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Nov 19th, 2008

Hagel, Unrestrained, Lashes into Bush, Rush and the GOP

Sen. Chuck Hagel

By Sam Stein
Huffington Post
November 18, 2008

Two months before he leaves office, Sen. Chuck Hagel is increasingly unrestrained by political niceties.

Appearing at a forum at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the outgoing Nebraska Republican leveled harsh criticism at his own party, the lack of intellectual curiosity among some of his colleagues, the Bush administration’s handling of nearly every aspect of governance and — perhaps most bitingly — the conservative radio voices that often dictate the GOP agenda.

“We are educated by the great entertainers like Rush Limbaugh,” said Hagel, sarcastically referencing the talk radio host who once called him “Senator Betrayus.” “You know, I wish Rush Limbaugh and others like that would run for office” … he offered. “[The truth is] they try to rip everyone down and make fools of everybody but they don’t have any answers.”

It wasn’t all an exercise in unloading pent-up frustrations. Hagel offered praise for Robert Gates — creating the impression that he would like the current Pentagon chief to remain at the post once President-elect Barack Obama takes office. … Moreover, Hagel offered what amounted to an hour-long plea for the next administration and Congress to reconfigure the way it works together and within the international framework when it comes to foreign affairs.

“Eighty-seven percent of the American people said America is going in the wrong direction,” said Hagel. “You don’t need to know another number about anything, and so the election was pretty predictable: the American people don’t like what is going on … they want us to start doing what leaders are expected to do, address the problems, find some consensus to governing. Get along. There will be disagreements, sure … but in the end we can’t hold ourselves captives to this raw, partisan, political paralysis.”

But the truly memorable bits came when — unrestrained by formalities — he deployed a sharp tongue while riffing on the GOP. Reflecting on the Bush administration, Hagel, one of the earliest critics of the Iraq war, held back few punches.

“Yes, there have been some differences and some pretty significant ones in [the Republican Party]. But when you ask the question: ‘Has [our approach] worked? I don’t think many people will say it has worked,” he said. …

The main thrust of his critiques was aimed not at any individual specifically, but at a closed-off mindset that he believed had taken hold of Republican politics and, consequently, the GOP’s approach to foreign policy. “Engagement is not appeasement,” he said. “Diplomacy is not retreat. Somehow too many in this town and in this country have disconnected all of that.”

Later in the question-and-answer session, he offered an example to illustrate this quip, gently mocking those officials and voters who, for one reason or another, had problems with things from France or people who were Muslim.

“There is always going to be a certain know-nothing element to democracy,” said Hagel. “That is their choice. But in a world that is so vitally interconnected, it does help if you try to understand the other side … Ask them: ‘What is it that scares you about the French so much?'” …


Related reports on this site

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel delivers the third annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn., September 23, 2009.
Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel delivers the third annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn., Sept. 23, 2009.

Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012)

Chuck Hagel McCarthy Lecture (Sept. 24, 2009)

Sen. Chuck Hagel Speaks in Minnesota (Sept. 23, 2009)

Sen. Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)

Chuck Hagel to Deliver Eugene McCarthy Lecture (July 29, 2009)

Republican Leaders Cower (March 4, 2009)


Related report

Faces of GOP Schism Starting to Take Shape

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Mike Pence

By Jason Linkins
Huffington Post
Nov. 18, 2008

As glib as it is to talk about how the 2008 election left the GOP in a fractious state, this is not just idle tea-time chatter for poli-sci nabobs: the GOP is faced with a Classic versus New Coke decision. They can dial up the Palin populism or chart a new course along with the Grand New Party types. And we can already start ascribing faces to each side. Ana Marie Cox has been assessing the future figureheads of the GOP, and, in a pair of interviews for The Daily Beast, the contrasts between the two potential party personalities emerge in striking fashion.

Mike Pence is a congressman from Indiana who’s set to take over as chair of the House Republican Conference. About all you need to know about the guy is contained in Cox’s deck text: he thinks “the GOP lost in 2008 by not being conservative enough.”


Basically, Pence’s prescription for what ails his party is to continue doing, to coin a phrase, more of the same, and hope for better results.

Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, approached the question in a very different way. Asked to “decode” his vision of the future of the GOP, Pawlenty consciously steers away from bromides, and, significantly, goes right to citing policy initiatives:

Q: I’ve heard you describe yourself as a traditional, mainstream conservative, but you don’t seem that way to me. What is it about you that makes liberals like me not frightened of you?

PAWLENTY: [Laughs] I consider myself a conservative, you know, it’s a worn-out phrase, in the Reagan tradition. If you look at the whole Reagan record … part of it was he was pragmatic, he was hopeful, he was optimistic, he was civil, he was positive. But I think the Republican Party needs to be more contemporary.

Q: When you say “contemporary,” you don’t mean moderate, so what do you mean? Decode that for me.

PAWLENTY: I will decode that for you. A couple of tangible examples. We were behind on the energy debate. It was a huge need. It was part of the reason we’re in this economic trouble and instead of scrambling to come up with some stuff over the last year like we did as a national party, we should have been doing what Minnesota and some other individuals and groups have done and been addressing this aggressively, fifteen or twenty years ago. “Drill, baby, drill” is, not by itself, a comprehensive, contemporary energy strategy. We should not have been the party DRAGGED to the renewable energy debate, we should have been out leading it, with OUR approaches, ideas and incentives for it.

That’s an example, another example: just the bread and butter issues. I won’t go through them all because your eyes will glaze over, but one actual example is, people are worried — “How am I gonna pay for my kid’s tuition?” Republicans could be very modern, reach out to young people by saying, “We’re going to reduce your tuition, and here’s how we’re going to do it. …”


I basically consider Pawlenty to be the emerging “formidable opponent” on the GOP side, heading to 2012. Unlike Mike Pence, he seems to understand that a greater obeisance to the “worn-out phrases” that have defined the GOP’s side of the endless “Red-versus-Blue” debate will not help his party’s future fortunes. Rather, he seems to believe that a cure for the GOP’s ailments, and service-oriented, prescriptive policies that address the needs of the electorate, are inextricably linked.


Related link on this site

Future of the Republican Party

GOP not feeling so grand (MSNBC “Countdown,” Nov. 18, 2008) — The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne talks about Sen. Chuck Hagel’s tongue-in-cheek assessment of the state of the Republican Party as well as the jabs going back and forth between former presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. (07:18)


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Nov. 18, 2008, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – Police found 15 decomposed bodies in a mass grave in northern Baghdad’s Ur district, police said. Some still had visible marks of gunshot wounds, they said.

BAGHDAD – Two roadside bombs exploding in quick succession wounded two police in Baghdad’s southwestern Dora neighborhood, police said.

SINJAR – One person was killed and 13 others wounded in a bomb blast in Sinjar, 240 miles northwest of Baghdad, police said.

BAIJI – A militant accidentally blew himself up planting a roadside bomb on Monday in central Baiji, 120 miles north of Baghdad, police said. Two others were wounded.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded two people in the Nahda district in central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb planted near the house of the general inspector of the Electricity Ministry wounded his son and wife in Qadissiya, southwestern Baghdad, police said.

SAMARRA – Five militants were killed and three others wounded in a four-hour gunbattle between al Qaeda fighters and a U.S.-backed Sunni Arab security patrol near Samarra, 62 miles north of Baghdad, said Samarra police Colonel Abdul-Khaleq Saleh al-Samarraie.

14 Responses to “Hagel Lambasts Limbaugh”
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