Chuck Hagel: nothing more than your typical Republican
by PsiFighter37, Mon Aug 21, 2006 at 01:56:16 AM EDT
There's been quite a bit of buzz in the media lately due to a rarity: a congressional Republican has been openly criticizing the Bush administration on a number of issues as of late. Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska, has been at odds with his party over various foreign policy-related issues. A few weeks ago, he criticized the Bush administration's handling of the Mideast conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Then he went and compared Iraq to Vietnam, something that's not too popular an opinion with the right wing. Today, he comes out and says that the GOP has lost itself:
Republicans have lost their way when it comes to many core GOP principles and may be in jeopardy heading into the fall elections, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. says. Hagel, a possible presidential candidate in 2008, said Sunday that the GOP today is very different party from the one when he first voted Republican.
"First time I voted was in 1968 on top of a tank in the Mekong Delta," said Hagel, a Vietnam veteran. "I voted a straight Republican ticket. The reason I did is because I believe in the Republican philosophy of governance. It's not what it used to be. I don't think it's the same today."
Hagel asked: "Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in '68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined -- fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government?"
The obvious question to ask, of course, is this: if that's what Senator Hagel truly believes, why doesn't he switch to the Democratic Party?
The Clinton administration showed that the Democratic Party could also be fiscally disciplined; the Bush administration has proven that their screeds on cutting government spending are false. They may claim now that the budget deficit will be halved by 2008, but that still means the national debt will continue to rise - and that's not mentioning the hidden costs that will kick in after Bush leaves office.
Hagel may talk about fair free trade, but he voted for CAFTA, despite the fact that there were several flaws in the legislation. He also voted for a free trade agreement with Oman, even though their record on human rights is questionable at best. It may be a legitimate question to ask the senator what exactly he believes 'fair' free trade is. Or perhaps a more accurate way of characterizing his stance is that he hasn't met a free trade agreement he doesn't like - kind of like Thomas Friedman.
And he may talk about wanting a smaller government - maybe to the extent of Grover Norquist, perhaps - but he sure doesn't vote that way. Most Democrats are guilty of the same crime, but Hagel voted for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Given how the agency has been a corporate giveaway and the utterly incompetent role it played in planning for or responding to Hurricane Katrina, voting for that bureaucratic organization may have created a smaller percentage of the government working properly by adding such a huge bureaucracy whose job record is difficult to determine. I'll give credit where credit is due - Hagel voted against the Medicare 'reform' bill of 2003, but he also voted against a bill that would recommend changes to the program, even though after the bill was passed, it was disclosed it cost a lot more than initially thought. And he still votes for the budgets that the Bush administration wants, leaving our country in a deeper hole than it was before.
It's not like Hagel wouldn't have precedent for switching parties. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont essentially did the same thing in 2001, becoming an independent caucusing with the Democratic Party because he felt the GOP had moved too far to the right. And recently, there's been a growing number of GOP defections in states that are predominantly Republican, particularly in Kansas, where disaffected moderate Republicans have felt compelled to join the more moderate Democratic Party. Simply put, it's not that Hagel feels the Republican Party has become lost. He's quite at home with them, as his votes have shown. He is an ultraconservative on social policy, a tax-cut-and-spend, fiscally irresponsible Republican on economic policy, and a full-throated neoconservative on foreign policy - no matter how many times he goes on TV and says we need change in Iraq. A lot of people seem to admire Hagel for his 'truth to power' moments, but they are not backed up by anything at all. Chuck Hagel may talk a good game, but his votes reveal him to be the reddest of Republicans.
Let's begin with his social policy record. You can question how NARAL ranks politicians on their votes, but Senator Hagel's 0% rating from them should make it clear he is actively anti-choice. On the issue of embryonic stem cell research - something such dyed-in-wool conservatives as Nancy Reagan and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) support - Hagel voted against the bill when it came up for a vote in July. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. He voted for the effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2004 (he skipped out on the vote in 2006). With many of our soldiers wounded in Iraq, caring for our veterans is a matter of social policy - but despite being a veteran himself, Hagel voted against a bill that would've increased spending for Veteran's Affairs by rolling back some of Bush's tax cuts.
On economic policy, Hagel is no better than most of the Republican Party: he votes to cut taxes for the wealthy, while neglecting the rest of us in the meantime. He voted for Bush's 2001 tax cuts. He voted for Bush's 2003 tax cuts. He voted for Bush's 2005 corporate giveaway to energy companies. On the flip side, he voted against a straight-up bill to increase the minimum wage, which has been stuck at the same level since 1997 and has served to decrease its purchasing power by nearly a dollar in inflation-adjusted terms. Sure, he may have voted for a raise later on - but only when it was attached to further cuts in the estate tax. When the economy was in worse shape in 2004, Hagel voted against an extension in unemployment benefits. The guy's a true Republican when it comes to economic matters - help the rich, screw the poor. I'm sure he's proud of his record supporting an administration that has run up the biggest non-inflation adjusted budget deficits in history (and in the top 5 when adjusted for inflation).
Last, but not least, Chuck Hagel is no dove when it comes to foreign policy. He is a diehard neoconservative. Let's take a look at his comments on the future Iraqi war resolution before it passed:
Margaret, the president laid down a very appropriate blueprint last week before the United Nations. I think we should follow that blueprint. He appropriately laid this issue of Saddam Hussein before the United Nations. We are talking about United Nations resolutions not United States resolutions. And, as we go forward, as we just heard Secretary of State Colin Powell explain working through the United Nations with the Security Council at the same time working the parallel track in the Congress that's appropriate. That's timely.
I think most of us believe that at some point we need an end to this, but I don't think we want to rush this. We're talking about the possibility of going to war. That's a very serious prospect, so I'm satisfied with where we are, how the president is leading this, and the continuation of the process that the president himself begun last week before the United Nations.
I've read the resolution. I think it's a good start. I'm not satisfied with what it is today. I don't believe this administration sent a document up here thinking it was going to be accepted in mass in total. The fact is, the Congress has a very important role to play here, an equal role to play, not just constitutionally but we represent constituents as well.
There is something else very important, whatever we do and I suspect we will have a resolution. We must keep in mind the importance of this resolution, not just for today, but for future presidents and future Congresses. We will be relying on this document; we will set a precedent for future events and possible future war. So we need to take our time, work it through.
Sure, we didn't really rush it, right? It was put before the Senate for a vote before the crucial 2002 midterm elections, and even though there was plenty of realistic doubt that Iraq was even a threat, the Bush administration rushed to war - and Chuck Hagel was there for them, along with nearly the entire GOP and half of the Democratic Party when they abandoned their war powers to the White House. Since then, Hagel's had no problem criticizing the handling of the war and how it's been going. Here are some snapshots from over the past few years.
"I don't think we're winning. In all due respect to my friend Jon Kyl, the term 'hand-wringing' is a little misplaced here," Hagel said.
"The fact is, a crisp, sharp analysis of our policies are required. We didn't do that in Vietnam, and we saw 11 years of casualties mount to the point where we finally lost.
"The fact is, we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq," said Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes.""Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
"The casualties we're taking, the billion dollars a week we're putting in there, the kind of commitment we've got -- we're not going to be able to sustain it," he said.
Iraq and Vietnam still have more differences than similarities, he said, but "there is a parallel emerging."
"The longer we stay in Iraq, the more similarities will start to develop, meaning essentially that we are getting more and more bogged down, taking more and more casualties, more and more heated dissension and debate in the United States," Hagel said.
[Hagel] said that in the previous 48 hours, he had received three telephone calls from four-star generals who were "beside themselves" over the Pentagon's reversal of plans to bring tens of thousands of soldiers home this fall.
Instead, top Pentagon officials are suspending military rotations and adding troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has estimated that the buildup will increase the number of U.S. troops from about 130,000 to 135,000.
"That isn't going to do any good. It's going to have a worse effect," Hagel said. "They're destroying the United States Army."
The United States needs to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within the next six months, Sen. Chuck Hagel said Thursday, rather than ratcheting up its military commitment now.
With Iraq exploding in sectarian violence and "moving closer and closer to a straight-out civil war," Hagel said, the Bush administration's decision to transfer nearly 5,000 additional U.S. troops into Baghdad is "only going to make it worse for us."
In the end, he said, "feed(ing) more American troop fodder into the fight" could result in "even a worse defeat."
Speaking on the CBS show "Face the Nation," Hagel said pouring more U.S. troops into Baghdad would not reverse the rising tide of sectarian killing there.
"Where we go from here ... is a cold, hard assessment that Iraq is not going to turn out the way we were promised it would, and that's a fact, not because I say it -- that's the way it's going," he said.
Hagel said there were no longer any good options in Iraq for the United States. He suggested enlisting former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush the elder to convene a regional peace conference.
"It is very wrong to put American troops in a hopeless, winless situation, just keep feeding them in to what's going on. That's irresponsible and that is wrong," he said.
I will give credit where credit is due: Hagel voted against a resolution that would have the U.S. aiding Iran expatriats in 'bringing freedom' to their country. It's nice that he's seen the light on that issue. But on the matter of bringing our troops home from Iraq soon, Hagel has been a flat-out liar. He thinks the war has been prosecuted horribly, that we're in the midst of a civil war (or sectarian violence, whatever suits you), and yet he continues to vote against his supposed beliefs on Iraq. Let's go back to November 2005, when Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) brought forth a motion to require reports and changes in Iraq policy. Hagel voted against that bill. This summer, Hagel also voted against the Kerry/Feingold resolution, which would have brought our troops home within a year. He even voted against a nonbinding resolution that recommended that the White House begins to consider an exit strategy from Iraq.
This is Chuck Hagel's greatest crime of all: he speaks like he cares for our troops. He has been a notable GOP critic of how Iraq has gone after our occupation began. And yet he doesn't vote for more transparency in how decisions are made, he votes against any sort of resolution that considers when we need to leave, and he cuts the benefits for veterans coming home from war. In short, the senior senator from Nebraska is a hypocrite of the greatest scale. In my opinion, he is looking to distance himself from Bush, who has become a politically poisonous, to position himself for a 2008 run at the White House. Hagel is playing politics with our soldier's lives, saying that he cares for them when he votes against their interests repeatedly.
The blogosphere may appreciate what they view as Hagel's truthfulness in addressing our foreign policy. But he is nothing more than your ultraconservative Republican who is scheming for a political run in the future. The man does not deserve praise. He deserves the greatest of scorn for being a politician without principles, someone whose political ambitions are written all over his actions.