Hagel's Skill: Saying What We Want to Hear

Bret Stephens: Former senator is no GOP maverick

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 8, 2013 12:43 PM CST

(Newser) – Chuck Hagel showed courage in Vietnam—but those who hail him for the bravery to stand against his party have it wrong, writes Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal. The truth is, Hagel is just good at taking views "exactly in keeping with received Beltway wisdom." Take his 1998 attack on Clinton nominee James Hormel for being "openly, aggressively gay," then his apology last year. Or his support for Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 1999 and his rejection of it "when his name made Mr. Obama's shortlist for secretary of defense."

Then there's his support for force in Iraq in 2002, and his call for an exit from the unpopular war in 2006. And when he's been wrong, he doesn't "hold himself to account," Stephens writes. In the Washington Post, however, Dana Milbank feels quite differently. Hagel faced multiple mine explosions in Vietnam: "This is not a man who is going to shrink from a fight with the chicken hawks of the Senate." As for President Obama, "who has too often shied from forceful leadership, the Hagel nomination was a welcome sign that he is willing to pick a fight in his second term." Click for Milbank's full piece, or Stephens'.

In this June 26, 2008 file photo, then Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., speaks on foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
In this June 26, 2008 file photo, then Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., speaks on foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.   (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)
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