Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Chuck Hagel's Self-Contradiction Addiction

by Kyle Michaelis
This March, I remember being flabbergasted when Sen. Chuck Hagel announced on ABC News' This Week that, in Iraq, America had "achieved victory." Not only did this contradict his famous August 2005 statement on the same program that "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning," but Hagel proceeded to comment in the March 2006 interview:
Are we better off than we were three years ago? Is the Middle East more stable than it was three years ago? Absolutely not.

So, we're losing, but we've won? We've won, but we're actually worse-off than we were before the war? Anyone else confused here (besides Hagel, which goes without saying)?

Believe it or not, though, I actually refrained from criticizing this little bit of cognitive dissonance at the time because I do appreciate Hagel's willingness to speak-out on Iraq and contribute to the national debate. I can't very well get on his case for not making sense and contradicting himself when so many other politicians, particularly other Republicans, offer only silence.

So, in my own way, I gave Hagel a pass. Iraq's a tough issue. Besides, I don't take any particular joy in lifting quotes and manipulating soundbytes for my own purposes. Context matters. If I'm not going to condemn John Kerry's unfortunate "I voted for the war before voting against it", I am inclined to give Hagel the benefit of the doubt when he says "we achieved victory" though "we're not winning."

Well, that was on Iraq - a war that trips up everyone. But, this week - again, on ABCs This Week - Hagel's playing both sides again, presenting one face on Sunday and another on Monday. Only, now the issue is immigration, one on which I'm not inclined to give Hagel a pass just for opening his mouth.

On Sunday, before President Bush's address to the nation calling for the National Guard to temporarily guard our Southern border, Hagel said:
We’ve got National Guard members on their second, third and fourth tours in Iraq...We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times. And what in the world are we talking about here, sending a National Guard that we may not have any capacity to send up to or down to protect borders? That’s not their role....

It's a short-term fix, and I'm not sure it's a wise fix.

Seems cohesive enough. Hell, sounds damn reasonable. Except, on Monday night, less than 48 hours later, Hagel was already singing a different tune, praising Bush's proposal to the heavens as if he'd been sold on it from the beginning. He released a statement to the press reading:
I support everything the President said tonight.

Excuse me, Senator Hagel, but do you mind explaining what's changed? Is the National Guard suddenly spread less thin than you'd thought the day prior? Has the role of the National Guard suddenly changed overnight? How on Earth did questioning the wisdom of a "short-term fix" become an unqualified endorsement of the same proposal?

There's something not right here. The citizens of Nebraska deserve some sort of explanation of how Hagel reconciles his Sunday morning persona with the face he wears the rest of the week. And, Hagel owes this country better leadership, as a United States Senator, than speaking out of one side of his mouth to a national audience and another to voters at home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bush plan was a good plan. It is the only plan out there that will work. It is a step in the right direction, and the only the only critisism that can be leveled is that it should have been done a long time ago.

If we withdraw from Iraq, the US will have have plenty of National Guard troops to secure the border.

Bring the troops home.

Blogger Charlie said...

It doesn't hurt that the plan Bush laid out in his speech (except for the national guard bit) was almost exactly the same as the Hagel-Martinez bill on immigration.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Trust me, I much prefer Bush's proposal to that which the House of Representatives passed this last December, and - to be honest - I take no issue with the fact of Hagel's support for it. What bothers me is Hagel's inconsistency - that he will say what he must to make headlines one day, then fall in line like a loyal footsoldier the next.

Concern over Bush's National Guard plans didn't just become invalid overnight. I don't care what kind of horse-trading is going on behind the scenes; Hagel loses credibility with an about-face of this sort. It says a lot about the diseased with us or against us-politics of the modern Republican Party that Hagel felt the need to shut up rather than standing his ground on this issue.

Whatever reason Hagel had for changing his mind, he should at least let those of us paying attention to his flip-flopping in on its rationale.

Polling numbers came in? A phone call from Karl Rove? Second thoughts? A moment of divine revelation? Whatever it was, some explanation is clearly warranted under these circumstances.


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