Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chuck Hagel – Next Stop, the 7th Floor?

I've written here about Richardson, Kerry and Lugar as possible candidates for Secretary of State. Humor me with my tea leaves reading today, a special reading for Chuck Hagel. Chuck Hagel is Nebraska's senior U.S. Senator who served two terms in the United States Senate. In September 2007 he announced that he will not seek a third term (how often do you hear that?). He was a member of four Senate committees: Foreign Relations; Banking; Housing and Urban Affairs; Intelligence and Rules. A fourth generation Nebraskan, Hagel was born in North Platte, Nebraska on October 4, 1946. He graduated from St. Bonaventure High School, Columbus, Nebraska; the Brown Institute for Radio and Television, Minneapolis Minnesota; and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Hagel served in Vietnam with his brother Tom in 1968. They served side by side as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division. Hagel earned many military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts. He has previously worked in the private sector and had also served as Deputy Administrator of Veteran Affairs.

Steve Clemons writing about Senator Hagel:

“Hagel is a hard-edged negotiator who has a vision of alternative equilibriums and is not an appeaser of global (or Senate) thugs. Like few others in the Senate -- with perhaps Biden, Dodd, Feingold, Lugar, and formerly Lincoln Chafee as exceptions -- Hagel knows that diplomacy is the more important force that must be deployed in such a way that process generates previously concealed or obscure openings and opportunities.[…] Senator Chuck Hagel is trusted around the world, respected -- and not for being nice -- but rather for being straightforward with friends and rivals about the poorly understood fact that there are nearly always opportunities in persistent diplomacy and statecraft.”

Connie Bruck’s recent article in the New Yorker includes this snippet:

"In 1981, he had joined the Veterans’ Administration as the deputy administrator. The head of the V.A. was Robert Nimmo, a former California legislator and friend of President Ronald Reagan. “Nimmo had next to no interest in veterans’ issues,” Lilibet (Mrs. Hagel) said. “Chuck went to the White House and said to Ed Meese”—then counsellor to Reagan—“ ‘Either Bob Nimmo goes or I go.’ Our friends said, ‘Who are you?’ But Chuck said, as I’ve heard so many times since then, ‘But it’s just wrong!’ ” Hagel resigned, and the Los Angeles Times published an editorial about Nimmo titled “The Wrong Man Is Leaving.”

Plus (+): He is a moderate Republican and an ardent internationalist. Known as an independent thinker averse to Party orthodoxy, he has called for direct, unconditional talks with Iran since 2001 and has even written to Bush about it (see letter here – h/t to Steve Clemons). He has accompanied Obama on a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. His wife has publicly endorsed Senator Obama. The fact that he walked away from that one job earlier, also gave me a good feeling that this is a man of principle who knows when to leave.

Minus (-): He is widely talked about as a possible candidate for Robert Gates’ job. Perhaps Obama can put Reed or Danzig over at the Pentagon as Secretary Gate’s deputy now and secretary after a year and leave Chuck Hagel at Foggy Bottom? Of course, two Republicans at two top cabinet positions may not make the Dems happy. I have not looked at the rest of his voting record, maybe I should? These leaves are not giving me a real good reading. Anybody knows how he might manage a large and diverse organization such as State?

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