Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chuck Hagel: The Paper Tiger on Paper

by Kyle Michaelis
2006 Votes Suggest Nebraska Senator the True Heir of Bush's Blunders

Good blogging probably requires picking one name and sticking with it to highlight the huge gulf between Chuck Hagel's public perception and his actual record. The Mock Maverick. Talk Show Hagel. Weekend Hagel. Conductor of the ALL-TALK Express. Paper Tiger.

Whatever his title, the facts pretty much speak for themselves. While Hagel has offered a voice of dissent in the disastrously ill-conceived and mismananged Iraq War, that voice has lacked even an echo of action forcing accountability and protecting our servicemen.

And, while Hagel has cast a few ideologically-sound votes against the Bush Administration's most extravagant expansions of the federal government (and its defecit), his record is one of almost unrivaled complicity in the failed agenda that has earned Bush an approval rating just slightly above 30% in national polling.

As the perfect illustration of this complicity, take a look at the numbers compiled by Congressional Quarterly (and reported by MyDD) comparing the 2006 voting records of Congressional Republicans who might seek the presidency. Contrary to his public perception, Hagel actually supported Bush more frequently in 2006 than any of the others seen as potential Republican nominees.
Name / Pres. Support Score (%) / Party Unity Score (%)
Sen. George Allen (VA) / 91 / 96
Sen. Sam Brownback (KS) / 92 / 83
Sen. Bill Frist (TN) / 93 / 94
Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE) / 96 / 84
Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA) / 92 / 94
Sen. John McCain (AZ) / 89 / 76
Sen. Rick Santorum (PA) / 86 / 92
What's most ironic is that Hagel has drawn the ire of so many Republicans with his public statements that their opinions of him, even here in Nebraska, often border on hatred. In this way, Hagel might just be one of the worst victims of his own hype and ambition in American politics. Not only would a long-shot bid for the presidency require millions of dollars he doesn't have, but Hagel would also have to overcome the perception that he's undermined the President and betrayed the Republican Party.

Being from a small, Midwestern state with little political clout, those are two very tall orders. What's funny is that any efforts to undermine Hagel's credibility with progressives and liberals - pointing out his record as a "Mock Maverick" and "Paper Tiger" - probably work to Hagel's favor, especially in heavily-Republican Nebraska.

Of course, there's a certain appeal to the idea that Hagel might actually have a chance at the Republican nomination if the voters knew his record. But, such assumptions are rather lazy intellectually and questionable in the extreme.

It's true that, under scrutiny, Hagel is not what he seems. What he is, however, is probably even worse: a man who speaks out of one side of his mouth and votes out of the other. Not to mention, a man who's enabled President Bush and Bush's disastrous, unpopular agenda every step along the way.

With Bush's approval rating as low as it is and has been for the last year, Hagel's actual record is as much of a liability as his false, media-created persona. And, in the 2008 Presidential race, these twin liabilities would prove costly in both the primary and the general election.

Paper tiger, indeed. Meow.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there is some value to pointing out his conservative voting record for those that just see him as a vocal critic of Bush's war. You're right, he's not a Dem, but he does have very strong feelings about how our country is handling our foriegn relations including the Iraq war. I'm just not sure why that is drawing so much ire from you. If the Democrats and Hagel are on the same side of this very important issue, so what? The Republicans have been annoyed with him for the past couple of years because of his strong critism of Bush's Iraq policy. But I imagine that each day that goes by more and more Republican's see the validity in Hagel's position. Have you seen his "Alice in Wonderland" quote about the troop surge issue? He's right on the money. Total folly.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Anonymous -

The problem is that while Hagel is rhetorically against the war in Iraq, he has never made a single vote in the United States Senate to express his opposition. Progressives like to point to Hagel as a "liberal" Republican, when nothing could be further from the truth. He's actually one of the most conservative members of the Republican Party. Not nutjob conservative like Rick Santorum, but hardline conservative nonetheless.

Chuck Hagel's one hell of a politician. But he'll never get my vote.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

I've intended no insult to Hagel. Just offering some perspective. In all honesty, I respect Hagel as a Senator and think the GOP could certainly do worse than nominating him in 2008. He'd be a formidable candidate. And, like I said, I'm probably doing Hagel a favor by bringing additional attention to his unexpectedly high level of support for President Bush's policies, by his deeds if not his words.

Anonymous Mr. T said...

Hey interesting post. I know someone with ties to Hilary's "campaign" and they regard Hagel as "the Republican Party's best thinker." Note: that doesn't mean "best campaigner" or "best politician."

Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

Actually, I think Hagel's a pretty dynamic campaigner, too.

Blogger mw said...

Hagel had the balls to stand up to his party and the president and say what needed to be said to the American people when it really mattered - in the months leading up to the war in Iraq. He said what progressives like Edwards, Clinton, Kerry, and Republicans like Giuliani and McCain would not say.

Unfortunately, nobody was listening at the time. The blood lust was too strong.

Republicans better hope that Chuck Hagel runs for president. After GWB's impending sacrificial "surge", the election will be about the war and little else. There is exactly one Republican candidate who has been on the right side of this war since the beginning, and that is Hagel, and that makes him the only electable Republican in 2008.

Chuck is prominently featured in my most recent YouTube effort "It's the war, stupid." and my most recent blog post of the same name.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Too bad Chuck Hagel didn't listen to himself either, since he voted right along with the names you list above. The difference is that Hagel has continued this charade of contradiction with his votes, while others have since realized the folly of the entire situation.

Moreover, I challenge your suggestion that Hagel showed any more foresight than John Kerry - his fellow Vietnam Vet - in the lead-up to the Iraqi invasion. Kerry's floor statements at the time sounded the same alarms even if - as a Democrat - they did not attract the same attention.

In 2004, Kerry should have used Hagel's example to exlain his choices and his regrets on Iraq in a way that Democrats and Republicans could understand. Hagel wouldn't have played along, but the record was there to make it work.

To be honest, Democrats haven't done nearly enough to use Hagel's outspokenness to their advantage. Iraq may be tough because they understandably don't want to look like they're exploiting the on-going tragedy. On an issue like immigration, though, Democrats should embrace Hagel and put him (or his statements over the last year) front-and-center to emphasize their good faith efforts at bipartisanship in adopting comprehensive reforms.

Earn credit for restoring civility while spreading-out the political liability. It could work. It could work very well.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Thought this was interesting:

The front page of the Journal-Star's website:

Maverick? Analysis: Hagel votes with Bush most often

Article here though it's nothing that wasn't already said above. Don Walton's stealing from you now, Kyle! ;)

Anonymous NE Voter said...


This is nothing new. Anyone who has paid attention to Hagel's Senate career should be able to recognize the obvious: Hagel talks like Jesse Jackson but votes like Jesse Helms.

You need more than a mouth to be a maverick.

Anonymous Laura L. said...

Finally, in black and white, Chuck Hagel has been exposed. My hope is that these comments are viewed by a wider and wider audience. My answer to all that have expressed delight, approval, triumph at Hagel's antiwar sentiments is always, "Look at his voting record." It clearly shows he is not voting where his mouth is.

Anonymous Not A Hagel Fan said...

When Hagel had the chance to back up his mouth with his vote he didnt. He voted against making it more difficult for Bush to commit troops to Iraq. Even after months of spouting off about the dangers of Iraq. He's never voted against funding for the war, not a single defense authorization or appropriations bill. He just flaps his lips while slodiers die.

That's the truth about Hagel - all talk, no action.

And that LJS graphic is priceless. Who wants to bet that the LJS webmaster got a call from Hagel's office???


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