Friday, January 26, 2007

Hagel the Maverick

It looks like the media have developed a crush on a new GOP "maverick" to get them over John McCain.

His Republican colleagues regard him warily. The White House barely speaks to him. He is reviled by his party's conservative base.

Looks as though Sen. Chuck Hagel is on a roll.

Both parties have their Iraq war contrarians. For the Democrats, it is Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, whose steadfast support for President Bush nearly cost him his seat last year and forced him to run as an independent. The Republican version is Hagel, a career maverick from Nebraska and the only GOP senator to call for an end to the war.

Hagel's sharp criticism of the war has placed him squarely in the mainstream of public opinion on Iraq and revived long-dormant speculation about his presidential ambitions. Hagel has been eclipsed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading contender for his party's presidential nomination who has vigorously endorsed the president's war policies.
When is the last time an anti-war Democrat was described by any news outlet as being "in the mainstream of public opinion on Iraq?" For the most part, they are described as being on the political fringe. At best, the mainstream media's reporters and pundits still insist on describing the American public as being "bitterly divided" over Iraq.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 29, 2006:

    Even those Americans bitterly divided over what should be our country's next step in the Iraq war ought to agree with yesterday's conviction of Saddam Hussein. A special tribunal in Baghdad convicted Hussein of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death by hanging.
The Boston Globe, January 24, 2007:

    On Iraq, the president called for unity on a war that has bitterly divided the American people and spurred an angry uproar from lawmakers in both parties frustrated by the slow progress of the nearly four-year-long effort.
Columnist David Ignatius in The Washington Post, January 24, 2007:

    For a nation bitterly divided over Iraq, the one point of agreement seems to be that Lt. Gen. David Petraeus is the right commander for U.S. forces in Baghdad. That gives Petraeus a surge of the most important strategic asset in this war -- which is time. But it also locks him into an awkward role for a professional military officer, as chief public spokesman for a war the public has come to doubt.
Suddenly, however, those who oppose the war are suddenly in the "mainstream of public opinion on Iraq."

It is nice to have the Post acknowledge this basic truth in its reporting, but it is curious that this acknowledgement only takes place with the emergence of a Republican senator with presidential aspirations who dares finally to voice strong opposition to the Bush's war policy. This is, by the way, a Republican senator who had no strong criticism to offer when Bush was at 75 percent approval. Apparently, 28 percent approval is when the gloves come off.

Well, with all due respect to Senator Hagel, Russ Feingold was anti-Bush when being anti-Bush wasn't cool. Nancy Pelosi was a Bush critic when being a Bush critic resulted in death threats and accusations of treason.

I welcome Senator Hagel to the fold, and I appreciate the Washington Post's willingness to acknowledge that opposition to Bush's war is the mainstream view in America. But, let's not forget the American heroes who held this view, and articulated it bravely, when there was absolutely nothing to gain.


mw said...

Republicans better hope that Chuck Hagel runs for president. After GWB's impending sacrificial "surge", the election will be about the war and little else. There is exactly one Republican candidate who has been on the right side of this war since the beginning, and that is Hagel, and that makes him the only electable Republican in 2008.

Chuck is prominently featured in my most recent YouTube effort "It's the war, stupid." and recent blog post of the same name.

You are wrong about him being a recent convert to opposition of the war. He was ahead of most Democrats. If you want to really appreciate how far Hagel was ahead of the curve on Iraq, check out this video of his speech at Kansas State University in February of 2003 (Landon Lecture Series - warning it is long some 50 minutes).

Filmed a few weeks before we went into Iraq, Hagel warns about almost every single thing that has happened as a consequence over the last three years. Not hindsight, real foresight. It's scary how on-target he was - He sounds like a friggin' prophet now. It makes you want to cry to watch it. Nobody was listening to him. Not in the administration. Not the American people. Just a voice lost in the winds of war fever. I include myself among the deaf, as I was as gung-ho as every other yahoo at the time.