Chuck Hagel's "ALL TALK Express"by Kyle Michaelis
Has Chuck Hagel Hijacked the Straight Talk Express?
In the same way that the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008 is shaping up to be Hillary vs the non-Hillary, centering on differences over the war in Iraq, the race on the Republican side looks like it could turn out to be McCain vs the non-McCain, also centering on differences over the war.
And the man looking more and more like the non-McCain is Chuck Hagel.
The two decorated war heroes are longtime friends. But their political paths seem to be diverging. Whereas McCain, longtime wearer of the mantle of party maverick, is aggressively staking out the sweet spot of the GOP base -- supporting President Bush on Iraq and tax cuts (yes, the ones he originally voted against), and making nice with Jerry Falwell -- Hagel is courageously and passionately speaking out against the White House's disastrous foreign policies.
Indeed, Hagel's withering criticisms of the president's handling of Iraq have been far bolder than anything most Democrats have been willing to say....
Like Jack Murtha, another Vietnam vet, Hagel originally voted for the war but turned against it after seeing how poorly it was being handled -- and becoming disgusted with the Bush administration's sugar-coating of the deteriorating situation.
He broke ranks back in June 2005, appalled by Dick Cheney's claim that the insurgency was in its "last throes": "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
And he's kept up the drumbeat. "The Iraqi government, the Iraqi people, want the United States out of Iraq," he said in June 2006. "They see us as oppressors, rather than liberators. That's just a fact of life."
These sentiments have put him on the side of the majority of Americans, but also in the position of taking on his party's power structure -- something he's shown a willingness to do.....
It's almost as if McCain has abandoned the Straight Talk Express on the side of the road and Hagel has hopped into the driver's seat.
Will his party, looking for a way out of the Iraq quagmire, climb on board?
I am the first to admit that the comments on which Huffington assesses Hagel are thoughtful and courageous, especially in the face of his party's self-imposed gag order when it comes to speaking the truth about the Bush Administration. The problem is that Hagel's words remain nothing more than talk. While McCain's status as an independent maverick has always been an exaggeration itself, looking at Hagel's record of party-line voting - especially where Iraq is concerned - reveals that any talk of him as a maverick is not just exaggerated but is the stuff of outright fantasy.
Until Hagel backs up his words with actions, standing up to the Bush Administration's mismanagement and misconduct with his votes and demanding some accountability, he can't be taken seriously. If Hagel is the new conductor of the Straight Talk Express, it may as well be renamed the All Talk Express....at least, if we're to judge the man on his actual record.
That said, I am grateful for Hagel's criticism of the Iraq War and believe it serves our servicemen and our nation well. But, talk is cheap....and politicians do a lot of talking so theirs is even cheaper.