Monday, August 06, 2007

Now is the time for one good man to come to the aid of his party.

I read Kyle Michaelis' posts at the New Nebraska Network for local Nebraska perspective on my preferred presidential candidate - Chuck Hagel. Kyle is a Democrat, and not - shall we say - politically aligned with Hagel's conservative ideology. Still, he usually has an interesting perspective, and can't help but display an occasional grudging, back handed admiration for Hagel in his posts. His two most recent posts focused on Hagel's presidential prospects: Chuck Hagel's Identity Crisis and "Signs of Life in "Hagel for President??". Kyle's assessment:
"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."
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 -

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.
Richard Nixon used to invoke a "silent majority" that would emerge in elections to support his policies. To a large degree, he was right. The "silent majority" was there, and supported him, right up until the time he betrayed them and their conservative sensibilities. I can offer no supporting documentation, but I believe there really is an "embarrassed majority" out there, both within the Republican Party and the electorate at large. The "embarrassed majority" voted for Bush, regrets it, and has yet to be heard from in a meaningful way. Perhaps the "none of the above" preference in a recent AP poll of Republicans is indicative of the "embarrassed majority" that will rally behind a Hagel candidacy.

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.
  1. "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).
  2. Hagel is The AntiBush - (See above)
  3. Hagel is a real conservative. - Unlike Bush, Cheney, or most of the current crop of Republican candidates.
This video hits on the first two of the three. I know, I know - two themes in one video is one too many. That is why this video is too long at two minutes. Hey - this is strictly amateur hour - you get what you pay for.

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.


Unknown said...

I suspect this won't get posted. There's no way you can make such a weak argument and get no comments.

You wrote: "Hagel is the only credible anti-war Republican"

Sen Hagel voted FOR the Iraq War.
Dr Paul voted AGAINST the Iraq War.

Voting for it then whining about it is stale. It was stale when Kerry tried it in '04. And now it's just plain pungent and nauseous when recycled by hypocrites like Hillary, Edwards, Biden, Dodd and pretty much then entire Democratic party.

There is ONLY ONE CREDIBLE Repbulican antiwar candidate, and it ain't Chuck!

RON PAUL 2008!!!

mw said...

As I have said in other posts, on other blogs, and in other comments, I like Ron Paul. I actually consider Ron Paul's views to be closer to my political views than Chuck Hagel.

Clearly Ron Paul has taken a principled stand against the war and has been more consistent in that stand than most politicians. I acknowledge that in this post and this Ron Paul speech which I posted in YouTube.

My use of the word "credible" in this context is based on exactly one factor - electability. Ron Paul cannot be elected President. I know that Paul supporters disagree with this assessment as an act of faith. That is great. We disagree. From prior experience with RP supporters, we'll never agree until he withdraws.

I think Ron Paul's candidacy and the enthusiastic supporters he inspires are a huge plus for the country and the Republican Party. He still can't get elected President.

Chuck Hagel is a credible anti-war because he would be elected president if he got the nomination. Getting the nomination in the Republican party may be as difficult for Hagel as Paul, but even there I think he has a better shot. That is how I am using "credible"

Regarding the 2002 Vote. There was good reason to vote for that resolution in the expectation that it would force Saddam's hand and not lead to war. If you want to really appreciate how far Hagel was ahead of the curve on Iraq, check out this video of his speech at Kansas State University in February of 2003 (Landon Lecture Series - warning it is long some 50 minutes).

Filmed a few weeks before we went into Iraq, Hagel warns about almost every single thing that has happened as a consequence over the last three years. Not hindsight, real foresight. It's scary how on-target he was - He sounds like a friggin' prophet now. It makes you want to cry to watch it. Nobody was listening to him. Not in the administration. Not the American people. Just a voice lost in the winds of war fever. I include myself among the deaf, as I was as gung-ho as every other yahoo at the time.