Chuck Hagel & Ben Nelson Do Nebraska Proud in Iraq Debateby 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....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 part....at least, until now.
“I expect strong bipartisan support (and) I’m grateful to Sen. Nelson..."
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.