This trip is further fueling the talk of Hagel in a job in a potential Obama administration.
When you hear (non-Nebraska) Dems talk about Hagel, they glow with a radiant aura about Hagel – a Republican! – who doesn’t like the war in Iraq. Then in reverential terms they talk about how intelligent he is. How knowledgeable. How well credentialed.
Until, of course, you suggest that he be Vice President.
And you let them know that he’s pro-life, anti-gay marriage and generally votes conservative on a host of other issues.
Then Veep is out.
So the next plumb admin job they suggest is Secretary of Defense! Republican Senator Bill Cohen was Bill Clinton’s SecDef, so presumably another, anti-war, Republican could do the job.
Except that Hagel’s not really qualified. Oh sure he was in the Army, but few would argue that that alone qualifies you for the top Pentagon job.
Hagel’s Senate experience is on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He’s well versed in the discussions of diplomacy, economics, state to state relations, and such. But that’s not really the job of the SecDef. That job entails formulating battle plans, choosing defense systems, manging troops, etc. It’s the job of a warrior. It’s the Pentagon. It’s not Foggy Bottom.
So let’s say that Hagel IS qualified to be a Secretary of State. That’s where his experience lies, and Hagel is the first to tell you that the Iraq War needs a diplomatic, not military solution. So Hagel the diplomat — the lead diplomat — right?
Well hold on there cowboy.
Like V.P., Secretary of State is a PLUMB job. It’s arguably the rock-star job of the administration. Veep — State — Chief of Staff — maybe Treasury — then maybe Defense is arguably how you could rank administration jobs.
But we’ve already ruled-out Veep. Treasury is usually for financial types, which he also wouldn’t fit. Chief of Staff is a little too mundane probably. Above we argue that he’s not really qualified for Defense. So for a top job, visible as a Republican in a Dem admin, you’d look at State.
But is the first Democrat in eight years going to give that high level of a job to a Republican? How do you think Joe Biden, or Bill Richardson, or heck even Al Gore or Hillary would feel about that? You’d hear a LOT of grumbling. Enough grumbling to keep him out? We think so.
Then where to put the venerable Chuck Hagel?
Ambassador to the U.N? (Meh.)
Veterans Affairs? (Feh.)
Is there an empty chair at Barack’s table for Chuck?