Who is Chuck Hagel?

Short answer: Charles Timothy Hagel, the senior U.S. Senator from Nebraska, currently in his second term. He’s a decorated ‘Nam vet and an experienced executive in the public and private sectors.

Hagel's name has been bandied about as a presidential possible, and blogger Schtaple got my attention when he - a confirmed liberal - said he might have to support the Republican Hagel if the latter ran for President.

So who is Hagel? He's been in the news recently for a few things:

  • Proposing a 1-year increase in the retirement age for people retiring after 2022, as part of a larger Social Security plan. This is a very sensible idea, and has gotten more press than his also-sensible Social Security plan because reporters have small minds.
  • He's critical of Bush's choice of firebrand John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the UN.
  • He's sponsored legislation aimed at closing loopholes and lowering the per-farm maximum on subsidies.

OnTheIssues.com rates him as conservative on social issues, pro-business, anti-Kyoto, for free trade, pro-military, pro-immigration, for low taxes. He votes along the party line most of the time, and supports sensible, consistent policies.

His distinctiveness really emerges looking at international relations. His willingness to say what he thinks and criticize the administration on Iraq has earned him a reputation as a free thinker. The Washington Times says he was "a poster child for the Kerry campaign", and accuses him of working with McCain and Lugar to turn the Foreign Relations Committee into an obstructionist body. For those of us who think Bush needs a little more obstruction in his life, that's high praise.

On the other hand, is Hagel really anything more than a mouth on wheels? Newspapers treat him with kid gloves because he's always good for a controversial quote. Last year he recommended bringing back the draft. He's the Curt Schilling of politics: a good performer, but somewhat overrated by the press because of his willingness to talk to them.

Will he ever become president? I doubt it; he has too much of a paper trail. Should he be president? Maybe. I'll go on record as one who believes that he would do better than Bush, but I'm not convinced that he can parlay his convictions into effective policies. It's easy to represent a unitary constituency like Nebraska, but if he goes national, he'll find that some of his positions - on immigration or social security, perhaps - have to be sacrificed to bring in the allies a president needs to be effective. That would sully his most attractive asset: the intelligent, consistent worldview that guides his policy choices.

Chuck Hagel for president? We'll see.

Posted by Chops at March 11, 2005 1:44 PM