The Chuck Hagel Challenge: Would He Stay True to Any GOP Principles?
All you need to know about Chuck Hagel, the former two-term Nebraska senator who’s up for Department of Defense chief, is to picture him with a squawking rooster tied to the hood of his old, black Jeep, parading around the streets of Columbus, Neb., shouting out why he should be elected the high school student council president.
This is an ambitious, creative guy who will do anything to win.
Now, that’s a good thing, to a point. But when it comes to how he will manage the $419 billion, 3 million employed U.S. Department of Defense in a world electrified by strife and terrorism, it could be disastrous.
As a former enlisted Army infantryman, it’s good that he sees war as a “grunt” sees war. But how much is he averse to war, to our possible detriment? Will he cut the military budget by a bunch, continue the “world apology tour” that weakens us so embarrassingly, and then, when the newly-empowered Chinese sink one of our carriers and launch WWIII, will everybody just blame the GOP because Hagel is from the GOP?!
Is it just a paradox that this liberty-loving German-American’s name is pronounced the same as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German thumb sucker whose authoritarian philosophy gave us Dialectical Materialism, the basis of global Marxism?
When it comes to assessing how Hagel’s political moves may change if Obama is directly calling his tunes, it’s a crapshoot. He has bucked the system before, many a time. Hagel has already gone back on some of his key positions on the issues in a manner that is like sticking a hot poker into the eyes of his GOP teammates:
- He voted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then went out of his way to criticize how both were waged.
- He discredited the GOP by proclaiming that the Iraq war was “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.”
- He has demanded that the Israelis negotiate with the terrorists who have vowed to wipe them off the map.
- He has opposed unilateral sanctions against nuclear-titillated Iran.
- He has called President George W. Bush’s foreign policy “reckless.”
- He toured Iraq with then-Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats before the 2008 election, undermining his GOP colleagues who waged that war.
- He has gone on national TV countless times to trash Republican leaders such as Bush, former VP Dick Cheney and GOP strategies Karl Rove.
- He famously abandoned support for longtime friend and fellow Vietnam veteran John McCain against Obama in 2008, and is close friends with Colin Powell and Vice President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, he has a good, conservative, cost-cutting pedigree: he received “A” and “B” grades from the National Taxpayers Union, voted against No Child Left Behind, voted against the Medicare prescription drug bill and against McCain-Feingold. In the past, his rhetoric has been in favor of traditional social mores, but he has turned hard left in recent years. Though he voted in the Senate to keep the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy on homosexuality, now he is backtracking and says getting rid of it was the best idea. Though his voting record is staunchly pro-life, such as his vote to ban partial-birth abortions except when the mother’s life is at stake, now the former Catholic altar boy, turned Episcopalian, is saying that military women should have the same abortion rights as other Americans, and aligning his abortion stance much more closely with Obama’s.
The nice way to put it is that he is “politically ambidextrous.”
Instead of the usual DoD Cabinet appointment by a second-term President, that of moving more toward the middle, Obama is trying to elevate the Republican who, along with Colin Powell, has most bugged the GOP in turncoat treachery to this crucial governmental post.
The question is, how much more will Hagel “evolve” away from his Republican principles to get and keep this job, and what would that mean to our nation?
It would be quite a challenge for Hagel to manage conflict between his freedom-loving Republican roots that are in stark contrast with his Marxist Commander in Chief. Then again, they have a lot in common, too. While it is untrue and unfair to label Hagel an “anti-Semite,” he has made it clear that Israel is not the “apple of his eye” on a geopolitical basis, though it is for many, many Americans. Obama evidently feels the same way.
Like Obama, Hagel gets off on being contrary, and prefers the global arena rather than a “mere” national one. Hagel is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which raises a red flag of concerns about corporatist/globalist tendencies rather than an insistence on bedrock principles of U.S. sovereignty and American exceptionalism. He’s on the board of the multinational corporation, Chevron. He has run the World USO and the Atlantic Council, both globalist-oriented concerns.
Hagel has already backtracked and flip-flopped on a number of his past stands, in a head-scratching repudiation of his start as a conservative rural boy with a devout Catholic upbringing, loyal to his political party and his nation as a whole:
- He flew to Texas to encourage then-Gov. George W. Bush to run for President; then he endorsed John McCain in the actual race.
- He voted for the war in Iraq; then he was on the Sunday morning talk shows lamenting it.
- He called the troop surge a stupid idea that was sending American young people into a terrible meat-grinder, discrediting his country on the global stage; then the surge proved a huge winner and he had major egg on his face, enough to cost him any chance of running for President.
- He has called the Pentagon and defense spending “bloated,” while Americans are upset that the hot-grub breakfasts for our troops overseas have been relegated to MRE’s.
- He has used rhetoric that has suggested he would downgrade Israel from its status as our best friend in the Middle East to just another country.
- He has suggested having diplomatic, talk-nice tea parties with Islamist supremacist terrorist groups and Iran, the sworn enemies of Jews in general and Israel in particular. Now, the reason for the powder keg in the Middle East lays on the lap of former President Jimmy Carter – a Democrat – who failed to support the secular organizations that opposed the Shah of Iran. But a card-carrying Republican should jolly well know that you just can’t negotiate with terrorists, who are crazy by definition.
- He has a long history of not being loyal to the GOP . . . ironically to the point at which he is even more left-leaning than Obama in some issues . . . so, ironically, why would Obama trust him not to back-stab yet again?
That’s enough without even going in to the allegations that he is anti-Semitic and anti-gay – neither of which, Nebraskans can tell you, are true.
The crucible for these challenges will be when he faces newly-seated Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will run his confirmation hearings at the end of this month. She is his fellow Republican from Nebraska, a tough but inspirational ranch wife from the rolling Sand Hills in the western part of the state. So it should be a piece of cake, right?
Hardly. Hagel has spent a relative handful of years living in the Cornhusker State since the early 1970s and is considered by some to be a “turncoat” against the Republican Party and a “carpetbagger” who has actually lived in Virginia most of his life, much more D.C.-oriented than thinking of Nebraska and its citizens. He has inflamed local Republicans with a lot of his contrary stands to GOP doctrines; there was an Obama campaign sign in front of his house in Virginia this past election cycle . . .
. . . AND Republican Hagel endorsed the Democratic candidate for the open Nebraska Senate seat instead of Republican Deb Fischer just a few months ago.
It was generally seen as a sellout in order to look more attractive to Obama for the DoD job, a sad commentary on what it takes to get an important government job these days. And this, by a man who, contrary to popular opinion in Washington (where the bloggers think DoD employees should stock up on Preparation H) is actually thought to be a very nice and principled guy who views war in a realistic way.
Fischer walloped the Democrat, anyway. She beat former Sen. Bob Kerrey, equally considered a carpetbagger in Nebraska because of his New York City residence for the past 10 years and now bicoastal, bagging a cushy job in San Francisco as well as his NYC interests. Kerrey set most Nebraskans’ B.S. meters on “high” as he had just waxed so eloquently about loving the fruited plains of Nebraska leading up to the November elections, and then SCAT! He eschewed them the moment he lost. Sigh!
Anyway, the treacherous deed was done. And now Hagel will have to stare into the righteously indignant eyes of Sen. Deb Fischer, known to be a tough cookie, to win the DoD job. What was it that “hath no fury”?
Hagel may well be up to it. He has already weathered tough controversies in his life. Examples: there were questions about how he became a multi-millionaire in the early days of cellular phones with his start-up, Vanguard Cellular; those days were termed “the Wild West” because of unconventional practices in obtaining licenses. Hagel’s operation was investigated but no indictments were issued. So his success could just as easily be attributed to a great entrepreneurial drive and will to win as anything shady.
Similarly, there were questions about the fact that he happened to have moved back to Omaha and joined an investment-banking firm, the McCarthy Group, LLC, just a few years before he ran for the Senate. He has been chairman of the board of the group’s key holding, the company (now Election Systems & Software in Omaha) that made the computerized vote-counting machines in use by 85% of the balloting across the state. While he stepped down from that job minutes before delving into electoral politics, he was an unknown in the state. But he still managed to beat Ben Nelson, a popular governor, for his first elected office as U.S. senator in an astounding surprise in the 1996 election. (Nelson, recently retired, went on to win the other Nebraska Senate seat and gained fame as the “Cornhusker Kickback” senator who switched his vote to enable Obamacare.) Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Nebraska senatorial campaign. He went on to beat another Democratic challenger six years later with an equally jaw-dropping 83% of the vote, the largest margin of victory in a statewide race in Nebraska history.
Today it is estimated that ES&S counts 60% of the votes in our national elections. Some think it was not coincidental that Hagel scored those surprising wins, given his connection to the machines that counted the votes.
Because of interlocking holding companies, it is difficult to tell how much of ES&S he still owns through his interest in the Omaha-based McCarthy Group. But note that ES&S has had a number of problems with its touchscreen machines around the country. Besides voter concerns about Election Day results varying so significantly from private-sector opinion polling at times, and the lack of a paper trail to pinpoint either corroboration or corruption, there have been questions about the security of the systems since numbers are relayed via cellular phones (Hagel’s original business). There also have been concerns about the ease of “patching” and other undetectable changes, as well as antitrust problems for ES&S.
In the main, voters have complained that they voted for one candidate and the machine “picked” the other. Meanwhile, the more these touchscreens take over, the less we see honest-to-goodness exit polling, not to mention disinterested election journalism. So the cynics among us smell a rat.
In other words, there are shades of the Florida Bush-Gore disaster, and this past Presidential election’s allegations of rampant voter fraud in areas where President Obama got an odoriferous 100% of the vote, on ES&S’s resume. Also alarmingly, Hagel failed to list his ownership of ES&S on Federal Election Commission filings while in the Senate, apparently categorizing it as part of an “excepted investment fund” that he didn’t have to disclose. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent back in Nebraska was rebuffed in his demand for a hand recount because of a then-new Nebraska law that prohibits election workers from looking at the paper ballots even in a recount – relegating them only to ES&S machines. A tight loop, indeed.
Stay with me here: ES&S is a subsidiary of Hagel’s former company, the McCarthy Group, LLC. That company has another part owner, the investment arm of The Omaha World-Herald Company. THAT company owns the largest newspaper in Nebraska and many other properties. Its longtime publisher, John Gottschalk, happens to have been a boyhood friend of Hagel’s. Gottschalk has been a director of ES&S, and worked with Hagel when Hagel ran the World USO. Gottschalk also was a fraternity brother of former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, and once invested $100,000 in his daughters’ names in Kerrey’s business venture, raising eyebrows. A lot of people feel itchy about the state’s largest newspaper owning the vote-counting machines that have elected the good buddies of the publisher.
But there’s more: in 2011, The World-Herald Company was bought by Berkshire-Hathaway, which belongs to the Oracle of Omaha, the redoubtable billionaire Warren Buffett. He is a world-class Leftie along with being probably the world’s finest financier ever. He also is a big population control fan who has helped develop the abortifacient RU-486. Buffett, as you will recall, was a key supporter of President Obama back in the summer of 2008. He received payback in Obama’s pooh-poohing the Keystone Pipeline through Nebraska, since Buffett owns the railroad (Burlington-Northern) that could get the lucrative oil transportation business that the pipeline would literally siphon away. People were scratching their heads over why Uncle Warren would buy the financially anorexic newspaper with its declining ad count and wave of early retirements. Cynics point to ES&S.
Now are you getting the idea about the entangled and interlocking relationships and exigencies involved here?
So the confirmation process will be interesting, and not likely to mimic the unanimity that met the outgoing DoD director, Leon Panetta, in his nomination. It is still to be seen whether Hagel’s public personality, sometimes labeled “abrasive,” will be as successful in lobbying Congress for goodies as Panetta’s has been. Or maybe, cynics say, that’s the plan.
So if he gets this job, the Nebraskan with the deep-seated urge to win might have a fabulous chance to be a different kind of war hero – someone who keeps us OUT of war while making cost-effectiveness his marching order . . . or he might be being set up to be The Biggest Loser, militarily, giving the Lefties a chance to place the blame on the GOP once again.
Meanwhile, note that Hagel’s biography gives an inkling of why he has such a strong drive toward significance:
“Chuck Hagel did win that chicken-powered, high-school election, according to his 2006 biography, Moving Forward by Charlyne Berens. Eldest of four brothers, he is described as a natural leader and a hard-working boy from a lower-middle-class, small-town family whose teachers and fellow students predicted he would one day be President. His interest in world affairs caused him to subscribe to Time and Newsweek in junior high while other boys were in to baseball cards and comic books. However, his father dropped dead of an aneurysm on Christmas morning when Chuck was 16. Money was tight. He dropped out of college to attend a one-year radio and TV program, and was working at a radio station in Lincoln in the late 1960s when, to honor his beloved father’s World War II service, he decided to enlist for the Vietnam War.”
As a measure of how much Hagel wants to win, he was named the top recruit out of 10,000 in his training cycle at Fort Bliss in Texas. He also won a medal as the individual with the most honor, courage and spirit. That bodes well for the prospect of having the first-ever “grunt” – enlisted man – run the DoD.
He went on to distinguished service as an infantryman in Vietnam. He was wounded twice and received two Purple Hearts. According to the book, he left with a profound loyalty to the U.S. military and a strong belief that he should do all he could to prevent our nation from being involved in war.
But first, build a career. He was a newscaster and radio talk show host in Omaha; a lobbyist for Firestone in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, and talked his way into a job onto the campaign and staff of former Nebraska Rep. John Y. McCollister of Omaha. From there, he leaped to Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign staff, and Reagan appointed him deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration. But he only stayed a year because he found the chief hostile to veterans, dismissing Agent Orange as a hoax.
Other career moves included stints as president and CEO of the Private Sector Council in D.C.; deputy director and COO of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations; president and CEO of the World USO, and deputy commissioner general of the United States for the 1982 World’s Fair.
Once divorced, he is married and has two children.