Chuck Hagel: Moving the Party


What a shame President Bush doesn't listen more to GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska instead of Vice President Cheney and his obstinate advisers on Iraq.

Hagel has largely been a voice in the wilderness in his party, but his views on Iraq are spreading to other worried Republicans in Congress. They realize Bush's unwillingness to change course is a pending disaster for them in next year's elections.

In an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation, Hagel made points on Iraq that should be compared by all of us with Bush's views:

  • Hagel said the civil sectarian war required a political solution. Bush and Cheney like to talk about ultimate victory--meaning a military victory.
  • Hagel said the war is not a front-line battle against terrorism. Bush, Cheney, and their friends often link terrorism to the war in their speeches.
  • Hagel said war, any war, should never be a partisan issue. Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and GOP leaders in Congress thrive on cheap shots against Democrats as "defeatists" or worse.
  • Hagel is a lifelong Republican who maintains that his party "has been hijacked by single-minded isolationists." That is hardly going to go over with right-wingers if he decides to run for president.

    Hagel met recently with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, spurring some chatter of their leading a third-party or independent movement next year.

    It may never happen, since those kinds of efforts have never been successful. However, it is intriguing that a GOP senator from the Farm Belt and a Democrat turned Republican mayor from New York could enliven the national debate.

    Maybe just the speculation will stir more action by officials in both parties. Let's hope so.