Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dangerous Dark Horse: Chuck Hagel

"I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: 'Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican.' But it's very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved."
_______- Dick Cheney, January 2007
Yesterday I argued that the GOP was dead in the water in 2008. I should have included an asterisk for Chuck Hagel. He's not on anyone's radar now, but he has the most upside and almost zero downside (we're talking Republican politics here).

Let's start with his resume: a decorated Vietnam vet, corporate star, maverick senator. He's often compared to John McCain, one of his best friends in the Senate. His politics are old-school GOP--pro gun and anti-tax. He's a hawk and would expand the military and anti-terror spending. He'd defund the arts and drill for oil in ANWR. He's against abortion. On the other hand, he's not a radical--he'd also increase funding for alternative fuels, expand services to the poor, increase funding for health care, and get rid of the trade embargo on Cuba (among other things).

But his biggest strength is that he has never been a fan of Bush, was an early critic of Rumsfeld, and was the first and most outspoken Republican to oppose the White House on the way it's conducting the war. Unlike McCain, whose straight talk is reserved for moments when it's not controversial, Hagel has taken stands.

Of all the candidates, he's the only one who has the chance of reuniting the core constituents of the GOP coalition: hawks, fiscal conservatives, Evangelicals, and libertarians. Of the candidates who appeal to cultural conservatives, he is the only one who won't wig out the rest of the country.

So far, he hasn't said he's running. Let's hope he doesn't.

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