Ending the "Chuck Hagel Is a Maverick" Meme

05/25/2011 12:00 pm ET

Enough. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is not a maverick. He is not a rebel. He is not a moderate. He is not John McCain circa 2000. He does not benefit from a strong "Draft Hagel" movement. He is not a Republican Democrats can like. To borrow the words of Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback, we need to take the "Chuck Hagel is a maverick" meme behind a barn and kill it with a dull axe.

Chuck Hagel's voting record is clear. He votes with Bush and he votes the way conservatives want him to vote. Hagel votes against abortion rights, against civil rights, and against environmental protections. Hagel's beliefs are squarely in line with the Republican Party platform. Period.

Hagel is certainly occupying an important political space by opposing the Bush/McCain plan to escalate the war in Iraq. He is vocally and visibly against sending tens of thousands of more American troops into the meat grinder of Iraq. Doing so gives other Republicans cover to take similar positions. Hagel is embracing a correct position on Iraq, but it is not based on his ideology and it tells us nothing about what Chuck Hagel believes about how government should work and what policies we should be deploying to make our country a better place. Opposing the president as a member of the Republican Party is a rarity today and I can appreciate the pleasure Democrats feel when Bush is getting whipped by a Republican. Let's be clear: Iraq is one issue and Chuck Hagel is a lock-step conservative on every other issue Republicans care about.

Hagel's opposition to Iraq is not centrism, it's the minimum threshold for being a human being with power to influence the course of events in a war. In this context, Hagel is only a maverick to the extent that the party with which he shares his deepest seated beliefs on the economy, taxation, and the role of the federal government is filled with people who have spent the last five years prioritizing the powers of the presidency over their own, while seeking the approbation of the man who continually benefits from their negligence as legislators. That, then, is a statement about the Republican Party and not Chuck Hagel.

It is important that we ask who Chuck Hagel is because praise of a Republican presidential candidate does not do our movement any good. Praising Hagel on Iraq gives him cover to be a right-wing ideologue on all other issues. The last thing that America needs is another Republican masquerading as a moderate while holding the line at the policy bastions of the conservative movement.

Please, the next time you hear Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, or even a Republican blogger claim that Hagel is a moderate, a maverick, or any other adjective that paints him as an anti-Republican figure, remember that it simply is not true. He remains a purebred Republican despite his correct positioning on Iraq. As edifying as it is to watch Hagel denounce Bush's Iraq plan, our satisfaction must be short lived and it must not guide us towards falsely deifying this doctrinaire Republican.