Wednesday, February 28, 2007
BY JAKE THOMPSON AND TIM ELFRINK
WASHINGTON - While Chuck Hagel has been contemplating whether to seek the presidency, 18 other politicians started running.
Two opted out of the race.
Two launched campaign efforts, then quit.
Still, Hagel ponders.
Last week, on a four-day swing through Nebraska, the Republican senator put it off again.
"We'll make that decision one of these days," he said. "And I'll let you know."
Among established politicians flirting with the 2008 race, Hagel and former New York Gov. George Pataki are the most notable prospects who have yet to reveal their plans.
Political analysts say the delay could hurt - or help.
Starting late puts Hagel at a disadvantage in raising funds, identifying supporters and putting forth a campaign message, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report.
But if Hagel were to run, he could occupy an unusual niche, such as the anti-Iraq war Republican, Rothenberg said.
"It's getting too late, but he's a quirky candidate, so they are allowed to run quirkier campaigns," Rothenberg said.
Republican consultant Scott Reed, who was campaign manager for former Sen. Bob Dole's 1996 presidential bid, agreed that if Hagel runs, it will be a different kind of campaign.
Hagel's views on the Iraq war - he supports beginning to withdraw U.S. forces this year - puts him in line with 66 percent of Americans who, polls show, oppose the war. That could be potent fuel for a campaign, Reed said.
"He'll have a lone voice on a hot issue, and that'll be the strategy," Reed said.
Hagel has waited so long now, he's reaching a point where it might make sense to hold off, perhaps until fall, said Chuck Todd, editor of the Hotline, an electronic newsletter that tracks American politics.
That would let the other candidates spend their money, knock one another around and, perhaps, wear out their welcome, Todd suggested.
"If he waits, he becomes the new flavor."
That's the strategy adopted by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
"Hagel could say, 'My friend Newt Gingrich has the right idea. Let's see what this thing looks like in September,'" Sabato said.
Hagel seems to be genuinely wrestling with the decision.
Those who have spoken with him say a big concern is the potential impact a presidential campaign would have on his wife, Lilibet, and their two teenage children.
Meanwhile, rumors in Nebraska and Washington have run wild: Hagel's about to announce; he's setting up an exploratory committee; he's setting up a committee and quitting the Senate; he's sidestepping the presidential race; he's running for re-election to the Senate.
Often people ask him directly, but they don't get far. Even kids are getting into the act.
Speaking to about 90 fourth- and fifth-graders at a Kearney elementary school on Thursday, Hagel tested the waters for his presidential bid.
"Should I run?" he asked.
"Yes!" the kids screamed in unison.
"Well, maybe I'll just announce right now," he said.
"We'd like that," a teacher said.
But Hagel declined their invitation, just as he has during persistent questioning from reporters.
On a flight from Kearney to Omaha, Hagel acknowledged that his family is the biggest consideration. Specifically, he worries about a loss of privacy for his daughter, 16-year-old Allyn, and his son, Ziller, 14.
"When you commit yourself to something this big and throw yourself onto the national stage, that strips them of all privacy. I would never do this unless I had the full support of my family," he said.
He expressed confidence they could handle the challenge because, for most of their lives, he's been in politics.
"But I have to consider what this does to them as individuals. . . . Suddenly they're not Allyn and Ziller, they're just the presidential candidate's kids."
He's working through other issues, too, such as weighing his ability to raise enough money for a campaign. He says he has been encouraged by what he's heard so far.
He said he won't run unless he's confident he could win, but it's even more important to him that he feels passionately about the race.
"You have to believe in something strongly enough to commit yourself to it," he said.
As for when he'll make a move, Hagel said he's done his best not to set a specific deadline.
"I've said I'll make a decision in the next few weeks, and that's still the case."
After he first disclosed an interest in the presidential contest in August 2004, Hagel said he would decide after the 2006 elections. He repeated that through 2005 and 2006.
Interviewed the day after the Nov. 7 election, Hagel pushed the timetable back, saying: "I will announce what I intend to do regarding my political future sometime early next year."
In a Nov. 29, 2006, column, Washington Post writer David Ignatius said Hagel had indicated a formal decision would be made within two months.
After the first of the year, Hagel and his spokesman, Mike Buttry, began repeatedly saying it would come within "the next couple of weeks."
That's now seven weeks and counting.
Last Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Hagel told host Tim Russert, "I'll make a decision within a couple of weeks and make it public."
And asked Thursday whether an announcement would come before or after a trip he's planning to Iraq next month, he said it depends on when exactly the trip is scheduled.
1) No False Choices: Chuck Hagel's Foreign Policy Road Map
This one's a great article to read - so make sure you get through the whole thing.
2) Hagel visits North Platte
3) War Critic Speaks from Heart of Bush Country
While U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel is still undecided on whether he wants to
run for president in 2008, he remains outspoken in his opposition to the current
administration’s policy on military involvement in Iraq.
“I’ve probably been more consistent and clear and predictable on the Iraq
war than any member of Congress in the last four years,” Hagel said during a
visit to North Platte on Friday.
KEARNEY, Neb. — Jeff Strong, a recently retired National Guardsman and
"rock-ribbed Republican," churned with conflicting emotions as he sat in an
auditorium at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, waiting for Sen. Chuck
Strong personifies the dilemma for many residents in this state, where
President Bush captured two-thirds of the vote in 2004. Strong is uncomfortable
with the role Hagel, the state's Republican senior senator, has taken in
criticizing Bush's war plans. "I just don't understand how his anti-war rhetoric
is helping to stabilize Iraq," said Strong, a postal worker.
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007
Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
Jay L. Clendenin / Polaris
There's no less likely a hero to liberals than Nebraska's Republican Senator, who toes the party line 90% of the time. But Chuck Hagel, 60, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has become one of the most vocal critics in Congress of the Iraq war. He spoke with TIME's Perry Bacon Jr. about opposing President Bush's plan to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq, about whether Iraq will become another Vietnam and about presidential "wannabes."
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Nebraska senator opposes Iraq increase
By MEG HECKMANMonitor staff
State Sen. Bob Odell averages a phone call a day from someone curious about his old friend Chuck Hagel. Maybe they saw him on the Sunday morning talk shows, decrying President Bush's latest plan for Iraq, or perhaps they like his ideas about reducing the federal deficit.
Whatever spurs them to call, their question is usually the same: Is Hagel running for president?
As of Tuesday, Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska, remained undecided, telling the Monitor in a phone interview that he's a few weeks away from making a decision....
Read more of this Concord Monitor article at: http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070222/REPOSITORY/702220322
By: OSKAR GARCIA
Associated Press Writer
BELLEVUE, Neb. -- Sen. Chuck Hagel acknowledged Wednesday that many people already seem to assume he is intent on running for president in 2008.
"I get that reaction," Hagel said after making brief remarks and answering audience questions at Bellevue University. "I just take it as a compliment, appreciate that they would have that much confidence in me to kind of assume that."
The Nebraska Republican talked to reporters before addressing the audience of roughly 200, but did not hint at when he would make any announcement, saying only it would not come while he's in Nebraska this week.
"We'll make that decision one of these days, and I'll let you know," Hagel said.
Check out the full Yankton Press article at: http://www.yankton.net/stories/022207/news_5568022207.shtml
Here's an Omaha World-Herald article:
Hagel still won't say whether he's a presidential candidate
BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) - Sen. Chuck Hagel acknowledged today that many people already seem to assume he is intent on running for president in 2008."
I get that reaction," Hagel said after making brief remarks and answering audience questions at Bellevue University. "I just take it as a compliment, appreciate that they would have that much confidence in me to kind of assume that."
The Nebraska Republican talked to reporters before addressing the audience of roughly 200, but did not hint at when he would make any announcement, saying only it would not come while he's in Nebraska this week."
We'll make that decision one of these days, and I'll let you know," Hagel said.
The senator said he will meet with Gov. Dave Heineman, state senators and others this week while the U.S. Senate is on a break that started with Presidents Day.
Hagel did answer questions about Iraq, Iran, global warming and the United States' current place in the world.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Hagel Speech on U.S.-Iran Relations at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Conference on World Affairs
February 22nd, 2007 - KEARNEY, NE - Below is the text of the speech United States Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) delivered today on U.S. - Iran relations at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s James E. Smith Conference on World Affairs.
“It is an honor for me to be here today at one of Nebraska’s most important and prestigious institutions. For over 100 years, UNK has provided opportunities for Nebraska’s young people and prepared them to be successful and productive citizens. I attended Kearney State in 1965 and my nephew, Josh Hagel, is currently a student at UNK, although Josh’s grade point average is much better than mine.
In my eleven years in the Senate, I’ve had several UNK graduates on my staff and serve as interns in my offices. In fact, my State Director, Todd Wiltgen...the Director of my Kearney office, Julie Brooker...and Jared Blanton in my press office in Washington, DC...are all Kearney natives and UNK graduates. All have served Nebraska with commitment and distinction and I am grateful for their good work.
Thank you for inviting me to the James E. Smith Conference on World Affairs. This Conference has been a source of pride for UNK and Nebraska since it was initiated in 1964. The three goals of the Conference: to introduce important global issues to the students and local community; to expose conference participants to a variety of viewpoints from other countries; and to promote international education...are more important today than at any time in our history. When I attended Kearney State in 1965, the world was far less complicated than it is today. But the world’s new challenges offer us historic new opportunities. If the world is to successfully meet these new challenges, it will require a deep and clear understanding of the world in which we are all competing. That is the value of this conference. Information and shared understanding enhance our understanding and prepare us to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
I want to speak today about a subject that I know is very much on the minds of Americans...and the world...America’s relationship with the Middle East and in particular Iran. This relationship is at the center of some of the most important strategic challenges that America faces today and in the future...energy security...America’s relationship with the Islamic world...and the future of the greater Middle East. Many of the world’s historic and vital interests intersect in the Middle East.
Today, the Middle East is more combustible and dangerous than any time in modern history. It is experiencing political upheaval driven by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religious and ethnic differences, radical Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, despair and the war in Iraq.
Forces and events in the Middle East cannot be neatly categorized. The swirl of Middle East history creates layers upon layers of complexity. There is little transparency in the Middle East. That is a reality that is inescapable and cannot be assumed away. To ignore this reality is to risk being trapped by false choices....false choices such as the question, “which is worse – Iran with nuclear weapons or war with Iran?”
These are not our only choices in dealing with the Middle East and Iran. Diplomatic initiatives, UN mandates, regional cooperation, security frameworks, and economic incentives are part of the mix of international possibilities that must be employed to comprehensively address the challenges of the Middle East.
We will fail to protect and advance America’s interests – in the Middle East and around the world – if we allow ourselves to be trapped in a self-constructed world based not on reality but on flawed assumptions and flawed judgment leading to flawed policy and dangerous miscalculations.
The United States must approach the Middle East with a clear understanding of the complexities of the region. Our strategic policies must be regional in scope…integrating Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violent Islamic extremism, access to energy supplies, and political reform into a comprehensive policy equation. This should be developed through consultation, cooperation, and coordination with our regional allies Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel. This will require a new regional diplomatic and economic framework to work within...a new Middle East frame of reference.
Secretary Rice’s recent trip to the Middle East...her fourth trip in five months...is encouraging. However, the focus of the United States on the Middle East must be comprehensive, sustained, and at the highest levels of all the governments involved. This will require a new disciplined follow-through from the Bush Administration that we have not yet seen. I have suggested a Presidential Envoy be appointed to represent the President in the day-to-day bolting together of a Middle East peace process that can win the support of all parties involved.
In the Middle East of the 21st Century, Iran will be a key center of gravity...a significant regional power. The United States cannot change that reality. America’s strategic 21st century regional policy for the Middle East must acknowledge the role of Iran today and over the next 25 years.
To acknowledge that reality in no way confuses Iran’s dangerous, destabilizing and threatening behavior in the region. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and provides material support to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. Iran publicly threatens Israel and is developing the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has not helped stabilize the current chaos in Iraq and is responsible for weapons and explosives being used against U.S. and Iraqi military forces in Iraq.
Iran must be held accountable for its actions. These actions by Iran are one part of a complicated picture of a country with a three thousand year history, governed by a complex and opaque political structure, burdened by a stagnating economy, and located in a geostrategically unstable region.
As Tom Friedman described in his New York Times column last month, Iran is a country that “regularly holds sort-of-free elections”...where “women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students, and are fully integrated in the work force”...and whose residents “were among the very few in the Muslim world to hold spontaneous pro-U.S. demonstrations” on September 11, 2001. Friedman is correct in his observation that, “the hostility between Iran and the United States since the overthrow of the shah in 1979 is not organic. By dint of culture, history and geography, we actually have a lot of interests in common with Iran’s people.”
Iran has cooperated with the United States on Afghanistan to help the Afghans establish a new government after the Taliban was ousted. Iran continues to invest heavily in the reconstruction of western Afghanistan.
On Afghanistan, the United States and Iran found common interests – defeating the Taliban and Islamic radicals, stabilizing Afghanistan, stopping the opium production and flow of opium coming into Iran. From these common interests emerged common actions working toward a common purpose. It was in the interests of Iran to work with the U.S. in Afghanistan. It was not a matter of helping America or strengthening America’s presence in Central Asia. It was a clear-eyed and self-serving action for Iran.
Complex sets of factors drive the dynamics inside Iran as well as Iran’s actions in the Middle East.
Iran is not monolithic. Iran is governed by competing centers of power. The President and the parliament – known as the Majles – are elected. But it is the Supreme Council, lead by the Supreme Leader...currently Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei...who serves as the Commander in Chief and has formal authority over Iran’s armed forces and foreign policy. Ayatollah Khamenei has the power to dismiss Iran’s President. A separate elected body – the Assembly of Experts – selects...and has the power to dismiss...the Supreme Leader. Yet another body – the Council of Guardians – screens presidential and parliamentary candidates, and reviews laws passed by the Majles. A third body – the Expediency Council – arbitrates disputes between the Council of Guardians and the Majles. Finally, the principal government and clerical officials from all of these entities have a seat on the Supreme National Security Council.
Power and influence in Iran evolve and shift...and are difficult to understand. Supreme Leader Khamenei did not support President Ahmadinejad’s presidential bid. In December 2006, Ahmadinejad’s supporters suffered major defeats in elections for municipal councils and the Assembly of Experts. Last month, an Iranian newspaper owned by Ayatollah Khamenei admonished Ahmadinejad to remove himself from the nuclear issue.
Two-thirds of Iran’s population is under the age of 30. Iran is undergoing a generational shift that will shape Iran’s outlook...and its opinions of the United States...for decades to come. Iran’s young people use the internet in large numbers, wear American jeans, listen to American music and are positive about America and the West. We do not want to lose this pro-American generation by turning them away from us. They are the hope of Iran. They bristle under the heavy yoke of the Ayatollahs’ strident limitations of personal freedom.
Our understanding of Iran is limited and incomplete. We have not had formal diplomatic relations with Iran for nearly three decades. Diplomatic contact at all levels is severely limited. We have no constructive military contact. Economic ties remain essentially severed as well. There is deep distrust and suspicion on both sides regarding intentions and motivations.
Put simply, the United States and Iran do not know one another. This unfamiliarity, distrust, and lack of engagement risks producing disastrous consequences. When countries do not engage, the risk of misperception based on faulty judgments spawns uninformed and dangerous decisions.
The United States needs to weigh very carefully its actions regarding Iran. In a hazy, hair-triggered environment, careless rhetoric and military movements that one side may believe are required to demonstrate resolve and strength...can be misinterpreted as preparations for military options. The risk of inadvertent conflict because of miscalculation is great.
The United States must be cautious and wise not to follow the same destructive path on Iran as we did on Iraq. We blundered into Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed judgments, and questionable intentions.
The United States must find a new regional diplomatic strategy to deal with Iran that integrates our regional allies, military power and economic leverage.
As Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the President’s nominee to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, responded last week to my question regarding Iran before the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, “Iran should be engaged.” He then went on to condition that engagement.
As the 2006 Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq concluded, “The United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues.”
As the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations report on Iran co-chaired by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski concluded, “It is in the interests of the United States to engage selectively with Iran to promote regional stability, dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, preserve reliable energy supplies, reduce the threat of terror, and address the ‘democracy deficit’ that pervades the Middle East as a whole.”
Our differences with Iran are very real. However, by refusing to engage Iran, we are perpetuating dangerous geo-political unpredictabilities. Our refusal to recognize Iran’s influence does not decrease its influence, but rather increases it. Engagement creates dialogue and opportunities to identify common interests, demonstrate America’s strengths, as well as make clear disagreements. Diplomacy is an essential tool in world affairs using it where possible to ratchet down the pressure of conflict and increase the leverage of strength.
Last December, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki announced that his government would convene a regional conference to strengthen regional support for the stability and security of Iraq. All of Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, as well as other key regional and international states and organizations should be encouraged to actively and constructively participate.
A regional conference led by Iraq would be an opportunity for the United States to engage Iran, with an agenda that is open to all areas of agreement and disagreement.
Last month, Dr. Abbas Milani, the co-Director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institute, testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee, saying:
“The US should offer to negotiate with Iran on all the outstanding issues. Comprehensive negotiations are not a "grand bargain." Instead such negotiations can offer [Iran’s leaders] powerful inducements, such as a lifting the economic embargo and even establishing diplomatic ties. But contrary to the "grand bargain" suggestion, central to such negotiations must be the issue of the human rights of the Iranian people. Contrary to the masses of nearly all other Muslim nations, and contrary to the declining popularity of the US in the world, Iranian people are favorably disposed towards the United States. An offer of serious, frank discussions with the regime on all of these issues will, regardless of whether the regime accepts or rejects the offer, be a win-win situation for the United States, for the Iranian democrats and for the existing UN coalition against the regime's adventurism.”
There will be no stability in the Middle East until the broader interests of Iran, the region and the world are addressed.
The United States must be resolute and clear-headed in our dealings with Iran....just as the Administration has been in the latest round of the Six Party Talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The agreement that Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill reached on February 13 with his colleagues from China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia reflects the power of adept diplomacy, supported through regional coordination, strengthened by financial pressure, and our military presence in South Korea, Japan and across the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States must employ similar, wise statecraft to redirect deepening Middle East tensions toward a higher ground of resolution. We must be clear that the United States does not seek regime change in Iran. We must be clear that our objections are to the actions of the Iranian government...not the Iranian people. Our decisions to deploy a second carrier battlegroup and other military assets into the Persian Gulf as well as the decision to target Iranian military assistance flowing into Iraq should be coupled with a clear and credible commitment to diplomatically engage Iran. America must have a strategic and comprehensive Middle East framework of resolution using all the levers of influence available to the U.S. and its allies.
The United States must be prepared to act boldly and exploit opportunities to re-frame our relationship with Iran. Engagement should not be limited to government-to-government contact...but rather find new and imaginative ways to reach out to the Iranian people. Part of that initiative could be offering to re-open a consulate in Tehran...not formal diplomatic relations...but a Consulate...to help encourage and facilitate people-to-people exchange. All nations of Europe and most of our allies in the Middle East and Asia have diplomatic relations with Iran.
The failure of Iran to comply with yesterday’s UN Security Council deadline to halt its uranium enrichment activities should be an opportunity for the United States to reaffirm and expand the international consensus to address Iran’s nuclear program. The will of the international community gives credibility to its demands of Iran.
As Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, wrote in the Washington Post last November:
“A diplomacy that excludes adversaries is a contradiction in terms...Diplomacy – especially with an adversary – can succeed only if it brings about a balance of interests...To evoke a more balanced view should be an important goal for U.S. diplomacy. Iran may come to understand sooner or later that, for the foreseeable future, it is a relatively poor developing country in no position to challenge all the industrialized nations. But such an evolution presupposes the development of a precise and concrete strategic and negotiating program by the United States and its associates.”
Without a wise and integrated strategy, we risk drifting into conflict with Iran.
America’s military might alone will not bring stability and security...to the Middle East. That is an enduring fact of international relations that the late President Ronald Reagan understood well.
Throughout his eight years as President, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a global struggle, the Cold War. It was a war fought using containment, alliances, and political, diplomatic, economic and military power. Yet, nuclear war was averted and no shot was ever fired between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
President Reagan was always clear and resolute that the Soviet Union was our foe....that deep, fundamental differences divided the United States and the Soviet Union. He referred to the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.”
In a speech before the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983, President Reagan said:
“I urge you to beware the temptation of pride - the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault - to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”
Yet it was President Reagan who, in 1986, almost reached an agreement with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to abolish nuclear weapons. President Reagan understood the need for America to engage...to understand our friends and our adversaries...to explore our options...to identify common interests. President Reagan understood that great powers engage because they are secure in their beliefs and purpose but humble and wise in their policies and actions.
The United States must have a policy on Iran...on Iraq...on the broader Middle East...that the American people understand, and will trust and support. Our words and our actions must seek to make America more secure, and the world more peaceful and prosperous. The world must know that, like all sovereign nations, the United States will defend itself and its interests, but that military conflict will always be the last resort.
The American people are deeply concerned about our direction in the Middle East. The American people expect and deserve a strategy that shows prospects for resolution. A U.S. military conflict with Iran would inflame the Middle East and global Muslim populations, crippling U.S. security, political, economic and strategic interests worldwide. I do not believe that the American people will believe that such an outcome improves America’s security, stability and prosperity.
America cannot sustain political, diplomatic, economic or military engagement in the Middle East without the support of the American people. The rising tensions with Iran, the chaos in Iraq, the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict present a deepening crisis in the Middle East. America’s policies must help lead the region out of the crisis. The American people increasingly understand this present and future danger.
Today, some of America’s own actions are undermining the very interests that we must protect and advance in the Middle East. A recent poll conducted by Zogby International in the countries of Arab allies...Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates...found that only twelve percent expressed favorable attitudes toward the United States. As David Ignatius wrote earlier this week in the Washington Post from a conference in Doha, Qatar, “It isn’t a tiny handful of people in the Arab world who oppose what America is doing. It’s nearly everyone.”
If we lose our ability to influence outcomes in the Middle East, the consequences and implications for America and the world will be severe. We risk unstable energy supplies...growth in radical Islamic terrorism...increasing threats to Israel...and nuclear proliferation.
We are living today at an historic transformational time in history. The great challenges of the 21st century will require U.S. leadership that is trusted and respected, not feared nor resented. America cannot project only military power. Inspirational leadership and confidence in America's purpose, not imposed power, will be essential for world peace. If we fail, we will lose the next generation in Iran and around the world. This would result in a far more dangerous world than any we have ever known.
For the 21st Century, the U.S.-Iran relationship will frame the structure and dynamics of the Middle East. We must be sure of our actions and wise with our words. The prospects for peace that have eluded all nations of the Middle East for so long may be on the edge of a convergence of historic intersects. America can help shape the outcome with active and focused diplomacy...worthy of our heritage.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Hagel Sends Letter to Defense Secretary Gates About the Conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
February 21st, 2007 - WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) sent a letter today to United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding reports of dismal living conditions and Army bureaucratic entanglement for service members recovering from war injuries at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. In the letter, Hagel urged Gates to immediately begin a review of the living conditions and health services provided at all military medical facilities.
“We are asking our young men and women to fight and die with the promise that, if necessary, we will provide them the best medical care available. Unfortunately - as illustrated by the piles of paperwork we require service members to complete only to be lost by the Army bureaucracy, the condition of facilities like building 18 at Walter Reed, the poor training of civilian care coordinators and case managers, and the sheer lack of respect for the basic human dignity of these men and women - we are not meeting our promises to those who serve our country. The medical care system is broken and the problem must be fixed now. The Department of Defense needs to immediately begin a review of all military medical facilities and fix these problems,” Hagel said.
This weekend, The Washington Post had a series of stories about the current condition of facilities at Walter Reed Medical Center. To view these stories online please go to, http://www.washingtonpost.com.
Attached is the letter Hagel sent to Defense Secretary Gates.
February 20, 2007
Dear Secretary Gates:
Since we first entered Afghanistan and then Iraq, I have visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda National Naval Medical Center many times, spending time with our war wounded and their families and listening to their stories. I was appalled to read the Washington Post series this weekend about the condition of facilities at Walter Reed.
This is a disgraceful reflection of our government’s lack of attention to those wounded in battle and their convalescence and rehabilitation. I’m sure those who read these stories were shocked by them.
We are asking our young men and women to fight and die with the promise that, if necessary, we will provide them the best medical care available. Unfortunately – as illustrated by the piles of paperwork we require service members to complete only to be lost later by the Army bureaucracy, the condition of facilities like building 18 at Walter Reed, the poor training of civilian care coordinators and case managers, and the sheer lack of respect for the basic human dignity of these men and women – we are not meeting our promises to those who serve our country. The medical care system is broken and the problem must be fixed now. The Department of Defense needs to immediately begin a review of all military medical facilities and fix these problems.
Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve the very best that we can give them – be it medical care, housing facilities, or job training. I understand that you are developing a strategy to address facility repairs at military medical facilities.
I would appreciate your answer to these stories and what plans are underway to immediately deal with them.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Hagel made an articulate, compelling call for a new American comprehensive strategy in the Middle East that includes robust diplomacy, coordination with moderate Sunni regimes in the Middle East and new forms of economic engagement.
Hagel said that the White House keeps focusing on a "military approach" to Iraq. But he stated quite firmly, "the US military will not determine the future of Iraq."
Reed was impressive too -- until he began to focus on his and Hagel's early call for increasing the overall size of the US army. He probably meant "military forces in total" rather than just the "army". Hagel said nothing about this, but Reid made it sound like the key to solving the problem of an over-extended military apparatus is just making it larger.
I think -- and I believe that Hagel believes at some level -- that the first step in solving the "military over-reach" problem is getting better management and figuring out why despite more dollars and resources being thrown at the Pentagon that perceived "security deliverables" are declining.
Hagel said that he would make a statement about his intentions to run for the presidency or not in a few weeks. He reminded listeners that despite Vice President Cheney's recent criticism of Hagel that Congressionaly Quarterly found in a recent survey of 30 key votes that Hagel votes with the Bush administration more than any other U.S. Senator.
Hagel is a classic conservative -- but apparently not the kind of Republican that Dick Cheney likes.
"Used with permission from TPMCafe.com, a service of TPM Media LLC."
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Hagel cheers word of Middle East diplomatic plans
BY JAKE THOMPSON
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is poised to start new diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East, including encouraging a regional security conference that might include Syria and Iran, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said Saturday.
If so, the outreach could add a new element of diplomacy to the region and to ongoing military efforts to quell violence in Iraq, Hagel said in an interview.
Hagel said he and Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, discussed Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East on Saturday.
"I believe the administration is moving in a new positive direction to help and start initiating some new diplomatic efforts in the Middle East," Hagel said. "They can count on my support on this if they start to do some things."
A senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hagel said he believes the administration may be thawing a bit in its hard-line stance against Iran and Syria.
"Yes, absolutely," Hagel said.
The administration has argued against reaching out diplomatically to the two countries because of their ties to terrorist organizations.
In addition, Iran has apparently been moving toward possible development of nuclear weapons, despite strong condemnation by the Bush administration and U.S. allies.
Hagel has long advocated a U.S. role in trying to organize a regional security conference to try to bring stability to Iraq and to move the Middle East peace process forward.
If they meet, the various nations could consider playing roles in promoting jobs, security, deterring terrorism and resolution of the ethnic and religious differences now plaguing Iraq, Hagel said.
The United States shouldn't be in charge of the conference but should try orchestrating a meeting among the other nations, he said.
Such a conference might help defuse growing tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Middle East outside Iraq, he said.
"It takes a lot of pressure off the administration if they can start some of these initiatives," Hagel said, adding he told Hadley, "Tell the president I'll be right with him on it as I have been on India, as I have on trade and so many of his diplomatic initiatives."
Saturday, February 17, 2007
February 16th, 2007 -
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced legislation today that would amend the eligibility for the military death gratuity paid to the next of kin of military personnel killed while on active duty. By law, the death gratuity benefit goes first to a spouse or a child. This legislation would provide, in cases where a minor child is the next of kin, the ability for the service member to designate the grandparents, siblings, or guardian to receive part or all of the benefit to care for the child.
“As we face the challenges of the 21st Century, servicemen and women sacrificing for their country in a time of war should be assured that their families will be taken care of. The loss of a loved one is a tremendous emotional hardship for families. This is common sense legislation that will ensure that when the next of kin is a child, the death gratuity may be immediately available to the child’s guardian, if so designated,” Hagel said.
Under current law, when the next of kin is a child, the death gratuity is not accessible until the child turns 18, unless a state court decides to allocate the death gratuity to a guardian. Often, if the state probate court does grant access to a guardian, it can take a great deal of time and cost additional money to gain such access.
The military death gratuity is money provided within 72 hours to families of service members who are killed while on active duty. In 2004, Senator Hagel introduced legislation to raise the death gratuity to $100k. This provision was included in the FY05 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law on January 6, 2006.
Friday, February 16, 2007
February 15th, 2007 -
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced a Senate Resolution today designating August 16, 2007 as “National Airborne Day.” August 16, 2007 will be the 67th Anniversary of the first official jump by the Army Parachute Test Platoon. The resolution was co-sponsored by Senators Reed (D-RI), Clinton (D-NY), Burr (R-NC), Reid (D-NV), Snowe (R-ME), Kerry (D-MA), and Gregg (R-NH). It will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
“Over the last 67 years, U.S. airborne forces have performed important military and peace-keeping operations throughout the world, including Operation Iraqi Freedom. August 16th is a day to celebrate and thank Airborne veterans and Airborne units for their tireless commitment to our Nation's defense and for the ideals of duty, honor and country they embody,” Hagel said.
On June 25, 1940, the War Department authorized the Parachute Test Platoon to experiment with the potential use of airborne troops. The Parachute Test Platoon, which was composed of 48 volunteers, performed the first official Army parachute jump on August 16th. The success of the Platoon led to the formation of a large and successful airborne contingent that has served from World War II until the present.
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division Association have recognized Hagel for his efforts to designate the date as “National Airborne Day.” Since 2004 Hagel has introduced, and the Senate has passed, a Senate Resolution designating August 16th as “National Airborne Day.”
February 15th, 2007 -
WASHINGTON, D.C. – United States Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced today the Military Health Care Protection Act, a bill to place reasonable and affordable caps on enrollment fees, deductibles and pharmacy co-payments for more than an estimated six million active duty military personnel, National Guard, Reserves, retirees and their families.
The fiscal year 2007 Pentagon budget would triple health fees for nearly two million military retirees under age 65 and their dependents. The Hagel-Lautenberg bill will block the following proposed increases in military health care costs:
• Raising the $230 single/$460 family TRICARE Prime enrollment fee to as high as $700 and $1,400, respectively.
• Raising the annual $150 single/$300 family TRICARE Standard fees to as high as $560 and $1,120, respectively.
In addition, under the Pentagon’s proposed budget, retail pharmacy co-pays would be raised 67 percent for all active duty military personnel, National Guard, Reserves, retirees and their families.
“America’s career military service members make tremendous sacrifices in service to our country. We cannot burden our military retirees and their families with dramatic increases in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. It is wrong to increase healthcare fees on the men and women who have already contributed greatly to our nation before addressing current inefficiencies in the TRICARE system,” Senator Chuck Hagel said.
“We need to provide our troops with the best equipment money can buy. But we also must provide them and their families, as well as those who have retired, the best quality healthcare at the most affordable price,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said. “If we tell our soldiers and sailors it is their duty to protect America, it is our duty to provide for them when they return and retire.”
The Hagel-Lautenberg legislation also establishes that the percentage of increase in retirees’ health fees in any given year should not exceed the percentage of increase in their compensation.
Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, President of the Military Officers Association of America, and Joe Barnes, National Exec Secretary of the Fleet Reserve Association, joined Hagel and Lautenberg to introduce the Military Health Care Protection Act.
“We’re extremely grateful to Senators Hagel and Lautenberg for sponsoring this legislation to protect military beneficiaries,” said Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, Jr. (USN-Ret), President of the Military Officers Association of America. “Their bill offers an important reminder that active duty, Guard, Reserve, and retired servicemembers have paid far greater premiums for their health coverage than any other segment of our society—and prepaid them up front, through decades of arduous service and sacrifice.”
A coalition of 35 military associations have pledged their support for the bill.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
February 13th, 2007 -
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) re-introduced a Senate Resolution today recognizing the importance of increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders. Autism is a brain disorder that typically affects a person’s ability to communicate effectively and form social relationships. The resolution recognizes the importance of supporting programs for increased research and improved treatment of autism, and lending support to individuals with autism and those who care for them. The resolution also designates April 2007 as “National Autism Awareness Month.”
“This resolution recognizes the importance of autism awareness. The prevalence of autism among children remains high, while the causes of autism are poorly understood and there is no cure. It is critical to support research and improve treatments of autism that will foster the health and well-being of autistic individuals,” Hagel said.
On February 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated statistics on the prevalence of autism among children. Research reveals that children with autism are more common in the communities studied than previously thought. Estimates now show autism affects an average of 1 child in 150, compared with previous estimates of 1 child in 166.
Hagel introduced this resolution in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Senators Feingold (D-WI) and Stabenow (D-MI) are co-sponsors of this resolution.
Run Chuck, Run
by Jon Harrison
As we go from bad to worse in the Middle East, one senator stands out as an alternative to the Bush administration and its policy of escalating violence and death. That senator is Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska).
Hagel served in combat during the Vietnam War. He knows very well the cost -- in blood, fear, and anguish -- that war imposes on our soldiers. As a presidential hopeful he would be the candidate not just of the peace party, but of his fellow grunts as well.
Despite misgivings, Hagel voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002. Like many others in Congress, he has come to oppose the war. Unlike many of his fellow legislators, however, Hagel went into opposition well before the war became unpopular with the country at large.
His principled stand on this and other issues has left him with few friends among the conservative base of the Republican Party. The race for the Republican nomination for president would, clearly, be an uphill one for Hagel. But the dynamic may be changing. Peggy Noonan recently came out in praise of Hagel on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Unquestionably, there is a growing hunger in the country for truth-telling about Iraq. No Republican has been speaking the truth about Iraq longer than Chuck Hagel has.
Does history repeat itself? Well, the election of 2000 sure looked a lot like that of 1876, did it not? Today, Iraq looks more and more like Vietnam. If President Bush's "surge" in Iraq goes sour, and we find ourselves spiraling into disaster in the Middle East, 2008 may look a lot like 1968 -- the country in chaos as a result of an unpopular and unwinnable war. The prospects for an anti-war Republican with Hagel's credentials might then be very different.
I mentioned a changing dynamic. I haven't voted in a presidential election in twenty years, but I've already sent in my name as a volunteer for the Hagel campaign, should the Senator decide to run. It takes an awful lot to make a cynic like me get up and volunteer for anything.
We're fed up with this war, and with Bush. Run Chuck, run.
Jon Harrison is a freelance writer living in Vermont.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
February 2007 - Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I rise to join my colleagues, Senators WARNER, COLLINS, and others, in offering this amendment to the continuing resolution.
Last week, Senators COLLINS, SNOWE, SMITH, VOINOVICH, COLEMAN, and myself sent a letter to the Senate leadership urging our distinguished majority and minority leaders to reach an agreement so the Senate could debate the war in Iraq.
We said, and I quote from that letter:
The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country.
In the letter, we pledged to--again quoting the letter--``explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor.'' That, of course, is why we are here today.
I, similar to my colleagues, am deeply disappointed that a full and open debate on Iraq remains stymied in the Senate. All Members--Members of both parties--have the right and responsibility to present their views and, if they choose, submit other resolutions regarding the war in Iraq.
I am also deeply disappointed that both sides have used procedural tactics in this process. My colleagues and I were assured that the leaders were committed to reaching an agreement on this debate. That has not yet happened, and I, similar to my colleagues, intend to do everything in my power as a Senator to ensure a full and open debate of the Iraq war on the Senate floor in front of the American people. We owe it to our soldiers and their families, and we owe it to the American people.
I wish to focus on one particular aspect of this debate and that has to do with the resolution itself--the relevancy and importance of Senate resolutions. In the last 15 years, there is ample, strong, and significant precedent in the Senate debating a President's military policies while troops are deployed overseas--Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo. In each of those situations, I and many of my colleagues here today in the Senate debated and most of us voted binding and nonbinding resolutions regarding U.S. military operations abroad. Many of these measures expressed opposition to the military operations, criticizing, for example, one, the open-ended nature of the deployment; two, the danger of mission creep or escalation of military involvement; three, the danger of deploying U.S. forces into sectarian conflict; and four, the failure of the President to consult with Congress.
It might be instructive to review some of the Senate's history on these recent debates regarding these recent resolutions. Let me begin with Bosnia.
In June of 1992, U.S. forces began to deploy to Bosnia. In December 1995, the United States was preparing to deploy substantial ground forces into Bosnia, roughly 20,000 American ground force combat troops, very similar to the number we are now looking at in the President's escalation of more American troops into Iraq today.
As a result of President Clinton's decision in 1995, the Senate considered Senate Concurrent Resolution 35, a resolution submitted by our colleague from Texas, the senior Senator, Mrs. Hutchison. This resolution was a nonbinding resolution. Again, this was a nonbinding resolution. This resolution said:
The Congress opposes President Clinton's decision to deploy United States military ground forces into the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement the General Framework Agreement for peace Ðin Bosnia. .....
This resolution also said:
Congress strongly supports the United States military personnel who may be ordered by the President to implement the general framework for the peace in Bosnia.
So, therefore, it is saying we support our troops, but we disapprove of the President's policy to send more troops. This resolution also said it was a continuation of the previous debate on support of the troops already deployed.
As Senator Hutchison said on the Senate floor on December 13:
There are many of us who do not think that this is the right mission, but who are going to go full force to support our troops. In fact, we believe we are supporting our troops in the most effective way by opposing this mission because we think it is the wrong one. .....
A month earlier in November 1995, Senator Hutchison framed the complexities of our military intervention in Bosnia in terms that are eerily relevant to today. She said:
I am very concerned that we are also setting a precedent for our troops to be deployed on the ground in border conflicts, in ethnic conflicts, in civil wars. .....
Opposition to the President's policy but strong support for the U.S. military--this is similar to the debate we are having today on Iraq.
Senator Hutchison's resolution had 28 cosponsors, including our friends and colleagues, Senators INHOFE, CRAIG, KYL, LOTT, BENNETT, HATCH, SHELBY, and STEVENS.
On December 13, 1995, 47 Senators voted in favor of Senator Hutchison's nonbinding resolution. That day, 47 Senators believed you could oppose the President's policy but still support our troops.
The next day, December 14, 1995, the Senate considered Senate Joint Resolution 44, a binding resolution introduced by Senator Dole. This resolution supported U.S. troops in Bosnia. This resolution had six cosponsors, including our colleagues, Senators MCCAIN and LIEBERMAN.
On December 14, 1995, the Senate adopted this resolution by a vote of 69 to 30. That was Bosnia in 1995.
Somalia: In December 1992, U.S. troops began to deploy to Somalia. Nearly a year later, in September 1993, the Senate debated the objectives, the mission, and strategy of our military deployment in Somalia. Speaking on the Senate floor on September 23, 1993, Senator McCain framed the debate when he said:
Somalia is a prime example of lofty ambitions gone awry. Our service men and women have become ..... part of a mission to build Somalia into a stable democracy--something, incidentally, it has never been, and shows no sign of ever becoming this decade.
The manner in which military force is to be used to further this grandiose objective has been left unclear. Without a clear military objective, our forces in Somalia have found themselves involved in a situation where they cannot distinguish between friend and foe. They have often been presented with situations where they cannot even distinguish between civilians and combatants.
On September 9, the Senate voted 90 to 7 to adopt a nonbinding--a nonbinding--sense-of-Congress resolution submitted by Senator Byrd. This resolution called on the President to outline the goals, objectives, and duration of the U.S. deployment in Somalia and said Congress believes the President ``should seek and receive congressional authorization in order for the deployment of U.S. forces to Somalia to continue.''
There are 11 cosponsors of the Byrd measure, including our colleagues, Senators MCCAIN, COCHRAN, BOND, and WARNER.
One month later, after the horrible death of 18 U.S. troops in early October, the Senate considered two binding measures to cut off funds, one introduced by Senator McCain and one by Senator Byrd.
On October 15, 1993, the McCain measure, which would have terminated further U.S. military operations in Somalia, was tabled 61 to 38. That same day, the Senate voted 76 to 23 to adopt the Byrd measure to cut off all funding in March 1994 for U.S. forces in Somalia.
There are two more very clear examples, such as the examples I have given on Somalia and Bosnia, that I could discuss--Haiti and Kosovo--in some detail, and I may do that later. But the point is, the facts are clear. There is clear precedent--clear precedent--for both binding and nonbinding resolutions, as well as legislation to redirect, condition or cut off funds for military operations, and this is at the same time we have and we had military forces in those countries.
So to argue, to state, to imply this is somehow not only irrelevant but unprecedented is not the case. The Congress has always had a responsibility, not just constitutionally but morally, to inject itself in the great debate of war.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, will the Senator yield on that very point?
Mr. HAGEL. Yes, I yield to Senator Warner.
Mr. WARNER. We had in our discussions, and Senator Collins joined in this discussion--that we could not conceive--and that I, this Senator from Virginia, could ever participate in a cutoff-of-funding in regards to this situation in Iraq.
But back to historical precedents. I have this volume, the ``Encyclopedia of the United States Congress,'' compiled by 20 eminent historians in 1995. And on this subject that the Senator addressed, they said the following:
Another informal power of the Congress in the foreign policy field is the passage of resolutions by the House or the Senate, often called a sense-of-the-House or sense-of-the-Senate resolution. Although not legally enforceable, such resolutions are often taken seriously by the President and his foreign policy advisers because they are useful indicators of underlying public concern about important foreign policy questions. Moreover, as a general rule, the White House wants to maintain cooperative relations with the Congress and to give legislators the impression that their views have been heard and have been taken into account in policy formulation.
Clear documentation of the Senator's points in this very erudite resource of the history of the Congress. I thank the Senator.
Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Virginia.
In conclusion, I add that the American people have had enough of the misrepresentations, the politics, and the procedural intrigue in the Senate. I say again to our distinguished leaders of both our parties: It is your responsibility, as leaders of this body, to resolve this procedural dispute so that the Senate can have a full, fair, open debate on the war in Iraq. And I will continue to join my colleagues--Senators WARNER, COLLINS, SNOWE, and others--in making every effort to bring up our resolution at every available opportunity until that debate occurs.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
February 2007 - Madam President, I will not speak to the specifics of the resolution or resolutions, but I am confident we will be allowed to debate this week. I say that because I know--and I have complete confidence in the two leaders--that they will, in fact, find an accommodation. They each understand how critically important this debate is for our country and for the world.
I have listened carefully this afternoon to my colleagues, and there will be more intense and engaged and enlightened debate this week. But I believe what we are about here--and we will be about this week--is something far more important than just constitutional responsibilities or resolutions. What we are about is finding a policy worthy of our young men and women and their families who go off to fight and die in a very difficult war. That is what we owe our troops. That is what we owe this country. That is what we owe the world.
It surely is not and cannot be a weakness for America, as seen in the eyes of the world, to openly debate the most critically important issue that any of us will ever debate; that is, war. That is the strength of America, not the weakness of America. The reason America has prospered for over 200 years is because the world has had confidence not in its power, trusted not its power, but trusted America's purpose.
In 1968, when I served with my brother and many others in Vietnam--and I believe I speak for most who were there then, and I have heard from a lot of Vietnam veterans about this debate--I believe that in 1968, the troops, the ones at the bottom doing the fighting and the dying, would have welcomed the Congress of the United States into a debate about Vietnam. They would have welcomed somebody paying attention rather than just going along.
No, Madam President, that is a strength of this country. And surely we have clear constitutional responsibilities. How could anyone argue differently? We have clear constitutional responsibilities here.
I heard my colleague from Connecticut talking about nonbinding resolutions. I don't doubt his staff's research, but I remind the Senator that over the last 12 years there have been a number of nonbinding resolutions debated on this floor--on Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, and others. I remind some of my colleagues who do not believe it is in the interest of our country or our troops to talk about nonbinding resolutions, papier mache resolutions, senseless resolutions, that they actually voted for some of those resolutions over the last 12 years. I would be very happy to provide for the record a list of how everybody in this Chamber voted over the last 12 years, if they were here, on those resolutions. It might be very interesting and enlightening. Surely it is not because one political party controls the White House and the other does not. Surely it cannot be that.
The National Intelligence Estimate summary--unclassified portions--was made public on Friday. Those watching should have a clear understanding of what that document is and who produced that document. That document is an accumulation of the 16 intelligence agencies of this country. None that I am aware of has had the integrity of the institution they represent--any of those 16--ever impugned on questions of quality of research--maybe other facets of intelligence but not the integrity of the intent of the product. The National Intelligence Estimate says that we are involved today, and have been, in Iraq in not just a sectarian conflict--a violent, vicious sectarian conflict--but an intrasectarian conflict. Is it not time and don't our troops and the American people expect the Congress, after 4 years, when things have gotten progressively worse, not better, to engage? And is it not our responsibility to address the issue of escalating our military involvement, putting American troops in the middle of a sectarian-intrasectarian war? Is that not our responsibility? Of course, it is our responsibility.
Madam President, I will have more to say as the debate goes forward this week. As I noted, I have every confidence in our two leaders that they will work out a resolution where we will have this debate because it is clearly in the interest of our country, clearly in the interest of our troops.
With that, I yield back my time and yield the floor.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Published Sunday, February 11, 2007
Hagel says U.S. will need moral purpose in a connected world
BY JAKE THOMPSON
WASHINGTON - Faced with complicated global challenges, America must earn the trust of the world's next generation - not by flexing military might but with moral purpose, Nebraska's Sen. Chuck Hagel said Saturday.
America's security challenges - including threats of terrorism, pandemic health dangers, budget deficits and the energy supply - requires it to build a new relationship with a new international generation, Hagel told an audience of more than 500 at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.
That generation is huge; 2.4 billion people alive today are younger than 20 years old.
Beyond numbers, the human condition always drives world events, Hagel said.
Half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. About 1 billion lack potable drinking water, 2 billion lack proper sanitation and another 2 billion live without electricity, he said."
For America and the world to continue to improve the human condition, it will require the trust and confidence of the world's next generation. If we fail, our children and grandchildren will inherit a very dangerous world," Hagel said in his speech.
Hagel, a possible 2008 Republican presidential contender, told students, faculty and others that despite the obstacles, America faces "limitless opportunities" because many issues are interconnected globally.
Climate change, terrorism, pandemic health worries, poverty and the spread of radical fundamentalism cannot be solved without U.S. leadership working with allies for common solutions, he said."
The world knows America's power. No nation rivals us in terms of military and economic might," Hagel said."
But in the 21st century it will be the next global generation's trust in America's purpose, not their fear of our power or envy of our economy that will determine our future."
He told the students in his audience that they are part of that next generation, one that represents the greatest force for change in the world.
While much in modern society divides Americans into categories - Republican, Democrat, conservative, moderate, old, young or poor - Hagel said all share a belief in the creator, families, friends, community "and in something larger than our own individual self-interests."
America will meet its challenges because it always has, he said."
We must never forget that our greatest responsibility in life, in every way, in everything we do, is to help make a better world."
Hagel was the keynote speaker for the annual Charter Day event at William and Mary. The nation's second-oldest college, it was chartered 314 years ago. He was awarded an honorary doctorate.
WASHINGTON - A band of Republican senators, including Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, threatened Wednesday to shut down the Senate until it debates a resolution disagreeing with President Bush's troop surge for Iraq.
Seven GOP senators wrote the chamber's leaders of both parties, calling on them to work out a deal to resurrect the resolution that Republican senators stalled Monday with a filibuster and possibly other resolutions."
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a press conference before speaking to Republicans during the Michigan GOP Convention in Grand Rapids, Mich. Saturday.
Romney reminded the crowd that he grew up sharing the Automotive News each morning with his father, George, who headed American Motors Corp. before becoming Michigan's governor from 1963-69.
The younger Romney, himself a former Massachusetts governor, said his father brought many of the lessons he learned from business to the governorship.
"He got Michigan moving again," Romney said, before running through his stands opposing abortion, favoring the restriction of marriage to a man and a woman and backing controls on illegal immigration. "It's time for Republican principles to come back to Michigan again."
Brownback, the Kansas senator who is running as the conservative heart of the party, earned a warm reception with his pledges to protect life and the traditional family.
He also called for wiping out cancer in 10 years and for putting more resources into alternative energy.
"Michigan is going to be a key state in getting that done," he said, noting its efforts to encourage the production of ethanol and biodiesel.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Hagel and Webb: Two profiles in courage
BY JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
It probably was too much to hope that a Congress run by the Democrats would in a few weeks find the courage to begin living up to its constitutional responsibilities and start reining in an out-of-control administration and putting a damper on a lost war.
But after six years of a Congress controlled by Republicans and operated as a shameless kleptocracy and a gutless rubber-stamp for the White House, there's at least a glimmering of hope for change.
To date, only two senators, one from each party, have demonstrated both character and the courage of their convictions -- Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Jim Webb, D-Va.
Both Hagel and Webb are combat veterans of the Vietnam War. Hagel was an Army grunt who served with the 9th Division in the Mekong Delta. Webb was a Marine lieutenant, an Annapolis graduate who served in I Corps. Both were wounded in combat. Both have an intimate knowledge of what it's like to slog through rice paddies and jungles where death is ever present. Both know what it's like to soldier in a war that has been completely screwed up by civilian politicians.
Webb opposed President Bush's war in Iraq from its inception, while Hagel voted for the war powers resolution in 2003 and then drifted into opposition over time. The two of them now maintain their opposition as a point of principle, and both have raised their voices in this new Congress while all around them dither and quibble.
We even were treated to the spectacle of members of Congress asking the president's lawyer, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whether Congress has any right under the Constitution, which Gonzales and Bush have trampled underfoot, to halt a war that the legislature opposes.
Has none of them read our Constitution? Can none of them find a better lawyer or scholar to interpret it for them? Who goes hat-in-hand to the fox to interpret the rules that govern hens and henhouses?
We already have an overabundance of candidates of both parties applying for a four-year lease on the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and all of them are dancing a minuet around the elephant in the room -- the Iraq War. They posture and preen and make speeches and issue statements as they tiptoe gingerly to avoid saying what most Americans want to hear: I know a way out of Iraq.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is a Vietnam veteran, too, although he fought from the cockpit of a Navy jet fighter until he was shot down and became a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton. McCain has gone in the opposite direction from Hagel and Webb as he tries to woo the Republican base and convince right-wingers and evangelical Christians that he has forsaken his heretic ways. McCain wants not only a surge in Iraq but also a much larger escalation than Bush's 21,500 troops. McCain says that 100,000 more troops are more like it.
McCain has bet all his chips that the hawkish right will win him the presidency. He'll find out soon enough how wise a wager he has made. Meantime, Bush -- who got us stuck up to our Adam's apple in the quicksand of Iraq and won't lead us out -- is scaring the bejesus out of everyone by maneuvering and posturing and threatening Iran.
A second U.S. carrier battle group is on its way to the Persian Gulf. There's talk of sending a third carrier group. The Navy already has dispatched additional minesweepers to those troubled waters. The Pentagon and the president have assigned a Navy fighter pilot admiral as the new commander of U.S. Central Command, which makes no sense at all unless you anticipate naval and air action against Iran.
While most politicians dance and dither and the president grasps at straws in Iraq and red-hot pokers just across the border, the grinding down of our Army and Marine Corps accelerates and the sacrifices of our troops and their families grow heavier and more painful.
Chuck Hagel and Jim Webb need to speak even louder and much more often. Who knows? By year's end a Hagel-Webb ticket might just be what America needs.
Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Meet the new John McCain -- and the new Bob Dole
BY JAMES P. PINKERTON
It's official: Chuck Hagel is the new John McCain, getting the glowing treatment from glam publications such as GQ. And John McCain is the new Bob Dole -- and we know what kind of press Dole got. Perhaps I should explain.
Once upon a time -- say, five years ago -- the liberal media were infatuated with McCain. Yes, the Republican senator from Arizona was a hard-line conservative on most matters, but he was sufficiently unorthodox on a few issues (campaign finance, global warming, tax cuts) to be newsworthy. In addition, McCain was enough of a George W. Bush basher to keep reporters interested in what he might say next.
But the Mainstream Media's affection for the senator has come to an end, for two reasons: First, McCain, now seeking to inherit the Bush political legacy -- at least until he nails down the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- is now posing as Bush's best buddy, and the media aren't going to buddy up to that. Second, the Iraq War. The media, and most of the country, have reached a negative judgment on the war, and so the McCain campaign plank ''If you like Bush's foreign policy, you'll love my foreign policy'' is understandably playing poorly in Manhattan and Los Angeles.
So say goodbye to the media's portrayal of ''St. John'' McCain, the flinty, brave maverick. And say hello, instead, to a new ''Bob Dole-ized'' McCain. Like the Kansas Republican, who, as a 70-something, was portrayed during the 1996 presidential campaign mostly as a cranky and ranting old man, the 70-year-old Arizonan is being portrayed that way now.
Republicans eager to hold the White House in 2008 might factor that media reality into their nomination calculations. McCain might have ''earned'' the GOP nod in `08 through deference to the incumbent president, but the electorate as a whole might see such loyalty in a hostile light.
But of course, just as the media take away, the media also give. And the recipient of media blessings these days is Chuck Hagel, senator from Nebraska. As a Republican critical of the Bush policy in Iraq, Hagel is infinitely more valuable to the anti-war cause than a mere Democrat. After all, nobody is surprised anymore when a Democrat opposes the war, but it's notable when a Republican breaks ranks with his own party's president -- especially when he uses such punchy language, referring to the Iraq surge as the ``most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.''
Such hot talk has earned Hagel a place of honor in the pages of GQ magazine's January issue, under the headline ''The Angry One.'' And the object of much of Hagel's anger, of course -- to the media's obvious delight -- is Bush and his neoconservative coterie.
So the liberal-media beat goes on, especially in the wake of Hagel's vote -- played prominently on all the broadcast news channels last week -- alongside the Democrats on an anti-surge resolution.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann declared last Friday night that Hagel's position on the war was ''breathtaking,'' then heaped more praise on the Cornhusker: ''He sounds like me on civil liberties,'' Olbermann pronounced admiringly.
That's the media sweet spot that McCain once occupied -- till the pressies soured on him.
So what does it mean for the future of national politics if Hagel is the new McCain? Two conclusions:
• First, the Nebraskan is now viewed with deep suspicion among many rank-and-file Republicans -- the folks who control the GOP nomination process.
• Second, as his stock goes down among Republicans, it goes up among independents. Even liberals might conclude that it will take a certified war hero -- Hagel won two Purple Hearts in Vietnam -- to make a credible exit from Iraq.
All of which means there's a chance for Hagel to follow in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912: He could bolt the GOP and run a credible independent bid for the White House. He might even win.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
After making the case for a presidential bid by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) on Wednesday, we promised you the case against on Thursday. But events intervened, as The Fix was traveling and wasn't able to find a reliable connection to the Internet.
So, today we provide the promised case against a Hagel candidacy:
Mavericks Never Win
Primaries -- especially presidential primaries -- are about appealing to base voters. For Republicans, that means emphasizing a strong national defense, cutting taxes and saying all the right things about hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Hagel is far from the perfect fit for this sort of voter.
On the war in Iraq, he has been highly critical of President Bush -- more often finding agreement with the Democrats on the issue than with his own party. Regardless of where the nation as a whole is in regards to the war, the base of the Republican Party remains largely supportive of Bush's effort and views any call for a withdrawal as a recipe for a loss.
Hagel would almost certainly appeal to the segment of Republican voters that wants a change of course in Iraq and is ready to elect someone who represents a wide divergence from the current president. But it seems unlikely that Hagel would find a big enough niche as the anti-Bush candidate to make a real impact in the GOP primaries.
Need evidence of the difficulty as running as the anti-establishment candidate? Go back to 2000 when Sen. John McCain ran a campaign centered on his willingness to buck the party establishment. McCain's overall Senate record was quite conservative, but he chose to emphasize the fact that he was willing to speak truth to power -- regardless of who held power at the time.
Many voters (especially independents, Democrats and moderate-minded Republicans) flocked to that message, but McCain was not able to overcome the resistance of the conservative wing of his party. That bloc of voters played a crucial role in stunting McCain's momentum in the South Carolina primary. Hagel faces a similar scenario, even if he can gain real traction in the early primary states.
The other major problem he has is that McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are already well on their way to raising tens of millions of dollars and building the state and national networks necessary to sustain a presidential bid. Hagel, in contrast, has done little to convince party insiders he is serious about a run for national office. He has hired no staff of note in early states and has not concentrated on raising money either through his Senate campaign committee ($141,000 on hand at the end of 2006) or PAC ($39,000). He appears visibly uncertain about whether he should run for president, reelection to the Senate or not all in 2008.
Yet he's leading over Romney in several polls. For someone who hasn't declared his candidacy, he's doing VERY well.
Donors don't like uncertainty in a candidate, so it's not hard to understand why Hagel has yet to generate any significant buzz in the financial world of the Republican Party. That lack of intensity is made worse by the fact that Nebraska is not anything close to a lucrative financial center where he could extract the seed money ($5 to $10 million) he would need to get a presidential bid off the ground.
He can get money from his Senatorial reelection campaign which some have donated to.
Hagel's lack of financial resources -- and his dim prospects for a huge boost in the near future -- means that he would likely be hamstrung during the primary season against better-financed rivals. Even if Hagel's message if truly compelling, many people in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire may never get to hear it.
As The Fix argued on Wednesday, Hagel's best bet is to try and make an impact in Iowa. He could pour his entire budget into the state in hopes of finishing in the top three and scoring a bounce into New Hampshire -- a state that has rewarded renegade Republicans before (e.g. McCain in 2000).
But Hagel faces stiff competition from other candidates who also need to make a big statement in Iowa: McCain, who skipped the state in 2000, knows he must do well there in 2008; Sen. Sam Brownback (Kans.) and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.) are also pointing to the state as their first and best chance to grasp the mantle of conservative alternative in the race.
Not a good playing field for the Nebraska senator.
And the biggest mistake over all: it's a year away. A LOT can happen - and most of the time, the "front runner" doesn't win.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Hagel Cosponsors Bipartisan Resolution Putting Senate on Record Opposing Additional U.S. Troops to Iraq
February 1st, 2007 - Hagel Cosponsors Bipartisan Resolution Putting Senate on Record Opposing Additional U.S. Troops to Iraq WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) released the following statement today regarding his support for the revised Warner Resolution: “After extensive hearings, negotiations, and debate, the Senate has taken an important step toward sending a clear bipartisan message against adding 21,500 new U.S. troops to Iraq. I have appreciated working with Senators Warner and Levin to meld our two different Congressional Resolutions into one bipartisan resolution. We approached Senator Warner several times to try and resolve the differences. Last night, we came together to produce this resolution. We have agreed to a responsible and constructive resolution that reflects America’s interests in Iraq and the Middle East. “Next week’s debate will be important to the American people and put the Senate on record as to America’s future course in Iraq. War is the most important and serious issue Congress and the American people will ever deal with.”
People say politics make them sick. Last December, I found myself bent double in a Schapiro bathroom, cursing the irony of that figure of speech-I was probably the first in a long line of political junkies following this marathon 2008 presidential race to actually start throwing up. I'd just been an unpaid guest at a fundraiser for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's possible run, and a simple thought process began floating through my head: 1. I hope Giuliani's as sick off of his hors d'oeuvres as I am. 2. He's the "frontrunner" of my party? God help us. 3. I should've at least taken advantage of that free alcohol and gotten really sick. 4. Is there no alternative?
Well, according to polls in various early primary states, Giuliani is indeed in the lead for the Republican Party's nomination. Why's that a bad thing? Long story short-Giuliani is a firm supporter of the war in Iraq because, in his own words, "We didn't start this war." Those words came from that December fundraiser, but he's elaborated on them before, saying, "Bush stood amid the fallen towers of the World Trade Center and said... 'They will hear from us.' They have heard from us! [...] They heard from us in Iraq, and we ended Saddam Hussein's reign of terror."
I watched the attendees of the crowded fundraiser shoot each other concerned looks. Oblivious, the former mayor waxed poetic about the "pillars of the global terrorism movement." Even the well-groomed Armani-clad Princeton grads in front of me looked uncharacteristically skittish. News flash, Rudy, they seemed to say-this is not a James Bond movie. There's no mysterious organization behind every single violent group, led by a cat-stroking Bin Laden that mysteriously pulls strings in the "Axis Of Evil," causing "Islamo-fascists" to magically pop up and hate us for our freedom. And there is positively no link-none, zilch-between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.
We Republicans lost the Senate and House in 2006 by trying to sell that moronic reductionist snake oil to a public that wanted actual solutions. Even more embarrassingly, we lost out to small-government Democrats like Jon Tester in places like Montana. The lesson seems clear-if we try running that stupid party line in 2008 when the death toll's even higher, we'll not only usher in the biggest Democratic sweep since Nixon's ouster, but we'll also cause more failures and chaos abroad in the name of hollow "victories" and more coffins at home. In the upcoming presidential election, we need to run a realist conservative who's willing to listen to reason, not another windbag who lacks any desire to talk about the realities of war.
Frontrunner Rudy isn't the only one barking up the wrong tree. John McCain, for example, has staked his fortune on this "troop surge" policy, even as he quietly seethed to The Today Show on Jan. 4 that it probably should be higher than 20,000, based on how peachy things are going at present. There's only one potential candidate I've seen from my party's field that's willing to discuss terror and foreign policy as real issues rather than empty talking points-and he's a staunch fiscal conservative with a record to appease the family values crowd, despite not caring if states allow civil unions for gay people.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. Consider Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He's been speaking out against the administration's conduct in the Iraq war since it rolled into Baghdad, and he should be our next president. For a long time, he was a black sheep in the Republican Party, despite the fact that he was the senator that most stringently toed the White House's line on issues like tax cuts in 2006. He was ostracized by Dick Cheney and largely ignored by the media.
Ignored until now, that is. He's put his foot down on this half-hearted and ill-planned "troop surge," going so far as to say, "I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy [in Iraq.]" For those cowardly rhetoricians who'd rather cling to talking points on either side of the aisle than develop a cohesive solution, he has a pretty simple message: "Why are you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes." He's looking for actual debate on alternatives, instead of bleating on about "victory or defeat," like Joe Lieberman or Rudy Giuliani.
Chuck Hagel is not the "perfect" candidate for everyone. But he's willing to talk with others even as this supposedly proactive Democratic Congress drags its feet and holds empty oversight meetings. It's only fitting to close with a quote from John F. Kennedy, across the political aisle: "Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer." Chuck Hagel's seeking that answer, and we, regardless of political affiliation, need to work to put him in the White House. These brain-dead blowhards in nice suits talking about "pillars of global terrorism" make me sick-figuratively, in this case. Real problems call for real solutions, and Chuck Hagel can finally provide those when we need them most.