Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chuck Hagel & Ben Nelson Do Nebraska Proud in Iraq Debate

by Kyle Michaelis

In general, I've avoided the on-going debate before the U.S. Senate on challenging Pres. Bush's escalation of the Iraq War. Both Senators Chuck Hagel and Ben Nelson have played essential roles in shaping this conversation and its contours, finally answering the people's concern by forcing the issue onto the agenda. I would say both have served Nebraska well in seeing that the national debate on where we go from here in Iraq might finally take place in a respectable fashion.

For Hagel's role, he's taken quite a lot of heat from fellow Republicans who would prefer that Congress continue to play doormat to Pres. Bush's thus-far disastrous foreign policy. In fact, he was singled out for scorn by Vice-President Dick Cheney in the latest issue of Newsweek when Cheney stated, "I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But it’s very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved.”

In the video you see above, Hagel doesn't specifically respond to Cheney's personal criticism, but he more than proves that he's not backing down from this fight and that he'll continue to do what he thinks is right for our American forces mired indefinitely in this miserable Iraqi civil war.

I don't pretend to have the answers to the Iraq conflict, and I'm embarrassed for those who think they can honestly reduce this ugly and endlessly complicated situation to one of anything approaching clarity. The only thing we can say with any certainty is that our country has made some very poor choices on some very faulty assumptions. But, from here, we must be careful to avoid the same reactionary impulses in the opposite direction as we navigate through the treacherous course we've created for ourselves.

Although I wouldn't claim either of their positions as my own, I respect the work of Hagel and Nelson these last several weeks, and I wish them continued courage and thoughtfulness as floor debate on the Senate's course of action begins in earnest this week.

By the way, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported this week on Hagel's appreciation of Nelson's contribution. Hagel said, specifically:
"I appreciated the willingness of Sen. Warner, Sen. Nelson and others to take a serious look at how we could work together....

“I expect strong bipartisan support (and) I’m grateful to Sen. Nelson..."
To those who know the lay of the land of Nebraska politics, this is quite the mind-blowing turn of events. While Nelson has been known to say quite positive things about Hagel, there has been no reciprocation at all on Hagel's least, until now.

What do you think? Did Hagel actually learn something from his ill-conceived, behind-the-scenes orchestration of Pete Ricketts' 2006 campaign? Maybe he realizes that Nebraskans actually like Ben Nelson - an area in which Hagel could use a little help both here at home and on the national stage.

Otherwise, wars might simply have a way of making strange political bedfellows, and temporary ones at that. It seems quite likely that Hagel's gesture of goodwill - surprising as it may be - was more of a one-night stand born of convenience than any indication of a warming in their cold-to-frigid relationship.

So, I wouldn't expect a full-blown detente. But, it certainly is nice to see Hagel acting like a grown up where Nelson is concerned. Took 3,000 lost American lives and $12 million of Pete Ricketts' money to get us to this point, which is pretty sad. But, here we are nonetheless. Let's enjoy it while it lasts.

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Anonymous Dave Sund said...

I never quite understood what the story is behind their icy relationship, but agree that it's good to see them working together...

Now, if only they were working together on something that didn't say it is the sense of the United States Senate that we should stay the course in Iraq. Fortunately, Warner and other Senate Republicans seem to be engaging in hypocritical political pandering on this matter (big surprise, huh?) and the resolution may never see a vote. Good riddance.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stay the course"? Funny to see such liberal soldiers as Mr. Sund using the Fox News talking points.

People, dont beleive Mr. Sund.Read the resolution yourself. its only three pages long. It says the Senate "disagrees" with the presidents planned surge. It was never intended to deal with the rest of the troops. Nelson and Hagel (when he's in Washington and not grandstanding at sodliers funerals) are trying to keep our troops from deployment to the crossroads of hell in Baghdad. Mr. Sund's uniformed comment otherwise.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

I would encourage everyone to read Sen. Russ Feingold's thoughts on the subject:

"Under the guise of constructive criticism, the Warner-Levin resolution signs off on the President continuing indefinite military operations in Iraq that will not address the fundamental political challenges in Iraq, and that continue to distract us from developing a comprehensive and global approach to the threats that face our nation."

"It rejects exactly what is most needed in Iraq – an “immediate reduction in, or withdrawal of, the present level of forces.” If you vote for this resolution, you are voting against redeploying troops from Iraq. This resolution doesn’t fix the administration’s failed Iraq policy – it just takes us back to where we were before the escalation. It’s not enough to reject the “surge” if you aren’t willing to support a plan for redeploying our troops."

The danger in this resolution is that it is a de facto endorsement of the status quo. This is a "stay the course" resolution. That's the only way you'd get ten Republicans to sign on. Republicans like Coleman, Warner, Smith, and Collins, who aren't interested in real measures, but instead in protecting their chances at re-election.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feingold is mixing apples and oranges. For the sake of a headline he moved the goalposts from a rejection of the "surge" to the resolutions omission of "continuing" military operations. Again, people, Don't let Mr. Sund or Russ Feingold do your reading for you. Remember - this is about the surge plan. The resolution in question doesn't denounce the No Child Left Behind Act either. Not a reason to not support it.


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