You Do, Bombed If You Don’t
    by Rep. Ron Paul
    The latest National Intelligence Estimate has been greeted by a mixture of relief and alarm. As I have been saying all along, Iran indeed poses no quantifiable imminent nuclear threat to us or her neighbors. It is with much alarm, however, that we see the administration continue to ratchet up the war rhetoric as if nothing has changed.
    Indeed nothing has changed from the administration’s perspective, as they have had this latest intelligence report for some time. Only this week has it been made known to the public. They want it both ways with Iran. On the one hand, they discredit the report entirely, despite it being one of the most comprehensive intelligence reports on the subject, with over 1,000 source notes in the document. On the other hand, when discrediting it fails, they claim that the timing of the abandonment of the weapons program, just as we were invading Iraq, means our pressure must have worked, so we must keep it up with a new round of even tougher sanctions. Russia and China are not buying this, apparently, and again we are finding ourselves on a lonely, tenuous platform on the world stage.
    The truth is Iran is being asked to do the logically impossible feat of proving a negative. They are being presumed guilty until proven innocent because there is no evidence with which to indict them. There is still no evidence that Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has ever violated the treaty’s terms – and the terms clearly state that Iran is allowed to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful civilian energy needs. The United States cannot unilaterally change the terms of the treaty, and it is unfair and unwise diplomatically to impose sanctions for no legitimate reason.
    Are we to think that Iran hasn’t noticed the duplicitous treatment being received by so-called nuclear threats around the globe? If they have been paying attention, and I think they have, they would see that if countries do have a nuclear weapon, they tend to be left alone, or possibly get a subsidy, but if they do not gain such a weapon then we threaten them. Why wouldn’t they want to pursue a nuclear weapon if that is our current foreign policy? The fact remains, there is no evidence they actually have one, or could have one any time soon, even if they immediately resumed a weapons program.
    Our badly misguided foreign policy has already driven this country’s economy to the brink of bankruptcy with one war based on misinformation. It is unthinkable that despite the lack of any evidence of a threat, some are still charging headstrong into yet another war in the Middle East when what we ought to be doing is coming home from Iraq, coming home from Korea, coming home from Germany, and defending our own soil. We do not need to be interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and waging war when honest trade, friendship, and diplomacy are the true paths to peace and prosperity.


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I see Hagel came out AGAINST a special counsel to investigate the CIA tape destructions. Somehow this guy always seems to live down to my low expectations of him. First, his vote on having Gonzales retain his powers of appointment, now this. He should just retire and see if he can assist ES&S in stealing another election.


  6. Dirk says:

    Helene Cooper – “She noted that President Bush hand signed a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, a man Bush had called a “pygmy” and who John Bolton several times called “human scum.””
    This particular “diplomacy” is coming to a head at the end of the year when Kim is supposed to reveal his entire nuclear program. If this does not include a supposed uranium enrichment program as well as supposed transfers to other countries like Syria, then the whole thing will quite possibly turn ugly again.
    Bush wrote his letter to presumably urge Kim to “come clean” and if Kim can’t because those things don’t exist, well we’ll see…
    If your intent is to build missiles with a nuclear payload and you have a reactor capable of producing plutonium then you most assuredly don’t need the cost and headache of uranium enrichment.


  7. Linda says:

    Kuchinich has voted correctly and been correct on more of the issues, foreign and domestic, than Hagel or anyone else. Ron Paul is appealing because he is blunt and speaks truth as he sees it, but unless one wants to do away with most of the federal government and federal programs, most of us would not want his domestic agenda. It is important to think about only one thing regarding the 2008 election that more people should have considered in 2004. Think Supreme Court appointments. So I’ll vote for the Democratic nominee–even if that person isn’t my first choice.


  8. easy e says:

    …Gravel, Kucinich, and Ron Paul…But I don’t see any of them moving forward.
    Steve Clemons @12:06pm
    The complicit Corporate Media and political Think Tanks will ensure that anyone who hasn’t sold out to the powerful interests that control this country (Oil/War Profiteering ‘Complex’/Israel) will remain invisible and not move forward.


  9. Carroll says:

    If there was ever a time for a Hagel it is now.
    It’s really pathetic when we have to base our vote on who we think will be the “least damaging” to the country instead of the best for the country.
    I am going to stay on the Ron Paul side of the boat for now just because both the party establishments need to be thrown into the sea.


  10. Steve Clemons says:

    Mike — There is much about Obama I like. I also like some of Hillary Clinton’s positions. POA notes that Gravel, Kucinich, and Ron Paul are more predictable and rooted in views that they feel strongly. But I don’t see any of them moving forward — and thus it’s important to either try and sway those who would become President, or to parse what is real and not about them.
    But specifically about Obama — I think his Brzezinski-advised speech about Iraq and the Middle East was brilliant and very hard-hitting; memorable. I was less impressed by his Chicago Foreign Relations speech which had a kitchen sink feel to it — no hard choices. I was caught off guard by his comment about bombing Pakistan — and disagreed with him on that. I like his pro-engagement stance, and found his tiff with Hillary on US-Cuba policy to be one of the most redeeming elements of his foreign policy positions.
    But as POA and others have noted, all of them are mixed bags — and need to be discussed. While Hagel is more my template than Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, none of them have a chance in my view of really becoming President.
    So I choose, I guess, to think through and handicap the positions of other leading candidates.
    But hat tip to POA — I do think it is appropriate to talk about Ron Paul or Kucinich in the same sort of way I discuss Hagel’s positions….though as I said, Hagel is more comfortable for me and my thinking than either candidates Paul or Kucinich, or Gravel for that matter.
    Best regards,
    Steve Clemons


  11. Mike says:

    It seems to me that Obama takes many of the same positions as Hagel, no?
    I think it’s a fair argument that no other candidate would do more for improving America’s standing in the world than Obama.


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I know many people favor Clark, but I think that choosing a general as her VP telegraphs that she feels inadequate to lead the military by herself.”
    And that would be a bad thing, admitting, (albiet by choice of running mate), a lack of expertise in any given area? I would find it refreshing to hear a candidate admit to such a shortcoming, because, of course, ALL the candidates cannot possibly have experience or expertise in all areas. The sad part is none of them admit these shortcomings, choosing instead to exaggerate their qualifications.
    It is quite telling that you and Steve have become so inured to this charade that you use language that actually exhibits a tolerance and cavalier acceptance of the status quo posturing and insincerity that has become the mainstay component of American politics and campaign rhetoric.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, I realize you would not purposelly advocate insincerity, but you know as well as most of your readers do that that is EXACTLY what we are getting from these people. Simply put, thats the way campaigning is done. Any candidate that expresses true conviction, and exhibits the willingness to stray away from the script is ignored, marginalized, ridiculed, swiftboated or worse, such as we have seen happen to Ron Paul, Gravel, or Kucinich.
    To be honest, it dumbfounds me that you seem so taken in by a process that has become little more than a huge expensive charade, choreographed, scripted, and destructively divisive.


  14. MarkL says:

    So, 1/3rd seriously—what would you think of a Clinton/Hagel ticket, Steve?
    I know many people favor Clark, but I think that choosing a general as her VP telegraphs that she feels inadequate to lead the military by herself.
    Biden would be good, IMO—he’s well-qualified and the personalities mesh well.


  15. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — interesting point. I think “borrowed” as a term here has different potential meanings. I hadn’t thought of your interpretation but rather that they absorb and/or learn his type of approach and give credit. Or perhaps it is I who want to give him the credit…. In any case, “learn” or “deploy” would be better terms here — but my intention was not that they change course in an insincere way.
    Thanks for raising this though.
    Steve Clemons


  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    By the way Steve, I’m a little curious. Do you think that a policy advocation can be “borrowed”, yet pursued with any conviction?
    It seems to me that your suggestion is an advocation of just more insincere posturing. If a candidate has expressed opinions polar to Hagel’s, is it your contention that all they need do is pay lip service to Hagel’s positions, and voila, we are to accept such statements as convicted and sincere?
    Seems to me your suggestion only legitimizes the root problem, which is the candidate’s willingness to say anything they they think we want to hear, usually in words that aren’t even their own. And rarely to we find that they stick by those words after they have wormed their way into office.
    A huge part of picking a favorite, for any citizen that truly wants to make an informed and concientious choice, should be an extensive examination of a candidate’s past statements, speeches, and voting history. Only then can one judge the degree of conviction behind the campaign rhetoric.
    And honestly, ALL these posturing frauds are found wanting when one examines their past history. That would include Hagel, albiet I realize his insincere posturing, dismal voting history, and criminal conduct in the ES&S matter is largely irrelevant considering he is jumping from a sinking ship, and doesn’t appear to have the courage to stay on board to man the bilge pumps, (despite the fact he helped sink her).


  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Ron Paul hardly needs to “borrow” Hagel’s standpoints, as his own in regards to Iran have been sane, reasonable, on the money, and unwavering for some time now. But, shhhh, don’t tell anyone, Steve, we wouldn’t want to rock the mass marketing circus, would we?
    Lying War Propaganda Against Iran
    by Ron Paul
    Statement on H Con Res 21
    Before the U.S. House of Representatives, May 22, 2007
    Madam Speaker: I rise in strong opposition to this resolution. This resolution is an exercise in propaganda that serves one purpose: to move us closer to initiating a war against Iran. Citing various controversial statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this legislation demands that the United Nations Security Council charge Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
    Having already initiated a disastrous war against Iraq citing UN resolutions as justification, this resolution is like déjà vu. Have we forgotten 2003 already? Do we really want to go to war again for UN resolutions? That is where this resolution, and the many others we have passed over the last several years on Iran, is leading us. I hope my colleagues understand that a vote for this bill is a vote to move us closer to war with Iran.
    Clearly, language threatening to wipe a nation or a group of people off the map is to be condemned by all civilized people. And I do condemn any such language. But why does threatening Iran with a pre-emptive nuclear strike, as many here have done, not also deserve the same kind of condemnation? Does anyone believe that dropping nuclear weapons on Iran will not wipe a people off the map? When it is said that nothing, including a nuclear strike, is off the table on Iran, are those who say it not also threatening genocide? And we wonder why the rest of the world accuses us of behaving hypocritically, of telling the rest of the world “do as we say, not as we do.”
    I strongly urge my colleagues to consider a different approach to Iran, and to foreign policy in general. General William Odom, President Reagan’s director of the National Security Agency, outlined a much more sensible approach in a recent article titled “Exit From Iraq Should Be Through Iran.” General Odom wrote: “Increasingly bogged down in the sands of Iraq, the US thrashes about looking for an honorable exit. Restoring cooperation between Washington and Tehran is the single most important step that could be taken to rescue the US from its predicament in Iraq.” General Odom makes good sense. We need to engage the rest of the world, including Iran and Syria, through diplomacy, trade, and travel rather than pass threatening legislation like this that paves the way to war. We have seen the limitations of force as a tool of US foreign policy. It is time to try a more traditional and conservative approach. I urge a “no” vote on this resolution.


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