Envy In Nebraska Republican Politicsby Kyle Michaelis
It's a little intimidating to disagree on foreign policy with U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Sen. Hagel's recent comments that some of President Bush's foreign policy decisions are "mindless" and that the current war with terrorists is a "replay of Vietnam" make me wonder if Sen. Hagel is suffering from president-envy.
First, I'm sure the Bush administration, in particular Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is not mindlessly determining foreign policy. Second, fighting to eliminate a global gang of terrorists who strap bombs to their chests, dance around displaying the severed heads of their innocent victims and vow to kill every American and Israeli seems to me, if anything, to be more like a replay of World War II.
Regardless, I can only hope that, in the future, Sen. Hagel will refrain from making comments in the press that can be used to demoralize our military personnel and will concentrate more on offering real solutions.
Kate Witek, Omaha
It's sort of cute that Witek would accuse Hagel of president-envy. As funny as it sounds, you have to wonder how much her response is motivated by her own brand of lieutenant governor-envy, since that's the job she probably thinks she'd be assuming this January were it not for Hagel's endorsement of Dave Heineman over Tom Osborne in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Witek is also certain to understand (and resent) the behind the scenes orchestrations by Hagel that legitimized and funded Heineman's campaign, making damn sure Hagel remained the top dog in the Nebraska Republican Party (a title to which Osborne might have laid claim had he become Governor).
Witek probably thought her ship had finally come in when then-frontrunner Osborne asked her to be his running mate. Instead, she's found herself out of a job, having forsaken the opportunity to run for a third term as State Auditor just before a $20,000/year pay increase kicks-in. Yeah....I can see that being cause for some sour grapes, especially when the man to whom Osborne lost - Heineman - once went on a furniture-flipping rampage through her office in his days as State Treasurer. Talk about adding insult to injury.
As for Witek's letter, there's not a whole lot that can be gained by poking holes in it. I'll just respond that her attempted parallel to World War II is far less tenable than Hagel's Vietnam comparison, especially taking into account our unclear objectives and our supposed enemies' ability to blend-in with the larger population.
Witek also suggests that Hagel should be less critical and more concerned about "offering real solutions." To that, however, one has to ask how you offer solutions to problems that so many Republicans and White House officials don't want to acknowledge even exist. Nevertheless, this attack on Hagel may not be totally illegitimate because he has such a history of making bold, public denunciations of President Bush's foreign policy without ever backing them up with actual votes for which he might be held accountable.
Still, the first step in making improvements is admitting when you have a problem, then seeking greater understanding of it. Though he may not have much to offer in the way of solutions, Hagel has proven himself at least willing to make that first step towards progress that too many in power would rather stubbornly and blindly refuse, no matter the consequences.