Chuck Hagel at the IOP

So I just went to go see Chuck Hagel at the IOP. I’m always a fan of those IOP speeches as a general concept, since they represent a great opportunity for us to be involved with actual issues and talk about them, which I dig, and which I suppose is the animating idea behind this blog. So I went to hear Hagel. (Lest anyone be confused, I made a point of wearing my “Kiss me I’m Liberal” t-shirt to the speech) (more in expanded post)
As it turns out, it was an absurdly boring speech on a very interesting topic: Hagel’s belief that what we need is an all-volunteer armed forces. A very interesting idea with huge public policy and cultural implications. It’s too bad that he didn’t really address any of those, except to say that our current armed forces are stretched too thin. Also, he did not engage in any real critique of Bush’s Iraq policy, or the execution of that policy, as I had expected, except in the most oblique way (saying we were stretched too thin).

What was interesting were two side notes that he made. The first was when he traced the origin of the idea of the all-volunteer army back to Richard Nixon. Ok, fine. But what does it say about the state of our public discourse when we have prominent politicians claiming the mantle of Nixon? And it’s not that everything Nixon did was categorically bad (detente, and the EPA, for example, I think were good), but I just don’t think that when most people think of Nixon they think of dentente; I think they think “watergate, crook.” So maybe this is a non-deal, but for someone interested in rhetoric (me), it seems a perplexing choice for someone to favorably mention Nixon when he doesn’t have to. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Maybe Schwartzenegger started all of this at his convention speech?

The second interesting thing was when he was musing about the ’08 presidential election. Hagel said that it is bound to be historic insofar as neither major party has an heir (spoken like a true non-heir), and so both parties will have a great opportnity to have a debate within themselves to determine the priorities and message and etc of the party. I hope so. But I am not optimistic about the Republicans’ ability to emerge with anything new as a headlining act. I am optimistic, however, about the consequences of their inability to do that: the disintegration of their current regime, and the marginalization of their attempts to dismantle the Welfare State. (There’s my way-too-early prediction. Anybody else have one?)

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3 responses to “Chuck Hagel at the IOP

  1. Jamal Sprucewood

    Andrew Sullivan has a great article in The New Republic about the current, and on-going, debate within the Republican Party that could have big implications for 2008. It’s worth checking out and I might be posting on it soon.

  2. What’s he going to give a speech on next, his support of taking care of children? What a wussy nonsensical thing to talk about. SO clearly directed at coming to Harvard to make sure the students he’ll want to help him in 08 know he’s on their side.

    That being said, I kind of like Hagel. I mean, he’s a Republican, so I generally think he’s wrong, but he seems like more of an upstanding honest dude than tools like, say, Bill Frist or idiots like what’s-his-name from Virginia.

  3. Just out of professional curiousity… where did you get your “Kiss Me I’m Liberal” shirt?

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