Monday, August 21, 2006

Hagel's Plea For GOP's Return To Roots Will Resonate In 2008

For all intents and purposes, Wednesday, November 8th, will be the first real day in the race for the White House in 2008. The day after election day 2006 will give us a clear reading, aside from unreliable polls, about the true mood of the country...where it is and more importantly, where it wants to go.

Yesterday, appearing on "FOX News Sunday," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., continued his yet undeclared race for the White House by calling on the Republican party to return to their core principles. Hagel asked: "Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in '68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined, fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government? I think we've lost our way. And I think the Republicans are going to be in some jeopardy for that and will be held accountable. Now, the people of each state and of this country will make their own decisions."

Hagel certainly isn't the first Republican or conservative commentator to express frustration with the direction his party is headed, and he has not been shy to be a leading critic of President Bush and his policies, one such policy being the NSA's warrantless wiretap program. When asked if he thought the President had overstepped Constitutional boundaries with the program, Hagel replied "I do. And I think that we need to find a new law. Of the law that we are operating with now was crafted in 1978. Technology has taken all of these issues far beyond that law, so we need a new law. And it needs a law — we need a law that is relevant to today's threats."

Hagel clearly recognizes that in order for the Republican party to continue to hold on to the White House and majorities in Congress, it must return to being the party of Ronald Reagan once again. The party of Richard Nixon was corrupted by the pursuit of limitless power, while the party of the first George Bush lost its grip on the soul of a country. It was the Reagan Revolution that cemented the resurgence of the modern conservative movement that had its first presidential candidate in 1964, with Barry Goldwater losing to Lyndon Johnson.

The core principles that Hagel discussed have slowly been under attack by the Bush administration and the Neo-Conservatives that have been so influential in establishing foreign policy. Hagel sees what that ineffective foreign policy has done to the country and to both political parties, specifically on the subject of terrorism. "Both parties are at significant peril in the election this year if they continue to define down to the lowest political common denominator this issue of terrorism," he said. "We have on the one side the Democrats running around saying well, the Republicans are warmongers, they want to take your rights away from you, you can't trust them. The Republicans...are saying about the Democrats they're cut and run, you can't trust them."

"If you continue to define it down to the lowest political common denominator for both parties, then what you're going to find is the American people not taking it seriously," said Hagel. "This is a real issue. This is consuming our country, this one issue. For the last five years, we have been consumed with terrorism. We've been consumed with the concern of our security. We're engaged in two wars overseas right now, and so it's too serious to be left to headline seekers of politicians or political parties."

Reagan was successful at convincing his party and more than enough moderate to conservative Democrats that his vision, a modern conservative vision, was where the country should be headed. America may well be looking for another Republican candidate that can not only halt the Neo-Conservative movement that has consumed the Bush presidency, but also reach across the political spectrum and find common ground on issues, specifically the war in Iraq, that continue to tear the country apart.

"When it comes to war, Americans dying in a war, national security, it should never be held captive to a political agenda," said Hagel. "I think that's wrong. I've said it's wrong. I don't base my analysis and judgment and votes on war, national security, on a party position. I don't think that's the right thing to do. I don't think Americans really want us to do that. Democrats die in war just like Republicans, and we debase war and the responsibility we have when we try to make it captive to a political position or a political party. I won't do that."

That may be the kind of statement and position that Americans are looking for, and if Hagel can present it with the passion necessary to stir voters in both parties, he may make himself a truly viable candidate for 2008.

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