Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chuck Hagel's Rude Awakening

by Kyle Michaelis
The media response to Sen. Chuck Hagel's over-hyped non-announcement was pretty brutal, and rumors have been flying about internal pressures and a last minute flip-flop by the Indecisive One.

If nothing else, this whole ridiculous ordeal does finally give Hagel a bit more separation from President George W. Bush. Just months after Bush's famously declaring "I'm the decider," Hagel showed the entire nation that's one title he won't be claiming for himself anytime soon.

The problem for whatever lingering presidential ambitions Hagel might have is that - as asinine as Bush's comment was - people do want decisive action from their leaders. The nation is sick of Bush's deadly cocksure attitude and has seen the cost of it in Iraq, but a majority of voters would probably still prefer that to the over-wrought, gunshy, hedging of his bets they've just seen from Hagel.

This puts an interesting spin on Hagel's post-pseudo-announcement fundraising letter, in which he suddenly claims "strong bipartisan support." His political director - whose judgment is in serious question right now - writes:
Dear Friend and Supporter:

The momentum for Chuck Hagel is building thanks to your help and support.

Now is the time to build on our grassroots organization with the launch of our new website,

Our goal is to rapidly raise $100,000 through this website to highlight the strong bipartisan support for Chuck Hagel around the country. If each of you would consider contributing $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or more… we could reach our goal very quickly. A $100 contribution by 1,000 people would reach that goal.

So, now is the time to tell your family, friends, and neighbors to support Senator Hagel. The contribution goes directly to Senator Hagel's campaign and will be used by him to campaign around the country and energize our grassroots team.
I'm not sure what momentum they really think is building, but it certainly sounds good on paper - disregarding Hagel's public belly-flop. Who knows - it might turn out to have been a brilliant tactical move a year from now, but he sure looks like a bit of a jackass at the moment.

As for Hagel's highlighting his "strong bipartisan support," you can sense that Hagel is trying to keep his options open. He really wants to believe that he's somehow different from other politicians and that the American people are clamoring for his particular style of leadership. He might even honestly believe that this "strong bipartisan support" exists even though, just last year, he was the #1 Senate supporter of Bush's failed agenda and he went out of his way to target fellow Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson for defeat - breaking long-standing Senate traditions - for no other reason than petty party politics.

If Chuck Hagel has "strong bipartisan support," then I might just be his biggest online cheerleader. Except there's this little thing called reality that keeps getting in the way.

For Hagel's actual reality, I suggest we take a look in the pages of today's Roll Call:
There sure wasn’t any news coming out of Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) overhyped press conference on Monday. But the non-event wasn’t a total loss. It spawned a new expression that’s quickly catching on around Capitol Hill: “pulling a Hagel.”

After the House Republican Conference weekly meeting on Tuesday, reporters asked House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) for specifics on what amendments Republican appropriators would offer to the war supplemental. Not wanting to reveal any details, Blunt quipped, “This is like a Chuck Hagel news conference — come back Thursday.”

Later Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) dropped the phrase at a press conference opposing the inclusion of any Iran language in the supplemental. While Democrats already removed the provision, Pence still lauded the decision, “at the risk of sounding like Chuck Hagel,” he said.

One GOP aide said he could see it creeping into Hill lexicon. “I like it,” the aide said. “It’s like ‘just make a decision, don’t pull a Hagel.’
Chuck Hagel is a joke - literally. And, those making the jokes are his fellow Republicans - who've jumped at the chance for revenge after years of his outspoken, holier-than-thou, playing for the cameras on the talk show circuit.

This should be a bit of a rude awakening for Hagel. Of course, he is welcome to hold on to this dream of "strong bipartisan support," but he does so at his peril. Alas, this bipartisan support that isn't there can only do so much to mask the Republican support that isn't there either.

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Anonymous plains drifter said...

Kyle - the hits keep coming. This is from USA TODAY's Jill Lawrence coverage of the IAFF meeting in Wasington:

"Hagel was on the program despite his announcement Monday that he had no announcement to make about his political plans. The Nebraska Republican called himself an interloper who lacked the main credential of the other speakers -- "their defined interest in leading this country."

He then went on to heap praise on volunteer firefighters. The remarks drew at least one heckler -- not surprising, given he was talking to an audience of unionized professionals."

So, he tells unionized Firefighters that volunteer firefighters are great. is He really this politically tone-deaf? I hear he was speaking without notes as well. Did he know who he was talking to?


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