The Case for Chuck Hagel
by Reaper0Bot0, Sat Jul 12, 2008 at 06:11:25 PM EDT
Good evening everyone!
I am going to lay out the case for Chuck Hagel as our Vice Presidential nominee. I want to be clear about something, though. I am not endorsing Chuck Hagel for this position. I am warmer to him than most here but I do not think he would be the best choice. I am writing this diary because no one hereabouts is willing or able to understand why Senator Hagel would be a compelling choice from a certain point of view. I don't want to get attacked for writing this. Instead, remember that I'm trying to foster some useful dialog and maybe broaden some perspectives. You don't have to agree with the premise of this diary to be better for having read it.
Interested? Read on...
The notion of splitting the Presidency and Vice Presidency between two parties is not new. In fact, that's sort of how this all got started. It didn't work very well for a variety of reasons but the idea is honorable and does serve some purpose.
At this point the country is split something like fifty fifty between the two parties (well, exactly what the split is we'll find out in November). For as long as I can recall it seems as though the losing party feels disconnected and disempowered for the duration of a presidency. This isn't entirely healthy. Instead of participating and trying to improve the quality of policy they spend four to eight years seeking to destroy the President or make life as hard for him as possible.
Lots of folks here recoil at even the suggestion of putting a Republican on the ticket. I understand, and to a degree, share that concern. Most of us are Democrats because we believe in Democratic policy goals (though we all vary on our levels of orthodoxy). Policy matters. Policy matters a lot. I do not deny this. I would, however, like to explore this problem a little.
First off, how much power does a Vice President have to have over policy? Nearly zero. Dick Cheney is an atypical Veep, and if we're lucky he'll be the last of his kind. Usually a Vice President is either a hood orniment or he gets to direct an issue or two. That's it. Sure, he can cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, but how likely is that to happen with the great year it's shaping up to be? I'm not saying it won't ever happen, but it isn't anything as likely as it is now.
Second, a lot of folks fear that putting someone like Chuck Hagel on the ticket would be setting him up to be President in 2016 (or sooner if, God forbid, something were to happen). There is no silver bullet to this problem, but it is a problem we can at least partially solve. If Chuck Hagel wants the job he could agree to vow publically that he will never run for President. He could even include language along the lines of "If I ever run please remember that I would be a liar to do so. I've given my word to America and I will keep it." If the statement is clear and deliberate enough it will serve as a deterrent to later mind-changing. That does not deal with a potential caretaker term for Hagel should Obama be unable to serve out a term, of course. The most I can suggest would be if Hagel were to publically promise to "Honor Senator Obama and the will of the voters should I be forced to serve. If I am forced to assume the Presidency I will govern as near to how Senator Obama would have, and I will not seek my own term." It isn't bulletproof, and I'm not suggesting that it is, but it is possible. He could also promise to resign if he ever becomes President, but I'm not so sure about such an idea. I don't seriously entertain it.
So far as I can tell, Chuck Hagel is a man of his word. He's retiring from the Senate despite the fact that he won his re-election in 2002 with 83% of the vote and would almost certainly win again if he wanted to. He promised in 1996 he would serve no more than two terms. He is keeping his word.
Now, what about the argument, as some here have made, that having a Republican on the ticket waters down Obama's Democratic appeal? Does this suggest that a Democrat cannot win without a Republican to run our defense or foreign policy shops? I'm sure that some would argue it, but it only means that if Senator Obama allows others to frame the issue thusly. Obama should simply say that Chuck Hagel has shown better judgment than almost anyone else in government and he will value his counsel.
Don't forget that Chuck Hagel has suggested he may leave the Republican Party anyway. If he becomes an independent he should be less unpalatable to those here. He would retain his background and having him on the ticket would be an incredibly powerful bipartisan gesture.
But why Chuck Hagel in particular? Well, read his wiki. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Hagel He's done work with the American Red Cross. He co-founded a successful telecom. He's tended bar and been a radio broadcaster. He left his job at the VA when the VA director wanted to cut funding for veterans programs (including Agent Orange) and referred to veterans groups as "greedy."
He's served our country in war yet remembered the lessons that only an enlisted grunt could learn. He won't sell out our boys and girls for a questionable mission with idiotic execution. He has taken a principled position on the Iraq War that gave him no political benefit and has cost him much support among his own party.
Chuck Hagel is a good man with sound judgment. I disagree with him on most of the social issues but I agree with him on foreign policy and on defense. He's in favor of immigration reform that would benefit those already here and those who wish to come. He's reasonable.
Some good Hagel quotes (from the wikipedia article):
In November 2005, Hagel made a much-publicized statement: "To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic." This was in reference to the lack of open debate in Congress regarding the Iraq War, and in defense of his assertion that the United States should withdraw its troops.
In December 2005, in reference to Bush, the GOP, and the PATRIOT Act, Hagel made a much-publicized statement: "I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."
In January 2006, Hagel took issue with Karl Rove over controversial statements the White House advisor made concerning the mindset of Republicans and Democrats. Hagel said, "Well, I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping, in a political context." He also said that "dark clouds" are hanging over the Republican party", and "If you look at the environment and the atmospherics politically in this town, read any poll. The sixth year of a governing party usually ... is not good ... the country is tired, a lot of complications in these international issues, we're at war."
Hagel further criticized the Bush administration, saying, "National security is more important than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. And to use it to try and get someone elected will ultimately end up in defeat and disaster for that political party."
In July 2006, Hagel again took issue with the Bush administration, this time on its handling of the Israel-Lebanon issue saying "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."
Having someone like Chuck Hagel on the ticket means that Barack Obama seriously intends to govern all Americans and not just Democrats. If he were to pick Hagel he'd be swinging for the fences on his core message of post-partisanship. If it works it would be an example for future generations of how we can work together.
It's an interesting idea. It would be consistent with Obama's life and his message. Besides, doing this would almost certainly force McCain to pick Lieberman, which would only help us. Besides which I'd love to see Lieberman lose again.
Flame away! I'd rather have Hagel in the cabinet but there is an argument for having him on the ticket. I thought somebody should make it.