Friday, February 17, 2006

What's this guy up to, anyway?

All you campaign '08 junkies - that election is only two and a half years away, after all - might want to keep an eye on Chuck Hagel, the senior Republican senator from Nebraska, and frequent habitue of Sunday morning news shows (at least on those Sundays when the bookers can't snag his pal John McCain). Hagel seems to be entertaining two contradictory impulses: he is possibly interested in seeking the '08 GOP presidential nomination; yet he keeps saying stuff that would appear to make him persona non grata among the GOP foot-soldiers who revere George W. Bush. Take, for instance, his frequent attacks on Bush's handling of the Iraq war ("the White House is completely disconnected from reality"). He got cover boy treatment last weekend, here.

Now comes another zinger. Just as the Dick Cheney affair appears to be winding down, here's Hagel, speaking to a paper back home: "If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety." Not only is he suggesting that the vice president of his party was negligent or reckless, he is also mocking Cheney's multiple draft deferments.

So, just wondering: Is Hagel somehow betting that, by the time the presidential campaign season starts, the Republican base will be fed up with Bush and Cheney, and therefore receptive to his outspoken track record? Or has he basically chucked the idea of running for president entirely (his friend McCain arguably having the inside track on the maverick slot), therefore freeing him up to flame at will?. Or maybe there's a third possibility: maybe he is just (gasp) saying whatever he believes, without thinking four steps ahead and worrying about political consequences. Dare we think that such a person exists in Washington?