Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Monday, March 31, 2008

I've long blogged about how much I like Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican Senator and iconoclast on Iraq. Many liberals are skeptical of him because, after all, he is a Republican. But I'm so over that. Hagel is a war hero, with similar credentials to the media's darling, John McCain. He's also, frankly, a white male from a red state, who could bring multiple layers of credibility to a presidential ticket -- that's why Mike Bloomberg flirted with him (in a totally platonic way) when he was thinking about running as an Independent.

Hagel has been cagey about whether he would endorse his party's nominee, fellow Vietnam vet McCain. And he has been increasingly vocal over the years about his opposition to Bush's arrogant, worthless policy in Iraq.

So the question is, would a fusion ticket -- something on the order of what McCain would probably like to do with Joe Lieberman (but he can't -- Lieberman brings no crossover, since Democrats hate his guts) and what John Kerry tried to pull off with none other than John McCain -- be just the ticket for Barack Obama? Some observers, like TIME's sometimey Joe Klein (who I have to say annoys the living crap out of me for some reason) are hoping for just such a thing. Blogcritics' Doug DeLong even gamed it out in February:
He's a decorated Vietnam veteran and an articulate, thoughtful man who last year considered jumping into the race himself, and has been talked about as a possible running mate for Mike Bloomberg, should he decide to run. Although a social conservative, he's been a thorn in the side of the Bush/Cheney administration with his criticism of their Iraq policy, and is basically on the same page as the Democrats on the issue.

Obama is an attractive candidate for so many people because of his desire to end the partisan bickering that has resulted in gridlock in Washington on so many fronts. What better way to demonstrate that "we are not red states and blue states, but the United States of America" than to put a Republican on the ticket? Hagel would undoubtedly help in winning over more Republicans and Independents and should help to turn some red states a bright shade of blue. His prominent membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would also help to fortify Obama, who some perceive as lacking foreign policy expertise.

Would Hagel accept such an invitation? Appearing on CNN's Late Edition over the weekend, he gave this curious response when asked if he would support John McCain for president: "Well, I've not been involved in the primary and I am still not involved in any of that. At the appropriate time, then I'll have something to say about it." Earlier this month he was quoted as saying, "I like Barack Obama a lot. He's smart. He listens. He learns. He's a worthy candidate for president."

He also appeared to line up with Obama's views when, in the CNN interview, he talked about how we should approach dealing with rogue nations. "Great powers engage. Great powers are not afraid. Great powers trade," Hagel said. "If we're going to see any improvement in the Middle East, in Central Asia, the two wars that we're bogged down in right now, we're going to have to engage Iran."

Historically, it makes sense. The framers of the U.S. constitution never envisioned elections to be winner take all for one party. In fact, the notion of a president from one party and a vice president from an opposing one fits neatly into the American narrative, wherein the vice presidency was originally meant to go to the candidate who failed to win the most electoral votes -- in short, the guy who came in second (which is how Thomas Jefferson ended up as John Adams' veep.) It just hasn't been done in awhile (and no, the 12th Amendment doesn't prohibit it.)

I, for one, hope that Obama considers such a move, even though Hagel has one downside: he's a Senator like Obama, and two Senators on one ticket does not often spell a winning combination. (And of course there will be left wingers, and Hillary Campers, who will hit the freaking roof if he chooses a Republican.) And all things being equal, he'd probably just as soon have a governor, or a retired general. But Hagel remains an attractive possibility. There are, after all, many issues that could drive soft Republicans across the aisle, starting with the Iraq war. Obama and Hagel agree on that, and Hagel's hintings about impeachment make him more and more acceptable to even the bluest Dems (though it makes hardcore Republicans -- who would never vote for Obama anyway, hate the guy.) He voted for the war, but turned on it so completely he won't carry too much baggage. And demographically, he's a can't miss.

There's also every reason to believe that Hagel would accept the nod if asked. The two men get along, and have passed legislation together. Hagel recently proclaimed Barack to be the best candidate to unite the country, and has been tough on his friend McCain for his continued determination to through billions of tax dollars into George W. Bushs' Iraq money pit. He's not running for re-election, but the last time he did, he got 83 percent of the vote. And there's the not-small matter of his having flirted with running for the presidency himself.

Of course, nothing is certain in politics, and perhaps Hagel would do little more than fuel pro-war Republicans' rage against Hagel, and against the Democratic Party. But given Obama's message of uniting the country, it's worth considering.

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posted by JReid @ 11:48 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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