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Sunday, February 11, 2007
(7:43 PM) | Stephen:
The Hagelian Appeal

Chuck Hagel has certainly been on a tear recently, impressing quite a few who would not necessarily be given to praising members of the GOP - including me, of course, and I'm about as rabid a partisan as one can hope to find.

As he plays with the idea of running for President - the "Draft Hagel" websites are in business - even Democrats are expressing their interest in a Hagel presidency. With John McCain possibly headed toward a public and spectacular breakdown, Hagel has emerged as the centrist Democrats' Republican of choice for their support. That is, if their preferred Democratic candidate doesn't get the nomination or some such thing.

That's ok to a certain extent. I actually see quite a few advantages to a divided government, assuming only the slightest amount of goodwill on the part of each branch. There is something to be said for the idea of keeping in check one party's worst inclinations. Those centrist Democrats who agree with this idea are not prone to supporting people like Rick Santorum or Sam Brownback, but there always seems to be a renegade Republican or two around who draw their attention.

The problem is that these politicians have a renegade persona, an image that is created by skillful rhetoric and carefully executed votes. Most of us have seen how the House and Senate's byzantine and arcane rules allow all sorts of interpretations of various votes, such as Joe Lieberman trying to take credit for voting against Justice Alito when he was in fact a key vote that allowed Alito's name to come before the whole GOP-controlled Senate.

Lieberman is actually a good example of this, because he has worked hard on creating his own renegade image, one that has taken quite a beating lately. The reason he lost the primary is that technologically savvy and politically active Democrats in Connecticut got the information they needed to counter Lieberman's public image with the reality of who he is as a Senator. The reason Lieberman won in the general is that the population at large is still able to be kept in the dark about such things, especially if the challenger follows a brilliant primary campaign with one of the stupidest general election campaigns in history. (And when was it that Lamont got a bunch of high-level Democratic consultants from DC? After the primary?)

So what matters is not Hagel's image, or his recent comments about the Iraq War, as welcome as they are. What matters is how he has been governing since he's been in the Senate. And when we start to look at his record and the various special interest group ratings, the real Chuch Hagel emerges as a nightmare presidential candidate for all but the most conservative of Democrats.

The info that follows is found at OnTheIssues.org:

Really, the list goes on. Some of the statements on the site are dubious; instead of just reporting the ratings from special interest groups, the website adds that those ratings indicate Hagel is "pro" this or "anti" that. Well, according to that group, maybe.

However, that they report those ratings is a good thing. I tend to support NARAL's goals, and the Christian Coalition has been a thorn in my side for a long time now.

Hagel would probably get us out of Iraq, but that's probably going to be the case no matter who we elect. He's strongly pro-business, but that's to be expected and not that big of a thing if the Democrats control Congress. His votes regarding immigration are interesting. He supported allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security, providing a path to citizenship for "guest workers" and some other good things.

But the key is abortion. I know that's usually the case, but I think that Bush is currently boxing in our next president when it comes to foreign policy. Unless we elect a complete psycho, the next president is going to have to work pretty hard at repairing our relationships around the world and getting us out of the mess in Iraq. Quite a bit of domestic policy will be dictated by what looks like will be an even stronger Democratic majority in Congress.

But abortion really matters. As always, Supreme Court Justices are important, as well as the myriad of other appointed judges that come from our Executive Branch. The Justice Department's priorities and interpretations of laws are dependent upon the White House's main resident as well. With Alito and Roberts now on the Court, Roe v. Wade is in a lot of trouble. States are enacting abortion-ban trigger laws that would take effect immediately upon a revision or overturning of Roe v. Wade.

There are some who argue that overturning Roe v. Wade would actually be good for abortion rights, that what happened in South Dakota recently would happen across the nation, with states codifying into law stronger abortion protections. Perhaps, I really am not qualified to address that. However, the damage that would happen to women and their families during the period between the abortion bans being enacted and their potential repeal is not something that I would like to see.

So Hagel would be a disaster president, at least as far as Democrats are concerned. But he is a great asset to the Senate. He really doesn't pose any threat to the conservative Republican agenda, but does serve a valuable purpose as a counter to the extreme fringes of the GOP - such as those who currently direct much of Bush's foreign policy. I believe that Chuck Hagel is an honest conservative, that he acts in the Senate pretty much as he said he would. For that he should be admired, and certainly there will be opportunities for Democrats to work with him and accomplish good things.

But President Hagel would govern quite a bit like President Brownback, and centrist Democrats should seriously reconsider any support they would give his presidential run.

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