Hagel has what it takes: Integrity
by Daniel Klimek
After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her appearance before a bipartisan Senate committee last week, a day after George Bush presented his idiotic plan for war escalation in a nationally televised address, she ended up experiencing a lot of resistance in her attempts to purvey the president's newest foreign policy wishes.
The ubiquitous resistance against a plan that would send over 20,000 more American lives to the contemporary, war-infected tragedy that is Iraq was fervently dismantled, with the greatest opposition produced by no one other than fellow Republican Chuck Hagel.
An independent-thinking Maverick Senator from Nebraska, Hagel is one of those rare creatures in the American political world: an individualist who refuses to be corrupted by the blindness of partisanship in order to influence decision-making efforts.
Never one to shy away from criticizing his own party when necessary, Hagel once famously remarked, "I took an oath of office to the Constitution. I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."
That is why when one of the president's top officials made an appearance before him, Hagel did not fail to disappoint with his natural rhetoric, blasting away at an ill-fated policy and at the pawn sent to sell it.
"To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives, to be put in the middle of a civil war, is wrong," Hagel told Rice. "It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong."
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam Veteran who (unlike certain Republican leaders) knows what war means firsthand, went on to say, "Some of us remember 1970, Madam Secretary, and that was Cambodia, when our government lied to the American people. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee."
The two-time Purple Heart winner continued: "So Madam Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous." Then, in one of those poignant moments that sees integrity challenging the authoritarian forces of power, Hagel followed with a set of words that would be repeated all week throughout the national networks around the country.
"As a matter of fact, I have to say, Madam Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it."
Seldom does one hear the cheers of public applause at an American Congressional hearing televised on C-SPAN. But the moment could not have come at a more urgent time. Historically, Hagel's dissidence has caused him undeserving criticism. Members of his own party have gone as far as to comparing him to a Democrat. Which is not fair for such a comparison defames the good senator.
Far from a Democrat, Hagel's political liberalism is balanced with the proper amount of social conservatism. Unlike the ideological hypocrites on the Left who advocate the end to killing abroad in the name of peace, yet possess absolutely no shame in supporting similarly heinous actions on the domestic front in the name of "choice," Hagel's record shows a perfect recognition for the dignity of human life, opposing various forms of violence. When it comes to the great abortion debate, the senator shows equal respect for both mother and child with his pro-life stance. The Christian Coalition has given him a rating of 100%, representing a pro-family voting record.
Without question a prominent name considered for the 2008 Presidential Race, Hagel's supporters have developed a grassroots movement backing his candidacy. Though he has not officially announced it yet, the desire to recruit the senator for the '08 race has been established. Numerous unassociated online blogs and sites have been formed organizing efforts for a possible run.
The reason to support Hagel does lie in his individualistic integrity, embodied not only in the man as a politician but also as a human being. Perhaps yet the best example of this free-thinking independence exists in Hagel's response to the Israeli-Lebanese conflict which took place last summer.
While all mainstream politicians from each end of the political aisle�the Bush administration as well as self-proclaimed "progressives" like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi�supported Israel unequivocally as its military forces invaded Lebanon, killing over 1000 innocent civilians and displacing over one million people while labeling these atrocities as acts of "defense," only one high-profile senator spoke out.
Flirting with the possibility of breaking the unspoken, golden rule of American politics: do not ever cross the overly power Israel Lobby, exemplified so artfully in AIPAC (since doing so can result in political suicide), Hagel came before the senate floor in July, 2006, and declared that "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now. This madness must stop." The latter point referring not only to the violence in the Middle East but also to the unequivocal support offered by both major U.S. parties.
Now that took some chutzpah�the kind necessary in 2008.