March 13, 2007

Chuck Hagel's Bogus Journey

I didn't blog about this yesterday, probably because (a) I was laughing too hard, and (b) how does one write about a non-event? Dana Milbank does a pretty good job answering the latter in his look at Chuck Hagel's much-ballyhooed press conference yesterday, when the nation's news organizations met to see the Senator show why he isn't qualified for an executive position:

The 19th-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a giant in the field of logic. The 21st-century philosopher Chuck Hagel? Not so much.

The Republican senator from Nebraska, flirting with a 2008 presidential run, scheduled "an announcement on my political future" for yesterday morning in Omaha. Media types flew in from across the country. The state's governor and attorney general, along with 15 television cameras, crowded the room. Cable networks carried the event live while pundits went wild: Would Hagel jump into the race? Run for reelection? Become an independent? Quit politics entirely?

"I'm here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year," Hagel declared in front of a presidential-blue curtain.

That was the announcement? The cable networks quickly broke away. The reporters in Omaha were feeling had.

Everyone knows that the reporters there must have felt annoyed beyond comprehension. Hagel selected his alma mater, the University of Nebraska, for his announcement. Now, March in Minneapolis is no treat, but Omaha? Hagel dragged political reporters a thousand miles into the sticks just to tell them he's indecisive.

Perhaps Hagel has taken up performance art as a hobby. It's the only explanation for a bizarre decision. Newt Gingrich hasn't held press conferences on the basis of making significant announcements just to say he's not committing to the Presidential race; Gingrich has scoffed at the entire notion of campaigning at all this early in 2007. No one considered Hagel as a potential candidate until he scheduled the presser, so the excuse of tamping down rumors doesn't hold, either -- and even if it did, a conference call from Washington would have resolved it.

I don't have much sympathy for the reporters who got fooled into traveling to this festival of vacillation. The media has played a significant contributing role in this accelerated primary race that has most of us rolling our eyes. In a way, this seems like a bit of just desserts for the hyperbolic, breathless, moment-by-moment coverage of a race that has at least ten months to go before the first votes get cast.

However, the main story is Chuck Hagel and his strange performance yesterday. It's almost as if he was ready to take the plunge and start the process of joining the campaign and changed his mind at the last minute. The other option, that he has such an oversized sense of self-importance that he needs to hold press conferences to share his transitory state of mind, is too scary to be as funny as it could be.


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Hagel Not Running -- Yet Lorie Byrd I am sure you were all on pins and needles waiting to hear whether or not Chuck Hagel is running for President. He made a statement today: Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican [Read More]