The following is an opinion article in the Miami Herald
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.