I could take issues with a couple of Kyle's points, most notably his assertion that Hagel could not be called an "anti-war" candidate. He certainly could, and is, and should. He actually has more credibility in that regard than two of the three leading Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. However, I completely agree with Kyle's major point with this one modification -
"It's certainly possible, however, that the Republican establishment for which Novak speaks is starting to wake to just how dire a situation they face in 2008 - to the point that they'd welcome a candidate like Hagel who could never truly be called an "anti-War" candidate but who might be able to pass himself off as "anti-Bush"...despite his being Bush's most consistent supporter in the U.S. Senate. Assuming such an "anti-Bush" candidate could survive a primary, that would be a pretty strong credential to carry in to the general election when two-thirds of the country actively disapproves of Bush's job performance."
The next President will not simply be anti-Bush as Kyle outlines. The next president, whether Republican or Democrat, will be "The AntiBush". The electorate always grows weary of two-term presidents and tends to gravitate toward their optical opposite. That electoral sense is magnified ten-fold with this administration. There is such a high degree of antipathy, exhaustion, and loathing for this President and this administration, that the electorate will reach for a perceived polar opposite like a drowning man reaching for a bit of floating debris. I suspect that this is the underlying reason for Clinton's strength in the Democratic party. Clinton/Bush opposition is hard-wired in the names themselves. You can see it any Republican/Democratic partisan argument which inevitably devolves to "Oh yeah? Well Bush did this!" - "Oh yeah? Well Clinton did that!" - "Oh yeah? Well Bush did this!" - "Oh yeah? Well Clinton did that!" ad nauseum. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party AntiBush.
Republicans will also nominate an AntiBush. No less a Republican luminary than Newt Gingrich has said that Republicans will have to run against Bush to succeed. While we are going to see a number of "born-again" anti-Bush Republicans before the primary season is over, there is only one credible candidate who can fill the shoes of The AntiBush. We are not talking about Senate votes here. We are talking about perception and optics:
- Bush is inarticulate, Chuck Hagel is a powerful and coherent speaker.
- Bush is proudly anti-intellectual, Hagel is an intellectual.
- Bush is a failed businessman, Hagel is a successful entrepreneur.
- Bush is a "decider" that manages by delegation and stays out of the details, Hagel is an idea man that can and has formulated policy and legislation.
- Bush is perceived as shallow and partisan, Hagel exudes gravitas and integrity, and has demonstrated his willingness to buck his own party.
- Bush is perceived as incompetent, Hagel is perceived as hyper-competent.
- Bush avoided service in Vietnam and has a questionable military record. Hagel is a Vietnam combat veteran and is a bona fide war hero.
- Bush is a "neo-conservative"/"compassionate conservative" ideological mess. Hagel is a rock solid conservative in the Reagan/Goldwater tradition.
I have no idea what Chuck Hagel will do about running for President. I do know what he should do. He should run. He should run as a Republican. He should run as a Republican that can restore the party to the bedrock conservative tradition of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. He should run as a Republican that can restore the fusionist alliance between fiscal and social conservatives that is pre-requisite to any Republican electoral success. He should run as an anti-war Republican. He should run as The AntiBush.
I'm a fan of Chris Mathews Hardball and watch it regularly. They are currently running a promotion soliciting viewers to send them homemade campaign videos. I checked out the ones they had posted, and decided they are pretty lame. So I says to myself - "Self - you can do lame campaign videos with the best of them." This is my contribution:
Now is the time...
Hagel's staff has not asked me, but I have some free advice for them. There are three themes/messages that a "Hagel for President" campaign should focus on and hammer over and over again.
- "It's the war, stupid." - Hagel is the only credible anti-war Republican (except for Ron Paul - but the problem with Ron Paul is that he is Ron Paul).
- Hagel is The AntiBush - (See above)
- Hagel is a real conservative. - Unlike Bush, Cheney, or most of the current crop of Republican candidates.
If Hagel gets in the race, I 'll put together another video that focuses on the third theme, and the large difference between him and the faux /politically expedient/fickle conservatism of the other leading candidates. Stay tuned.