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« 2006 Could Confirm New Political Trends, Benefiting Republicans. | WILLisms.com | The Laffer Curve Lives! »

An Early Look At Potential 2008 Presidential Candidates: Part One- Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

Over the next few months, WILLisms.com plans to examine several potential candidates from both parties for 2008's presidential race.

The first: Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.


Rightwingnews.com recently conducted an unscientific-but-enlightening survey of right-of-center bloggers.

Chuck Hagel was the 4th LEAST desired nominee for 2008, behind only John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and George Pataki (note: simultaneously, Gingrich was the 5th MOST desired, McCain was the 8th MOST desired, and Pataki was the 13th MOST desired, while Hagel did not appear on the MOST desired list).

Another blogger with a keen talent for electoral politics calls Hagel a tier 3 candidate.

In more scientific polling, Hagel received 1% in a December 2004 survey of Republicans. Hagel clearly has work to do if he wants to be president in 2008.

The American Spectator magazine's February cover story on Chuck Hagel scolds the Nebraska Senator for his actions during the 2004 campaign, in which he became "an indispensable voicebox for the dominant media, frequently echoing reporters' thoughts on Bush's incompetence and insufficient regard for the feelings of 'the world.'"

Dismissing Hagel derisively as a McCain wannabe and not a serious contender for the 2008 GOP nomination, the article notes:

"The growing chatter about a Chuck Hagel presidential bid isn't bubbling up from grassroots Republican activists. It is coming from elite journalists in Washington who repeat ad naseaum Hagel's assertion that the Republican Party is adrift. They regard Hagel as a tertiary John McCain- an 'independent' and 'maverick' Republican they can book for their talk shows if the Arizona senator isn't available."

Indeed, this Washington Post article from two months before the 2004 election, titled "Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party," looks rather silly in retrospect.

Recalling our reaction to this article at the time, there is no doubt that if WILLisms.com had been blogging in September 2004, we would have called it silly then, as well.

The piece, which has aged like a fine wine over the past few months, getting more and more hilarious as time passes, has these gems:

"Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a man known for frank talk, offered a blunt description of the state of his party, which broke camp here Friday after nominating President Bush for a second term. 'The Republican Party,' he said, 'has come loose of its moorings.'


While Republicans have rallied around Bush's leadership, a defeat in November will probably trigger a major reassessment of where the party went wrong....

'The interventionists in the party will be in trouble,' Pitney said. 'If Bush goes down, so will Wilsonian rhetoric. A lot of Republican thinkers are going to be dusting off their Henry Kissinger books.'

Hagel, who has differed with Bush on Iraq and foreign policy, sounded ready to start the debate."

Notice how certain the authors seem of Bush's impending loss? A Bush defeat "will", rather than "would", trigger a reassessment.

The article even included this picture, which also seems entirely silly in retrospect:

Thus, Hagel placed a bet and lost. He, like Christine Todd Whitman, bought into the anti-Bush hype and got burned for it. It is highly unlikely Hagel will emerge, even with significant establishment-media support, as a real contender in 2008.

The Spectator piece, probably too harsh on Hagel for the most part (more on that in a moment), does point out one instance that could singlehandedly destroy Hagel's chances in 2008:

"...in a moment that foreshadowed later 'growth,' Hagel broke with Bob Dole on a proposed 15 percent income tax cut. 'I can't sign on to those tax cuts,' he said, 'I can't be irresponsible about it.' Hagel now regards pledges not to raise taxes as 'irresponsible.'"

Republicans, who felt betrayed when President George H. W. Bush raised taxes, take tax pledges seriously. Expect groups like Americans for Tax Reform and Club for Growth to hammer Hagel relentlessly on his weak credentials on taxes, if he happens to make the short list of 2008 contenders.

The Spectator, however, a decidedly conservative publication, does overstate the case against Hagel quite a bit.

Click for larger version.

Looking at Hagel's ratings by interest groups over the years, it is clear he is a genuine conservative; there is no reason to question that point. Hagel favors school prayer, is for vouchers, and even voted to remove President Clinton during the impeachment; calling Hagel a RINO (Republican In Name Only) is not accurate, nor fair. However, whether he favors liberty and democracy more than being liked by the U.N. and Old Europe is a significant and relevant issue.

Hagel adheres to what he considers foreign policy realism; he does not believe in President Bush's Wilsonian vision of liberty in the Middle East. Hagel has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq; he does not believe in unilateral action, or preemption, and he seems at times like a proud member of the Joe Biden fan club.

As far as conservative credentials go, Hagel did lead the fight in the Senate against the Kyoto Protocols on global warming in 1997, but just last week he introduced legislation as an alternative to Kyoto:

"Key elements of Hagel's legislative agenda:

* Assistance to developing countries for projects and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity.

* Establishment of domestic public-private partnerships for development of such technologies with federal financial assistance.

* Tax incentives for investment in climate change technology.

'Bringing in the private sector, and creating incentives for technological innovation, will be critical to real progress on global climate policy,' Hagel said....

Hagel said he also views climate change as a foreign policy issue for the United States that can help determine "our standing in the world and how we are perceived."

Afterall, Kyoto is frequently cited by foreign governments as an example of U.S. unilateralism. Hagel, ever the internationalist, is eager for the international community to approve of the U.S. His foreign policy vision at times seems closer to that of John Kerry, who, incidentally, during the second presidential debate of 2004, even cited Hagel's criticism of the reconstruction effort in Iraq.

"KERRY: Senator Hagel of Nebraska said that the handling of Iraq is beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing; it's in the zone of dangerous."

Hagel may be more keen on Kerry than he is on Bush. Hagel, who voted against No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, is no Bush fan. He refused to say anything remotely critical of John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, thus he became a frequently quoted figure in the liberal establishment media; Hagel, because of his subtle support for Kerry, became a media darling.
Hagel on Kerry:

"I like him. He's smart, he's tough, he's capable. I don't agree with him on a lot of things [though] I am closer to him on foreign policy questions. . . . He's certainly qualified to be president."

But would Hagel want to be president?

Apparently so:

"...responding to 13-year-old Alex Rivas, who had asked if Hagel wanted to be president. "'The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. I think most of us in this business . . . do think occasionally about running for president.'


'I happen to believe that by 2008, this country is going to be ready for some people to talk very clearly, plainly -- not frighten them, not demagogue them, but say it straight, say it honest.'"

Unfortunately for Hagel, his 2008 hopes rest on the failure of the mission in Iraq. Like so many Democrats over the past few years, for Hagel, bad news for the country is good news for his career.

President Bush has been a transformative leader for the GOP, and the coalition of more than 62 million voters he put together was based heavily on Bush's vision for the war on terror and promoting liberty in the world. Hagel, with his self-described Kerry-like foreign policy, would have to cobble together enough primary and caucus support from the mostly Bush-loving base of Republicans, an improbably task. Hagel, if he received the nomination, would likely beat almost any Democrat, but his chances at getting the nomination in the first place are slim.

Clearly, Hagel has an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of Republican primary voters, despite his mostly-conservative policy positions over the years. He may focus on cultivating his media-driven McCainesque reputation as a moderate maverick, while simultaneously proving to conservatives that he is one of them with a few token gestures.

Hagel's task: for anyone, a difficult tightrope to walk; while Hagel would be acceptable as president compared to, say, Hillary Clinton, WILLisms.com would not bet on Hagel becoming the Republican nominee in 2008.

Stay tuned for more 2008 previews from WILLisms.com. By next week, expect a profile on South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2005 02:03 PM


Howdy partners , I want to tell ya that after thinking clearly about the state of the Republican party , and how the Democrats have spent the last 30 years shaping the mindset of the people to the point of changing the school curriculum to reflect a mindset that has no respect for the country that bares its wasteful thoughts of disrespect , and that by standing in disbelief that by being a good person of country , for the sake of the future of the country , that good things can result from standing proudly as a respectful person , to be a great guardian of our freedoms to be respected by our peers , not awarded for being disrespectful to our peers , all so that the Democrats could create a set of generations that would become disconnected , confused about who they are with respect to the USA and its past that represents all Americans and where we all come from , and have ourselves seen happen during the course of our life times , is why I stand freely in stating that I do and will support Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State , and 2008 Presidential Candidate , to carry the torch of freedom forward to keep America free in trade , free in spirit , free in body and mind , free to be proud of self achievement , to have a chance at the hope that America holds for its people , and that is the Hope to be a American that through its own efforts , achieves the success of knowing what it means to live the American Dream !!!!!!!!!!!!

I will not support anyone Republican or Democrat that does not vote for small bussiness issues that promote healthy capitalism ,for a healthy economy . Socialism is not what America stands for , and from the way Democrats vote for small business and even Senator John McCain , according to my NFIB ( National Federation of Independant Business) Congressional voting results , Democrats don't vote for small business issues that would support growth in the sector , and that threatens the AMERICAN DREAM of SELF ACHVIEVEMENT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Anthony Newbill at March 6, 2005 11:45 AM