Chuck Hagel - useful idiot or just plain idiot?
The news of the day is that Republican Senator Chuch Hagel compared Iraq to Vietnam yesterday. But is that something new? Is Hagel changing his position? Is this a big news story because there's a GOP Senator changing sides?
As a Republican, however, Hagel is immune to charges of partisanship. His assessment of Bush is therefore more interesting. He's become a fixture on the political talk shows, urging "caution" on the president — especially if the subject is an invasion of Iraq. Today Hagel is the Bush administration's most outspoken war critic in Congress.
"He reacts to everything like a European," says a Senate colleague.
In other words, Hagel is a skeptic on U.S. force.
Is that a comment from a conservative blogger today, following Hagel's appearance on ABC's This Week program yesterday? No, that's John Miller in National Review , in August of 2002. Three years ago.
Hagel's been a critic, repeatedly and loudly. What he did yesterday was nothing that he hadn't done before. The comparison of Iraq to Vietnam wasn't new for him, he's said that before. Is that helpful to the administration? Is it helpful to the Iraqis? Is it helpful to the troops?
Obviously not. It's helpful to the Democrats and Cindy Sheehan and MoveOn.org, and it's helpful to the Bush-haters on the far left, and the French and Germans who want to see us fail, and the "insurgents" in Iraq. Words have meanings, words have consequences, and he knows that he's going to get coverage when he says things like that.
And things like this: "by any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning."
2 1/2 years ago, Saddam Hussein was in power in Baghdad. He was paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He was providing a haven for some Al-quaeda members. He was shooting at US and British planes that were enforcing the UN no-fly zones. He had the largest army in the middle-east. He was taking UN Oil-for-Food money and preventing aid in the form of food and medicine from reaching his oppressed citizens. Now he's gone, his armies are gone, his sons are gone and the Iraqi people have elected a representative government that's making progress towards a democratic constitution. The influence of the actions in Iraq has caused changes in behavior - positive changes of behavior - in Syria and Lebanon and Libya. On the day after that ridiculous comment, the New York Times, Bush administration mouthpiece, carries a front-page story that starts "Iraqi leaders moved to the brink of agreement on a new constitution on Sunday, solving several contentious issues..." And Hagel's got the nerve to go on the air yesterday and compare Iraq to Vietnam and say that "we're not winning."
Maybe Hagel needs to go back and look at the words of a Senator in 1998, during the Clinton administration.
Congress must be very careful in what we say and what we do as we proceed along a very dangerous path. We must be careful not to weaken or neuter the President in front of the world. The world is very dangerous and unpredictable. Congress must not micromanage foreign policy. I have been as outspoken as any Senator on this floor about the concerns and the differences I have with this administration on foreign policy. It is the responsibility of the Senate to question that, to probe that. But we have to understand that whatever we say and do has consequences, reverberations, ramifications. America must speak to the world with some sense and some semblance of unity. We cannot allow our foreign policy to unravel before the eyes of the world during a very dangerous time. The world needs American leadership, consistency, presence and engagement. Without it, without American leadership, the world becomes an even more dangerous place.
- Senator Chuck Hagel
In 1998, Chuck Hagel understood the importance of not under-cutting the President overseas. Of course, in 1998, there was a Democratic President, and now there's a Republican President. It seems that what Hagel actually understands is exactly how to get the most positive coverage in the American media...