Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Case for Chuck Hagel

The following is Chris Cillizza's blog post, The Case for Chuck Hagel, from his blog The Fix

The Case for Chuck Hagel
No senator has drawn more attention over the past few weeks than Chuck Hagel, the Republican from Nebraska. Hagel has emerged as one of the most strident critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, a stance that has won him kudos from across the aisle (Hagel has replaced Sen. John McCain as the Republican Democrats love to love) but gained him few friends within his own party.

Is Hagel the John McCain of 2008? (Bloomberg Photo)

Hagel makes no secret that he is considering a run for president, but he has said little about when he will make a decision. As Hagel ponders, so will we. Today, The Fix makes the case for a bid by the Nebraska senator. (Check back tomorrow for the case against.)
Neither of these posts should be read as the definitive take on whether Hagel should run or not. Rather, they are meant to spark conversation, so feel free to agree, disagree, condemn or compliment in the comments section below.

The Time Is Right For Hagel
If the situation in Iraq fails to improve soon, the war will be the central issue in the nomination fights for both parties. For Democratic candidates, a winning message is quite simple: We need to get our troops out of the country as soon as possible without allowing the situation to descend into chaos.

For Republicans, however, it is not entirely clear what a winning primary message on Iraq would be.

The most conservative of Republicans -- those who traditionally dominate presidential primaries -- remain largely supportive of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq or at least believe that the alternative promises sure defeat. The three Republican frontrunners -- McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- have largely backed the president on Iraq, including his latest proposal to send another 21,500 troops to the country.

But if public opinion polling is to be trusted, there is a large bloc even within the Republican Party that believes that a fundamental policy change is needed if we can hope to salvage Iraq.

Enter Hagel, who has spoken out forcefully on the need for a reassessment of America's approach to the war. And, because of his life story, which includes a decorated tour of duty in Vietnam, it's difficult to impugn his credentials or right to speak out on the issue. For Republican primary voters looking for a change of direction in Iraq, Hagel is the obvious choice.

Hagel's renegade stance on Iraq is part of a larger, maverick persona that could also serve to distinguish him from the rest of the field in 2008. In 2000, McCain rode the image of an outsider committed to reform almost all the way to the Republican nomination, a blueprint Hagel is sure to gain some inspiration from should he decide to run.

It was long assumed that McCain's candidacy in 2008 precluded a serious bid by Hagel, who was one of McCain's strongest Senate supporters in 2000. The early thinking pondered why would people need two reformers in the GOP race? But McCain's decision to move more toward the establishment wing of the party over the past few years has left Hagel an opening to run as the anti-establishment candidate in the field.

It's not an unfamiliar role. When Hagel ran for the Senate in 1996, he was given little chance against then Gov. Ben Nelson (D). But in a year when President Clinton was cruising to reelection nationally, Hagel won by a surprisingly large margin (14 points), emphasizing his business background and refusing urgings from the national party to attack Nelson harshly in the final weeks of the race.

Winning a Senate contest in Nebraska does not equate to a becoming the Republican Party's presidential nominee, but Hagel clearly relishes the underdog role and knows something about running against conventional wisdom.

Iowa will be the proving ground for Hagel. Hawkeye state voters share many of the same values and concerns as their neighbors in Nebraska. For example, Hagel has been a leading advocate for the increased use of ethanol in gasoline -- a significant boon to his chances in ethanol-producing Iowa. And, although Hagel would clearly be the anti-Bush candidate in the race, he is solid on issue like abortion that social conservatives, who tend to be the most powerful bloc of voters in the Iowa caucuses, care most about.

Viewed in that way, Hagel's candidacy is an intriguing one. He offers voters change when it comes to Iraq but in a package (military veteran, successful businessman, red-state senator, conservative) that is reassuring and somewhat familiar. If GOP voters in Iowa -- and beyond -- are looking to make a break with the last eight years without throwing out their core principles on social issues, Hagel could be well-positioned to surprise.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

CATO: "The Chuck Hagel Surge"

There's a post over at, the official blog of the CATO Institute regarding Chuck Hagel and a 2008 run.

Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel burst onto the national scene this week as the leading critic of President Bush’s “surge” plan for Iraq. After his widely reported speech at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, he’s become a hot topic in the blogosphere.

His possible presidential candidacy made the front page of the Washington Post today, and he got a love note from Peggy Noonan at (probably to be printed in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal). The Post says, “He is reviled by his party’s conservative base.”

Yes, right now the only thing conservatives know about him is his opposition to George W. Bush’s war plans, and conservatives are still inexplicably in thrall to the big-government Bush. But I’ll predict that over, say, the next 12 months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Hagel is going to look increasingly wise and prescient to Republican voters. And as they come to discover that he’s a commonsense Midwestern conservative who opposed many of the Bush administration’s worst ideas, he’s going to look more attractive.

Support for Hagel Is on the Rise

The following is a blogger supporting Hagel: Chuck Hagel

I saw
about Chuck Hagel in the Washington Post.

I sure hope
the good Senator will
consider a run for the White House.

He is just about the only person who could convince me to
reconsider the GOP and come back.

I left the Republican Party last year
after 34 years because I don't recognize the party any longer and it is no
longer "conservative".

If Chuck Hagel runs for President I'm going to get
a TV that gets a signal and watch the evening news.......I'm not kidding.
You'll see.

Newsweek Highlights Senator Hagel

Check out Newsweek's article, A Reluctant Rebel's Yell, about Senator Hagel's experience in Vietnam, the Senate, and his possible run in 2008.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Detroit Free Press Highlights Hagel's Recent Comments on Iraq

Senate panel strikes first blow to block Bush's Iraq plan
January 24, 2007
Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — Democrats began what they promised would be a prolonged push to stop President George W. Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq today granting initial approval of a resolution condemning the move and potentially opening the door to debate on funding cuts for the war.

“This not an attempt to embarrass the president. ... It’s an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq,” said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which adopted the resolution. "This is our first, most immediate and most practical way to affect the president."

The 12-9 committee vote, which fell mainly along party lines, came a day after Bush asked Americans in his State of the Union speech to give his Iraq plan time to work.

The nonbinding resolution said Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq mainly to quell the sectarian violence ripping apart Baghdad is ”not in the national interest.“

It was coauthored by Biden, fellow Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, and Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel.

The full Senate is expected to take up the measure as soon as next week, setting up a forum for what promises to be hours of impassioned debate on the war if today was an indication of how deeply concerned lawmakers are about events in Iraq.

”We’d better be damn sure we know what we’re doing — all of us — before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder,” said Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran. “I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why were you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.”

The resolution also sets up a framework for lawmakers to confront Bush on larger questions about the future of the war and his authority to wage it against growing pessimism among the public and Congress. Some of the leading Democrats on the committee made it clear they want to go beyond stopping the troop surge and start withdrawing U.S. troops.

“My intention from the outset was to send the first of many messages to the president,” Biden said.

Some Democrats on the panel called for tougher measures including caps on troops levels and funding cuts for the war, which lawmakers used to get American forces out of Vietnam.

“I fear this is slow walking,” said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who wants funding cuts. “This is not the time for legislative nuancing.”

Biden said a nonbinding resolution was the fastest way to get the debate over Bush’s war policy moving, and other measures can be added later. He said his committee would soon begin hearings on some of those tougher measures, which could force Bush’s hand, although he stopped short of endorsing any sort of funding cuts.

“We have a number of constitutionally legitimate alternatives,” he said.

Some Republicans, while uneasy with the resolution’s language, were also deeply bothered by the course of the war and what they saw as the president’s refusal to listen to Congress.

“They have got to understand how concerned we are about this,” said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

Some Republicans back a resolution by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., that opposed the troop increase but with language less confrontational with the White House.

Senate takes only swipe it can on Iraq
January 25, 2007

So much for the time President George W. Bush requested in his State of the Union address. A day later, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution, cosponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, telling him not to send more troops to Iraq.

A public rebuke of a commander in chief's war strategy is rare and risky. But it's hard to argue with the sentiment, best articulated by cosponsor and Vietnam veteran Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

"This is a ping-pong game with American lives," said Hagel, the lone Republican joining Democrats in the 12-9 vote. "These young men and women that we put in Anbar Province, in Iraq, in Baghdad, are not beans. They're real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder."

The resolution is one of two, supported by at least eight Republicans, objecting to the troop increase. They reflect the will of the people expressed at the ballot box.

Presidents, of course, have to make the best strategic decisions they can, irrespective of the polls, but public sentiment, reinforced by Congress, has impact. "No president of the United States can sustain a foreign policy or a war policy without the sustained support of the American people," Hagel said.

The resolution will not cut off funding for the troops -- that would be foolhardy. Nor is it a cut-and-run strategy, rather a call for phased withdrawal and a political solution. Perhaps there should have been a better way to reach the president, but so far he has been unswayed by voters, senators' calls and letters and visits, and the Iraq Study Group.

"We can't be silent on an issue like this," Levin, D-Detroit, told the Free Press. "Troops want us to be expressing the truth. We owe them that -- we owe our troops everything. We owe them equipment; we owe them support for their families. We also owe them the best accounting of what we think the facts are."

The fact is people fear sending their soldiers into what increasingly looks like a no-win proposition. The question is not whether Bush gets more time, but whether there's still time to change his mind.

Washington Post Discusses Hagel's Criticsm of the War and His Possible Run for President

Check out this article by the Washington Post: Hagel Ponders White House Run As War Criticism Raises His Profile

"He's Got Guts"


He's Got Guts
In praise of Chuck Hagel.

Friday, January 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

We all complain, and with justice, about the falseness of much that is said in Washington, and the cowardice that leaves a great deal unsaid. But I found myself impressed and grateful for the words of Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, in a meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. Because his message was not one Republicans or Democrats would find congenial, it may be accidentally dropped down the memory hole, so I'll quote at some length.

The committee was nearing a vote on what was, essentially, an announcement of no confidence in the administration's leadership in Iraq. Specifically it was a nonbinding resolution opposing the increase in troops the president has requested. This was not significant in a concrete way: The president has the power to send more troops, and they are already arriving. But as symbols go, it packed a punch. You couldn't watch it on television or on the Internet and not see that Mr. Hagel was letting it rip. He did not speak from notes or a text but while looking at his fellow senators. There seemed no time lag between thought and word. He was barreling, he was giving it to you straight, and he'd pick up the pieces later.

This is what he said: Congress has duties; in the case of the war, meeting those duties was not convenient; Congress did not meet them.

And so: "The Congress has stood in the shadow of this issue, Iraq, for four years. As [John] Warner noted . . . we have a constitutional responsibility as well as a moral responsibility to this country, to the young men and women we ask to go fight and die and their families. . . . This is not a defeatist resolution, this is not a cut-and-run resolution, we're not talking about cutting off funds, not supporting the troops. This is a very real, responsible addressing of the most divisive issue in this country since Vietnam.

"Sure it's tough. Absolutely. And I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why are you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.

"This is a tough business. But is it any tougher, us having to take a tough vote, express ourselves . . . than what we're asking our young men and women to do? I don't think so."

Later: "I don't question the president's sincerity, his motivations in this. I never have. . . . Part of the problem that we have, I think, is because we didn't--we didn't involve the Congress in this when we should have. And I'm to blame. Every senator who's been here the last four years has to take some responsibility for that.

"But I will not sit here in this Congress of the United States at this important time for our country and in the world and not have something to say about this. . . . I don't ever want to look back and have the regret that I didn't have the courage and I didn't do what I could. . . .

"I would go back to where I began, and pick up on a point that Chairman [Richard] Lugar mentioned: coherence of strategy. I don't know how many United States senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq. I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy. In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan. I happen to know Pentagon planners were on their way to the Central Com over the weekend. They haven't even Team B'd this plan. . . . And I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators, to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide anymore; none of us.

"That is the essence of our responsibility. And if we're not willing to do it, we're not worthy to be seated right here. We fail our country. If we don't debate this . . . we are not worthy of our country."

Whenever the camera shot broadened to show the other senators, I wondered what they were thinking. For a few it might have been, Well done, Chuck. For others, Hey, righteous indignation is my act. And some would have been thinking, That's good, ol' buddy, and no matter how long I have to wait, I'll get you for putting me on the spot, for making us look bad, for getting on your high horse and charging.

But Mr. Hagel said the most serious thing that has been said in Congress in a long time. This is what we're here for. This is why we're here, to decide, to think it through and take a stand, and if we can't do that, why don't we just leave and give someone else a chance?

Mr. Hagel has shown courage for a long time. He voted for the war resolution in 2002 but soon after began to question how it was being waged. This was before everyone did. He also stood against the war when that was a lonely place to be. Senate Democrats sat back and watched: If the war worked, they'd change the subject; and if it didn't, they'd hang it on President Bush. Republicans did their version of inaction; they supported the president until he was unpopular, and then peeled off. This is almost not to be criticized. It's what politicians do. But it's not what Mr. Hagel did. He had guts.

A note too on John Kerry, who, on the floor of the Senate, also talked about Iraq this week, and said he would not run for president. Clearly he saw the lipstick writing on the wall: This is the year of the woman. He also might have been acting on the sense that this is a time of ongoing and incipient political flux. The major parties seem as played out as they are ruthless, and the arc of political fame is truncated: nobodies become somebodies become has-beens before half the country knows their name. The Democrats have no idea what they stand for, the Republicans only remember what they stood for.

But there was Mr. Kerry, liberated by the death of a dream and for once quite human as he tried to tell it the way he actually saw it. Took the mock right out of me. Good for him, and for Mr. Hagel. I wonder if we are seeing the start of a new seriousness.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on

Used with permission from, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hagel's comments at a Senate Foreign Relations Committe Hearing.

The following is an excerpt from a USA Today online story:

Hagel to colleagues: 'Go sell shoes' if you want an easy job

Vietnam veteran Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., has issued an emotional appeal to his colleagues this morning to challenge President Bush and the administration over plans to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, USA TODAY's Kathy Kiely reports from Capitol Hill.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on a non-binding resolution that opposes Bush's plan, Hagel said:
• "We owe it to those men and women we continue to send into that grinder."
• "I think all 100 senators should be on the line on this. ... If you want a safe job, go sell shoes."
• "If we don't debate this, we're not worthy of our country."
The panel's chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said the measure is "not an attempt to embarrass the president. ... It's an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq."

Hagel's Response to the President's State of the Union Address

January 23rd, 2007 - U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) released this statement tonight following President Bush’s State of the Union address:
“I appreciate what the President said tonight about dramatically increasing renewable fuel standards, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, addressing the challenge of climate change, reforming our entitlement programs and fixing our broken immigration system. These are all issues of critical importance to Nebraska. I look forward to continuing to work with the President on these issues.”

USA Today: A First Step in Iraq

The following was published in USA Today this morning:

A First Step in Iraq

Today, Congress takes an important step in what we believe is our constitutional responsibility to actively engage and debate the war in Iraq. We agree with the president that our previous strategy in Iraq was failing. Equally, we are convinced that to succeed in Iraq, America's objective and strategy must enjoy the support of the American people and a bipartisan support in Congress.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on a resolution we introduced with our colleagues Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The resolution says what we and many of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, believe: America should not deepen its military involvement in Iraq by sending more U.S. troops into the middle of a civil war. More troops in Baghdad will increase the likelihood of more American casualties and will not end the sectarian Iraqi massacres that are occurring every day.

Just as important, our resolution proposes an alternative. The primary objective of America's strategy should be to help Iraqis achieve a political settlement in Iraq, secure support for that settlement from Iraq's neighbors and refocus the mission of our remaining troops on achievable objectives. That is the only way to stop Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other and allow our troops to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind.

Here are the main elements of our plan:

•Redeploy U.S. forces out of Iraq's cities with a more limited mission focused on defending Iraq's territorial integrity, counterterrorism, border control, and accelerated training of Iraqi forces;

•Transfer responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence to Iraqi forces under an appropriately expedited timeline;

•Continue to support Iraq's political process while making it clear that Iraqi leaders must make the political compromises necessary to help Iraq move forward;

•Engage Iraq's neighbors and the international community to build a regional framework to help support and sustain a political solution and national reconciliation.

Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the president's plan to the Foreign Relations Committee. The reaction from Democrats and Republicans alike ranged from profound skepticism to outright opposition.

A strong majority of the American people opposes sending more American troops into Iraq. So does a broad cross section of this country's leaders, military and civilian, as we have heard this month in hearings in Congress. In December, the Baker-Hamilton Commission issued a valuable report, suggesting a comprehensive strategy "to enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly" based on "new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region."

Our fundamental objective is to build a bipartisan majority in Congress to support a U.S. policy on Iraq that stands the best chance of succeeding and bringing our men and women in uniform home.

We welcome debate of our resolution and proposed alternatives. The resolution by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., contributes to this debate. As we have made clear publicly and privately, we are prepared to adjust our resolution to help broaden bipartisan support. Ultimately, this debate will give every senator a chance to say where he or she stands.

We believe that the single most effective way for Congress to engage the president in developing a way forward in Iraq is to demonstrate the depth and breadth of bipartisan concern regarding his policy. The power of our resolution rests in its bipartisan foundation.

Iraq is not a partisan issue. It is a challenge that we must meet as Americans. No one in Congress and no one in America wants to see America defeated. We believe our nation is stronger when Congress fulfills its constitutional duty as a co-equal branch of government.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., is a member of the committee.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hagel in GQ

Republican senator Chuck Hagel sounds off on the sorry state of Congress, the president’s lies, and the vote for war that he now regrets

Interview by Wil S. Hylton

GQ, January 2007

Chuck Hagel came home from Vietnam in 1968 with shrapnel in his chest, scars on his face, and an unyielding certainty that the freedom of men is theirs alone to win. As an infantryman, he had not bombed from above or commanded from behind; he had stood knee-deep in the muck, face-to-face with the enemy, firing on men and watching them die. It’s a hard memory to leave behind. Even after four decades and a lifetime of change—a fortune earned in the investment-banking business; a decade as a senator from Nebraska; and a position as one of the GOP’s conservative torchbearers with a shot at the White House—Hagel has put everything on the line to oppose the war in Iraq, refusing to send a “surge” of new troops into battle, or to forget the lessons he brought home from the killing fields long ago.
Sitting in his office on a recent afternoon, Hagel leaned back in his armchair to explain, in a voice reminiscent of sandpaper on rough oak, how he was deceived by the president, and won’t let it happen again.
Why do you oppose the “surge”? For almost four years, this administration has been saying, “Just give us another six months. Give us more time. The Iraqis need more help. We need more troops. We need more money.” I am not willing to sacrifice more young men and women for a policy that isn’t working.
What do you think the real effect of the “surge” would be? More American lives lost. Billions of dollars going into this hole. It will erode our standing in the Middle East and the world. It will destroy our force structure. It will divide this country in a bitter way not seen since Vietnam. And what do we get in return? The administration likes to point to these benchmarks—the Iraqis wrote a constitution, they had an election, they elected a unity government. The administration takes great pride in saying, “It’s now a sovereign nation. They’re in charge of their own affairs.” It’s completely untrue, but they say it anyway.
What would it take to secure Baghdad? It’s not ours to secure. We have never understood that! We have framed this in a way that never made sense: “Win or lose in Iraq.” Wait a minute! There is no win or loss for us. The Iraqis will determine how this turns out. We can help them with our blood and our treasure and our standing, but in the end they have to deal with the sectarian problems. That is what’s consuming that country. It’s not Al Qaeda. It’s not the terrorists. That’s not the main problem over there. It’s a civil war!
The administration doesn’t call it that. They won’t call it civil war. Everybody calls it a civil war! Of course it’s a civil war. The generals call it a civil war. And it’s even worse than a civil war, because in addition to the sectarian violence, you’ve got Shia killing Shia. We have ethnic cleansing of major proportions going on in Baghdad. It’s reminiscent of Bosnia. A truck pulls up and Uncle Joe is put inside; his body is found in a dump two or three days later, arms bound, usually tortured—one of the favorite deals is to drill into their head a little bit while they’re still conscious and then shoot them. We can’t solve that!
If we can’t win and the public wants out, isn’t it the responsibility of Congress to check the power of the president? Sure.
But it seems Congress has been ineffective at that. Well, we have. We’ve abdicated our responsibilities. That has to do with the fact that the Republican Party controlled the White House, the House, and the Senate. When that happens, you get no probing, no questioning, no oversight. If Bill Clinton had invaded Iraq and after two years he was having the same problems, do you think the Republican Congress would have put up with that? I don’t think so.
Do you wish you’d voted differently in October of 2002, when Congress had a chance to authorize or not authorize the invasion? Have you read that resolution?
I have. It’s not quite the way it’s been framed by a lot of people, as a resolution to go to war. That’s not quite what the resolution said.
It said, “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.” In the event that all other options failed. So it’s not as simple as “I voted for the war.” That wasn’t the resolution.
But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not. Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn’t need that authority from Congress.
Which they seem to say about a lot of things. That’s right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president’s counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, “You have all the powers that you need.” So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, “Andy, I don’t think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?” So a few of us—Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I—were invited into discussions with the White House.
It’s incredible that you had to ask for that. It is incredible. That’s what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.
It wasn’t specific to Iraq? Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. I mean, is Central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.
They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere they wanted in the Middle East? Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up, and put our language in it.
But that should also have triggered alarm bells about what they really wanted to do. Well, it did. I’m not defending our votes; I’m just giving a little history of how this happened. You have to remember the context of when that resolution was passed. This was about a year after September 11. The country was still truly off balance. So the president comes out talking about “weapons of mass destruction” that this “madman dictator” Saddam Hussein has, and “our intelligence shows he’s got it,” and “he’s capable of weaponizing,” and so on.
And producing a National Intelligence Estimate that turned out to be doctored. Oh yeah. All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that’s what we were presented with. And I’m not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, “I don’t believe them.” But I was told by the president—we all were—that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.
You were told that personally? I remember specifically bringing it up with the president. I said, “This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us.”
Did he give you that assurance, that he would do the same thing as his father? Yep. He said, “That’s what we’re going to do.” But the more I look back on this, the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003, if you recall, the inspectors at the IAEA, who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody, said, “Give us two more months before you go to war, because we don’t think there’s anything in there.” They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn’t been in there. We didn’t know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn’t do it! So to answer your question—Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.
And you feel like you were misled?I asked tough questions of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld before the war: How are you going to govern? Who’s going to govern? Where is the money coming from? What are you going to do with their army? How will you secure their borders? And I was assured every time I asked, “Senator, don’t worry, we’ve got task forces on that, they’ve been working, they’re coordinated,” and so on.
Do you think they knew that was false? Oh, I eventually was sure they knew. Even before we actually invaded, I had a pretty clear sense of it—that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq.
Even if it meant deceiving Congress? That’s right.
Congress has a lot less leverage to stop the war, now that it’s begun. Well, we still have power, starting with appropriations, oversight, the power of the people, the polls. We represent the voters.
It’s indirect, though. It is indirect, if you’re looking to stop the war. We’re already in it, we’re hugely invested, half a trillion dollars, over 3,000 dead…
And the decision to withhold funding is a tough one. That’s right, because it can be seen as political. It is touchy. Nobody ever wants to be accused of cutting a canteen from the troops, so you get into that murky area: Are you hurting the troops by cutting off funding?
Where are you on that? I think we need to exercise oversight of the funding. The president is going to come up with probably $100 billion in “emergency supplemental” funding for the war. That bill needs to get oversight. The last four years, we haven’t had any oversight over these “emergency” appropriations. Let’s examine it. Let’s pull it apart: “What’s this 40 million for?”
That seems so slow and bureaucratic. It’s frustrating. Especially when you’re losing young Americans every day. We just keep throwing them into the fire.
Does it seem like the president is basically daring you to cut funding? He is. He feels, as I think a number of Republicans do, that it would be a disastrous thing politically. These are bright people. They understand politics about as well as anyone. President Bush has been elected twice. Some might argue that he wasn’t elected the first time. With the popular vote, he actually wasn’t. But he’s very savvy politically. He’s never going to stand for election again, and he believes this is right for the country. The president is trying to do something very difficult: sustain a war without the support of the American people.
Are you especially sensitive about these wartime decisions because you’ve been to war? Certainly going through combat in Vietnam and seeing war up close, seeing friends wounded and killed in front of you, you cannot help but be framed by that experience. When I got to Vietnam, I was a rifleman. I was a private, about as low as you can get. So my frame of reference is very much geared toward the guy at the bottom who’s doing the fighting and dying. Jim Webb and I are the only ones in the Senate who had that experience. John McCain served his country differently—he spent five years as a prisoner of war. John Kerry was on a boat for about three months, maybe less. I don’t think my experience makes me any better, but it does make me very sober about committing our nation to war. We should never again get into a fiasco like we did in Vietnam. And if we are going to use force, we better make damn sure it is in the national interest.
Which is essentially the “Powell Doctrine.” Do you and Colin Powell still talk? We’re very good friends.
Do you think it’s hard for him to keep silent these days? I think it is very hard for him. I think he is greatly tormented by all of this.
Does it surprise you that so many people in the administration who supported this war, didn’t have any military experience? I have never doubted the motives of those who wanted to go to war so badly. I don’t question their moral standing.
But you might wonder if they really understand what war is. Look, it has not gone unnoticed that President Bush served a little time in the National Guard. Secretary Rice never served. Wolfowitz never served. Feith never served. Cheney had five deferments. Rumsfeld might have done something at one time. But the only guy that had any real experience was Colin Powell. And they cut him off. That’s just a fact. That’s not subjective. That’s the way it was.
Does being a veteran also make you sensitive to the administration’s approach to interrogation and the use of secret military prisons? It does, because that’s not who America is. We have always, certainly since World War II, had the moral high ground in the world. But these secret prisons and the treatment at Guantánamo destroy all of that. We ought to shut down Guantánamo. There shouldn’t be any secret prisons. Why do we need those? What are we afraid of? Here we are, the greatest nation the world has ever seen. Why can’t we let the Red Cross into our prisons? Why do we deny they exist? Why do we keep them locked up? What are we afraid of? Why aren’t we dealing with Iran and Syria?
What about civil liberties? Does it concern you that the administration has been searching bank records and personal mail, and listening to international phone calls, without warrants? Very much. We have always been able to protect national security without sacrificing the liberties of the individual. Once you lose those rights, it’s very hard to get them back. There have been arguments made that if we just give up a few rights, it will be easier to preserve our national security. That should never, ever happen. When you take office, you take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. That is your first responsibility.
Is it strange for you to be allied on these issues with the anti-war left, which is not exactly your constituency? I think these issues are starting to redefine the political landscape. You are going to see alliances and relationships develop that are based on this war. You are going to see a reorientation of political parties.
How conservative are you really? Tell me the truth: You don’t care whether or not gay people get married, do you? No. Personally, I think marriage is between a man and a woman, but that’s because I see it as a religious union. As a legal contract, marriage should be up to the states. If a state wants to change the rules, that’s up to them.
What about the drug war? You don’t really think it’s going any better than the Iraq war, do you? The drug war is different. Drugs are against the law.
But what do you think of the law? That’s part of having a society. You have to have standards, social mores that are acceptable. You can’t go around exempting the law.
But Congress writes the laws. Yes, and you can try to change the laws. If someone thinks marijuana ought to be legalized, go through the process. I would be opposed to it, by the way. Drugs are a devastating problem. Meth is creeping across the country. I know there are some who say you wouldn’t have near the problem if you just legalize drugs, but I disagree.
How about flag burning? I voted for a constitutional amendment to ban it.
Isn’t it a form of expression, if some schmuck wants to make a statement? I think you can defend your position both ways on that, but I am against it.
You don’t hear very many politicians say that both sides of an issue are reasonable these days. We are living through one of the most transformative periods in history. If we are going to make it, we need a far greater appreciation and respect for others, or we’re going to blow up mankind. Look at what zealotry can do. Religious zealotry has been responsible for killing more people than any other thing. Look at the Middle East today. It’s all about religion. We need to move past those divisions and learn to be tolerant and respectful. If we go out there full of intolerance and hatred, we’ll never make it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hagel Gaining Ground in the Polls

A summary of 8 states courtesy of

Giuliani 34%
McCain 24%
Romney 10%
Gingrich 9%
Thompson 7%
Huckabee 2%
Brownback, Gilmore, Hagel, Hunter, Pataki 0%
Undecided 14%

McCain 31%
Giuliani 18%
Gingrich 14%
Brownback 5%
Hagel 3%
Romney 2%
Thompson 2%
Huckabee 1%
Gilmore, Hunter, Pataki 0%
Undecided 24%

Giuliani 30%
Gingrich 16%
McCain 15%
Romney 2%
Hagel 2%
Brownback 1%
Huckabee 1%
Pataki 1%
Gilmore, Hunter, Thompson 0%
Undecided 32%

Giuliani 35%
McCain 25%
Hagel 4%
Brownback 2%
Romney 1%
Gilmore 1%
Huckabee 1%
Hunter, Pataki, Thompson 0%
Undecided 21%

Illinois: Giuliani 33%
McCain 24%
Romney 12%
Gingrich 8%
Brownback 4%
Thompson 4%
Hagel 3%
Hunter 1%
Gilmore, Huckabee, Pataki 0%
Undecided 11%

New Mexico:
Giuliani 38%
McCain 20%
Gingrich 9%
Romney 7%
Hagel 6%
Brownback 4%
Pataki 1%
Gilmore, Huckabee, Hunter, Thompson 0%
Undecided 15%

Giuliani 33%
Gingrich 19%
McCain 18%
Hagel 5%
Romney 3%
Hunter 1%
Brownback, Gilmore, Huckabee, Pataki, Thompson 0%
Undecided 22%

North Carolina:
Giuliani 34%
McCain 26%
Gingrich 11%
Huckabee 4%
Romney 2%
Hagel 2%
Gilmore 1%
Brownback, Hunter, Pataki, Thompson 0%
Undecided 19%

As you can see, Hagel is doing decently in 7 out of the 8 states listed, considering that he has not yet formally declared his candidacy. The state that he is not doing well in is Michigan. This means that we have to step it up a level. There are still a lot of undecided people out there--so lets show them why Senator Hagel is the right choice.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hagel to Make a Decision Soon

CNN reports that Chuck Hagel realizes that if he wants to get in the 2008 race he needs to do so soon.

Hagel to decide on White House bid 'soon'

(CNN) -- Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, an outspoken Republican critic of the war
in Iraq, told CNN Wednesday he will decide on whether to wage a presidential run

"I'll let you know, Wolf -- I've got to make a decision soon," Hagel told
CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I will make that decision."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hagel Statement on President Bush’s Plan to Increase U.S. Troops in Iraq

Senator Chuck Hagel , a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, released the following statement January 11th regarding President Bush’s address to the nation on a new way forward in Iraq:

“I am opposed to the escalation of American involvement in Iraq, including more U.S. troops. This is a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost. It is wrong to place American troops into the middle of Iraq’s civil war. It is not in America’s national interest to increase our troop presence in Iraq. The President’s strategy will cost more American lives; sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq making it more difficult to get out; cost billions of dollars more; further strain an American military that has already reached its breaking point; further diminish America’s standing in the Middle East; and continue to allow the Iraqis to walk away from their responsibilities. The fate of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqis—not the Americans. We have already given four years, thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Iraq.

“We cannot escape the reality that there will be no military solution in Iraq. The Iraqis are the only ones who can stop the sectarian and inter-sectarian violence that is now consuming their country. Iraqi leaders must understand the stark choice that they face between widening anarchy and violence and a concerted Iraqi effort toward political reconciliation. We cannot want success for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. More American troops, treasure and casualties will not change this reality. It will make it worse. General Abizaid testified to this point in November before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Instead of increasing our troop presence in Iraq, we should be focused on helping the Iraqis find a political solution and creating a policy that allows us to leave Iraq honorably, has the sustained support of the American people and does not further destabilize the Middle East. This will require redefining our mission and our involvement in Iraq. A new American strategy for Iraq should include:
• moving our troops out of the cities to Iraq’s border areas, allowing us to help secure the territorial integrity of Iraq which will be seriously threatened and is critical for the future of Iraq;
• begin turning over internal security of Iraq to the Iraqis;
• engaging all nations in the Middle East to develop a regional internationally sponsored peace process;
• accelerating training of Iraqi troops.

“We are all trying to find a workable strategy and policy to address the disaster in Iraq. This should not be a partisan political issue. Congress will now begin the serious work of examining the President’s plan through oversight hearings and debate. Ultimately, the Congress will have to make tough decisions about the President’s plan. However, it is the Iraqis who must reach a political accommodation and find a political resolution. It may take years, but it is not the responsibility of the U.S.”

Monday, January 8, 2007

Additional Poster Needed

If anybody is interested in helping me post here, it would be greatly appreciated. I've been somewhat busy lately, and my computer goes into random fights with Blogger (those last up to about two weeks), so if I could have a back-up, that would be greatly appreciated. If interested, e-mail me at, or leave a comment here. Thank you!

Newsweek: McCain vs. Hagel

There is an excellent piece from Newsweek about the differing views on the war between two close friends in the Senate: John McCain and Chuck Hagel. These are two men who are both thinking about running for President in 2008 and are two of the few combat veterans in Congress. They have long been close friends, but are nearly polar opposites on Iraq.
Hagel is "obsessed" with the war in Iraq, says his brother Tom, who served with him in Vietnam. "You can't have a conversation with him without this coming up." During Christmas, Hagel looked "markedly older and grayer than when I saw him this summer down at the beach," says Tom. In an interview with NEWSWEEK last week, Hagel teared up when he began talking about a Purple Heart ceremony he had attended in August in Lincoln, Neb. "You're sitting there thinking, Was this a waste?" said Hagel, who voted for the original congressional resolution backing the war despite raising serious doubts about whether the invasion made sense. He added, somewhat uncomfortably, that at times he wonders whether he has done enough to try to stop the war.
Hagel is not pushing for "Out Now." But he is almost angrily dismissive of the idea of sending an additional 10,000 to 20,000 troops to Iraq. "Are we going to pacify Baghdad?" he asks. "Are we going to break the militia's stronghold? Are we going to use these troops to propel or force a settlement between the Shias and the Sunnis? What's the objective of it? I will guarantee that there's going to be a lot more American casualties. And there's going to be a lot more animosity by the Iraqis." The idea that the Iraqis will respond only to more troops, he says, is "complete folly, unless you're going to kill all the Iraqis."
Read the full article here.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Hagel Blogs Receive Media Publicity

On January 1, the Omaha World-Herald wrote an article about the various Hagel blogs. The article is available at: Bloggers urge Hagel to seek presidency.

On January 4, the North Platte Bulletin published an article also highlighting different blogs supporting Senator Hagel. That article is available at: Hagel for President bandwagon led by bloggers.

I would encourage everybody to check these articles out and continue to show Senator Hagel your support as he is making his decision about his future.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Reassurance from Senator Hagel's staff

I have been told that the rumors reported yesterday are false; however, Senator Hagel has not made up his mind about the future of his career yet.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Senator Hagel Waiting to Announce His Decision

Senator Hagel has said that he won't announce his plans for 2008 until later this month, be that running for President, running for reelection in the Senate, or moving onto something else.

Omaha KMTV Ch. 3's Thursday 6 P.M. News reporter Joe Jordan reported that while Chuck Hagel won't reveal his Presidential plans until January 2007 at the earliest, two Hagel insiders said Hagel:

1) will NOT run for President

2) and will NOT run for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

Obviously, this would not be good news for us; hopefully it is not accurate. Please email Chuck Hagel or contact his Senate office and encourage him to run.