Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Hagel-ween?

by Kyle Michaelis
Nebraska's senior Senator is making his move, doing what he can already to get his name out there for the 2008 GOP presidential caucus in neighboring, first-in-the-nation, perhaps make-or-break Iowa. On Sunday night, Chuck Hagel spoke at Iowa State University, following on the heels of a series of campus speeches in New Hampshire earlier in the year.

Of course, unabashed Hagel-admirer and political reporter Don Walton was there to report for the Lincoln Journal-Star:
Venturing into the state where the 2008 presidential sweepstakes will begin, Sen. Chuck Hagel on Sunday night outlined a broad framework of his views on U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

Hagel made the case for U.S. alliances and international cooperation, free trade policies and reform of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and immigration policy.

In a demonstration of his independent streak, he called for U.S. engagement with Iran.

And he told an audience of 250 people at Iowa State University that the United States should propose a regional security conference on Iraq sanctioned by the United Nations to map out the future for that war-torn land.

“The United States should take a secondary role and allow Iraq and its neighbors to lead this effort,” Nebraska’s Republican senator declared in delivering the 2005 Manatt-Phelps Lecture in Political Science at the Memorial Union.

Earlier, Hagel told a news conference at ISU’s Reiman Gardens he has made no decision about a possible 2008 presidential bid and will not do so until after the 2006 elections....

Iowa Republican State Chairman Ray Hoffmann of Sioux City said Hagel will need to come to Iowa often if he hopes to compete.

“The earlier the better, the more the better,” he said. “You’ve got to meet the people and probably get involved in helping candidates and the party here in raising money. You’ve got to meet the activists and get your name out and get media attention.”

In that regard, Hoffman said, Hagel already is behind a number of potential Republican candidates, including Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

James McCormick, chairman of the ISU political science department, said he views Hagel as “an extremely articulate spokesman for those in the Republican Party who are in the middle range on foreign policy"....

Hagel warned early against a precipitate U.S. military attack on Iraq without broad international support and careful planning for the aftermath of a U.S. invasion.

“America’s decisions and actions regarding Iraq have isolated and alienated us from much of the world,” he told the ISU audience Sunday night....

Answering questions from the audience after his speech, Hagel said questioning war policy “has nothing to do with supporting the troops,” no matter what critics may contend.

Hagel said it his duty and responsibility to go counter to public opinion, his constituents, his party and his president when necessary to express his own best judgment.

“I actually do know something about war,” he said, and about policies that “may commit young men and women to their deaths.”

Hagel served as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam war and was twice wounded in combat.

Asked about his commitment to party, Hagel said he believes in Republican principles, but “I question sometimes whether I’m in the same party I started off in.”

As a conservative, Hagel said, he is disturbed that the GOP has presided over the growth of government and apparent disregard for fiscal responsibility.

“I’m disappointed in my party in some areas,” he said, but Democrats provide no alternative leadership.

It's actually a pretty impressive speech from what Walton reports - emphasizing all the strengths Hagel brings to the table, mainly his willingness to at least speak boldly and question his party's increasingly incompetent leadership. That leaves the question to Republican voters whether they care to swallow the bitter yet still sugar-coated pill he offers.

David Broder of the Washington Post, one of the oldest of the old guard amongst national political reporters, has written about Hagel several times and also seems somewhat taken with the supoosed contrast he draws with his like-voting but trap-mouthed Republican colleagues. Sunday, he devoted his entire nationally-syndicated column to Hagel:
If you are looking for signs of the changing political environment in Washington and the Republican Party, Hagel's Halloween-festooned office is the right place to begin.

A reflective student of political trends here and abroad, as well as a skilled politician who has won two Senate terms without breaking a sweat, Hagel, 59, is one of many Republicans weighing the odds for the 2008 presidential contest....

"No one knows what the country, or the party, will be looking for when we get ready to choose a new president," Hagel said.

What is clear is that the Bush White House would be unlikely to view Hagel as its preferred successor. His loyalty is measured by his 94 percent support score on roll-call votes in 2004, two points higher than that of Majority Leader Bill Frist in the Congressional Quarterly ratings.

But while he voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, he has strongly criticized the prewar intelligence, the military planning and the management of the war....

A classic business-oriented conservative with limited liking for the religious right's social issues, Hagel says the preoccupation with "satisfying the base" has meant, "no question, the Republican Party has become captive to extreme right-wingers."

Were Bush still riding high, were the Karl Rove strategy of mobilizing every possible vote on the right the accepted wisdom for 2008, Hagel's views might well be regarded as heresy.

But he thinks (he has much company among independent pollsters and operatives) that the public mood is shifting and there is a growing demand for what he calls "responsible governance."

That's not easily defined, but one characteristic, Hagel says, is clearly the search for consensus that commands more than a partisan 51 percent majority....

Hagel's concepts can sometimes be murky, as when he describes his hopes for a U.N.-sanctioned peace and security conference on Iraq. But as the postBush period of Republican history begins to take shape, there will be more room for Hagel's kind of independent thinking.

That's some write up. I left out the mentions of Hagel's Social Security and immigration reform agenda, but his willingness to at least broach these topics has obviously attracted some attention from on-high. Who knows how it will all end?

Since 1994, Republican voters have grown unaccustomed to candidates who will do more than tell them what they want to hear. Or, is that exactly what Hagel is doing...simply thinking long-term and betting on the Bush Administration's disastrous leadership continuing right up through 2008. So far, it seems like a pretty good bet.

Here's a blog post from last month's HUFFINGTON POST that also likes Hagel's chances. Title - The Next President of the United States.


Post a Comment

<< Home