USA Today reports:
[Sen. Chuck] Hagel has become a prominent critic of Bush's policies in Iraq and the Middle East generally. This culminated in an impassioned speech last month in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing when he challenged his colleagues to take a stand on a resolution he co-sponsored disapproving of the president's planned troop increase in Iraq....New Nebraska Network: 1
When his resolution hit the floor of the Senate, Hagel voted first against and then for allowing the debate to proceed. The first vote was an act of party loyalty, he said. He wanted to give Senate GOP leader McConnell negotiating leverage to win a vote on a separate resolution expressing opposition to cutting funds for troops in Iraq.
Hagel acknowledged that the vote McConnell was seeking was intended to "embarrass the other party," but argued, "Why not have the debate that we all say we want, let the resolutions come, let them be debated and let the American people sort it out?"
When it appeared that wasn't going to happen, he and other Republican war critics switched their votes, but the effort to force debate on a resolution of disapproval still fell four votes short of 60.
["Hagel's vote enabled the Republican Party to continue playing games with American soldiers' lives for political purposes."]Nebraskans for Peace: 0
["We...don't share the New Nebraska Network's take on Hagel's original 'no' vote....The Democrats ... 49-47 vote was a gambit to make political hay at the Republicans' expense."]You heard it from the Hagel's own mouth. Not that anyone's keeping score about these things. Besides, there's nothing to celebrate here - it's the American people and our troops in Iraq who continue to have their voices silenced by the Republican minority in the Senate.
Still, I have to give Hagel credit for his candor. His actually admitting his part in this game of partisan brinksmanship suggests that Hagel is quite aware of the legitimacy he sacrificed with his original vote and that he is still very interested in repositioning himself as a credible voice against this poorly conceived military escalation amounting to "stay the course" on steroids.
Of course, I've pledged not to be fooled again by Hagel. But that doesn't mean I'm pledging eternal cynicism towards his every action. In fact, I remain quite intrigued by what he'd bring to the Republican race for the Presidency and suspect that it would be in our country's best interest to have his voice singing in a slightly different key from the chorus.
The above USA Today article also talks up the possibility of Hagel running on the bipartisan Unity '08 ticket that would see the last lines between celebrity and politics fall away forever. The presidency would essentially become the grand prize in the latest version of American Idol, with Hagel hoping to be the next Kelly Clarkson or, at least, the next Clay Aiken.
All sounds a little bit absurd to me, but so does the attention the 2008 race is already getting from all corners of the national press. As ridiculous as things stand today, I suppose just about anything is possible.