It's not uncommon for an interviewer to tell a guest offering orotund pronouncements that he's sounding "like a candidate." But Meredith Vieira took that one giant step further this morning, informing renegade Republican Chuck Hagel that he was sounding downright "presidential."
Of course, nothing sounds more presidential to an MSMer's ears than defeatist criticism of the war in Iraq and by extension of the current occupant of the White House. But when it came to the key question, Hagel, far from flashing presidential timber, equivocated like a garden-variety pol.
Vieira: "Senator, at this point, do you believe we are fighting and dying for nothing?"
Hagel immediately went into bob-and-weave mode: "Well, I think the Congress needs to take a look at it and each member of Congress needs to go on the record and need [sic] to address the issue in a very clear way so that they can go back to their constituents and say yes I either support an escalation to put 22,000 more troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war, or I don't."
View video here.
Senator, your resolution doesn't "take a look at it." It would deny the president the means to fight this war. Hagel pontificated at length until Meredith, clearly dissatisfied with his evasiveness, tried again:
"But again, senator, do you believe that we are fighting and dying for nothing, at this point?"
Hagel: "Well, we're asking that question. When you say dying and fighting for nothing, what are the parameters, what's the definition?"
No, Sen. Hagel, you're not "asking that question." By condemning the president's policy and opposing the surge, you're answering it. You obviously do believe our people are fighting and dying in vain. Why not have the courage of your convictions and say so?
Later, Vieira hit Hagel with a quote from Sen. Orrin Hatch [R-UT] accusing Hagel of "playing around with resolutions," adding "most Republicans want us to win over there."
Hagel seems given to big-league bloviating, but within his windy response to the Hatch quote was this: "Again, I go back to the question of what do you mean, 'win'? . . . Are we going to just blindly to continue to feed more troops into this situation, a sectarian civil war that American troops cannot win?"
In closing, Vieira turned to Hagel's ambitions: "I can't let you go without asking you, Senator Hagel. Are you planning to run for president? You're sounding presidential."
Hagel, albeit clumsily so, offered up a stock answer: "You'll be one of the first I, I let know and soon as I let, ah, let you know, we'll go from there. Thank you."
So let's see. Defeatism, leavened with a "define your terms" dodge reminiscent of Bill Clinton soliloquizing on the meaning of "is." Guess that would sound "presidential" to a member of the liberal media.
Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org