Monday, March 12, 2007

What's up with Chuck Hagel?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, who knows? He may or may not run for president -- as the Omaha World-Herald reported today, he is "postponing a decision" on his political future:

The decorated Vietnam veteran and chief Republican critic of the war in Iraq today stopped short of making a decision about either pursuing a White House bid or seeking a third Senate term. He said he wants to keep his options open.

"I believe there will still be political options open to me at a later date," he said during a press conference at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Several political analysts said Hagel could have a much tougher time running for president by waiting."

He's a substantial long shot. For the Republican nomination, literally, the Republicans would have to decide to completely abandon (President) Bush and the Iraq war. And it would probably tear the party apart," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

A Hagel candidacy would be a statement candidacy, not a viable candidacy with any chance of winning the nomination. He is right about the Iraq War, and some Republicans (and perhaps many) may privately agree with him, but the Republican Party is generally not a party of mavericks (see McCain, 2000). And Hagel isn't just a maverick, he's an outspoken critic of the president and the party's orthodoxy on the key political issue of the moment. He's more conservative than his sympathizers on the other side -- including the author of this blog post -- would often care to admit, but there is no forgiveness among Republicans. And I suspect Hagel doesn't want any right now.

And yet I hope he runs. I may disagree with his positions on most issues, but I admire him and find him to be one of the most credible of America's public figures. With no chance of winning the nomination, at least he'd be in a position to speak his mind and to demand of the leading Republican candidates -- Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Brownback -- that they defend their pro-war positions on Iraq free of nonsensical spin.

Although, come to think of it, this might be good for the GOP. So scrap that. I hope he doesn't run. I hope he remains a voice of reason in the Senate, a voice of sanity in a party that hardly has any left, a thorn in Bush's side. And I hope he leaves the stage of wannabe presidents to the stale cast of characters who have already made up their minds and decided to run. Let them fight it out, let them support Bush, let them defend the Iraq War or propose what to do next, let them pander to the GOP base on the right-wing fringe of American society.

Why should Hagel sully his credibility by joining them?

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