My friend Barney in www.mountainperspective.wordpress.com (his Views from the Hill) wrote a nice piece on the “Chuck Hagel Nominating Circus – updated 2/1713.” I was reading an article this morning by Donna Cassata of the Associated Press called “GOP vs. Hagel is personal, business.” For those who try not to keep up with the circus called politics, Hagel is a former GOP senator from Nebraska who has been nominated for the Secretary of Defense, but his confirmation has been held up by GOP senators who want to make some sort of statement. While he should get approved in the near future, he did not serve his efforts well, when he had a less than stellar performance at his confirmation hearing. Yet, the AP article brought home a few points I would like to highlight which, to me, say he deserves a chance, not the opposite as touted by the Republicans.
Hagel served his country well in the military. That is known and appreciated, even by the GOP senators lined up against him. Yet, one of the criticisms is he does not appear to be hawkish enough. When people who have never fought criticize someone who has for not being “hawkish enough” then that should give you pause. But, let’s set that aside for now. Senator John McCain, a former veteran and POW, led the charge against his old friend, but now begrudgingly supports his candidacy. On Fox News, McCain said:
“There’s a lot of ill will toward Sen. Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly, at one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said the surge (of US troops in Iraq) was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense, and was anti-his-own-party-and-people.”
Others have said Hagel’s past opposition to unilateral penalties against Iran, comments about the influence of the “Jewish Lobby” in Washington, and support for reducing the nation’s nuclear arsenal give them concern about his support for Israel.
Let’s look at these comments to draw a better picture of Hagel and those advocating against him. First, his comments about President Bush jive with historians’ view of the former president. They have rated him the 39th worst president out of the 43 who have completed their terms. Plus, Bush’s own party has disowned him by not inviting him to join the 2008 GOP Convention (McCain’s nominating one, by the way) making the sitting president participate by video and not inviting him at all to Mitt Romney’s nominating convention in 2012. It seems like Sen. Hagel called it early.
Second, I am always tickled by Bush taking credit for the surge. You see, the surge is what his generals told him to do when we invaded Iraq in the first place, advice he ignored. General Shinseki, his lead commander, told him that we needed the extra troops to stabilize the region. After the advice was ignored, Shinseki resigned over this issue as he felt we were doing a disservice to our troops. So, when we had problems and later did the surge, people said what a great idea this was after it seemed to help matters. I don’t know the specifics around why Hagel said what he said, but since he was going against the party line, he must have had a good reason. Yet, people need to remember the whole history and not just part of it.
The comments about the Jewish Lobby was a poor choice of words, but I believe many in Washington believe this to be true. I think we should support Israel, but that does not make everything they do right. We can’t even get our government to do things right consistently, so why should we blindly support everything Israel does. On the related issue of unilateral support of penalties against Iran, I don’t think any issue can be treated as black and white. Economic sanctions punish the wrong people. The people trying to feed their families are the ones who suffer. So, not supporting any issue unilaterally, is not by itself a bad thing. It shows the person is thinking and trying to discern the right course of action. This is tough stuff and I don’t know if anyone knows 100% what the right course is.
The issue on nuclear arms reduction is interesting as well. I agree that since there are too many extremists in the world, being armed is important. Do we need as many? That is highly questionable. Recognizing that Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved American and Japanese lives that would have been lost in an invasion, we always have to remember that our country is the only one who has made a God-like decision to kill many people to save more. The fact a leader is questioning this issue and sensitized to what it means to use nuclear weapons, makes him a better leader not a worse one. My friend Hugh Curtler (www.hughcurtler.wordpress.com) has written an interesting piece around the use of drones, which is a similar issue on a smaller scale when civilians get killed.
The final issue may be the one that gets in the GOP senators’ craw. He broke ranks with his party and was critical of issues the party supported. Last time I checked, Hagel’s title was Senator of Nebraska, not Senator of the Republican Party. Like many, I am very tired of the “party jingoism” that is pervasive in politics. Like many, I want collaboration and willingness to consider ideas from all sources.
So, with all that said, I think former Senator Hagel deserves a chance to be the Secretary of Defense. And, if you want to question someone’s judgment, why not ask Senator McCain why on earth he would think Sarah Palin was a suitable running mate. If he won and passed away, then he would be putting our country in the hands of an adolescent driver without driver’s education. So, Senator McCain, give the man a break.