Pierce On Hagel
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He’s out of patience with the young cheerleaders of this war, the chickenhawks at places like The Weekly Standard who once called him part of an “axis of appeasement.” He is out of patience with think-tank cowboys and talk-show Napoleons. “I’m always taken aback by that certain cavalier manner, not connecting at all with that human loss,” he says. “I do think of those guys, kicking doors down, walking target practice for snipers.
“Nobody lobbies for the guy on the ground. To too many people in this business, committing men and women to war, and many of them to their deaths, is an abstraction.”
This impatience is what caused him to step in, loudly, in 2002, when a Georgia Republican Senate challenger named Saxby Chambliss — who’d sat out Vietnam with a knee problem — ran an odious television commercial in which Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were linked to Democratic incumbent Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran. Hagel called Senator Bill Frist, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and chewed Frist’s ass like it was steak. Take the ad down today, Hagel told him, or I’m going to Georgia and cut a commercial endorsing Max. “I told Max’s guys to start writing it,” Hagel recalls. The ad came down.
He’d seen this kind of thing before, in South Carolina, in 2000, when the Bush people submarined his friend John McCain. They ran whispering campaigns that a Bangladeshi child the McCains had adopted was the senator’s love child with a black woman. Hagel was appalled. “These are people with no courage, on both sides,” he says. “Cowards. Nameless and faceless. I called it the filthiest thing I’d ever seen.”
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