Senator Hagel steps into the Sarah Palin spin zone

Nebraska U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R)

Nebraska U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R)

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska stepped into the Sarah Palin spin zone this week, publicly questioning the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate’s (VEEPCAN’s) political experience.

“She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel said in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald Wednesday.

What sets Hagel apart from the critical Democratic tide against Palin is his party affiliation. He’s a  true Republican maverick.  Sen. John McCain used to be a Republican maverick too. Now he’s swerved mainstream GOP with his presidential candidacy.

Years ago, Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was the first to break ranks with his party and the Bush administration over the Iraq War.

Hagel, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, openly questions Alaska Governor Palin since she cited her state’s proximity to Russia as evidence of her international experience.

“You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything,” said Hagel.

Palin recently talked about her foreign policy experience with ABC News Anchor Charlie Gibson.

“I’m ready,” Palin said. “I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink.”

"I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'" Hagel said of Palin. "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people." Hagel disagrees with Palin’s self-assessment:

“I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'” he said. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”

Hagel, who says he has no plans to endorse John McCain or Barack Obama, traveled with Obama on a trip to the Middle East in July. Hagel supported McCain’s unsuccessful bid for president in 2000.

In the World-Herald article, Tom Kise, a McCain campaign spokesman, responded to Hagel’s comments by questioning Obama’s experience.

Kise pointed to statements that Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, made during the Democrats’ primary fight. At that time, Biden was seeking the nomination and questioned whether Obama was prepared to be president.

“It’s much more alarming that Barack Obama’s own vice presidential nominee doesn’t think he has the experience or the judgment for the job,” Kise said.

Hagel qualified his assessment of Palin:

“Experience is not the only qualification for elected officials – judgment and character are indispensable. Washington experience isn’t the only kind of experience,” Hagel said.

Hagel added that many White House occupants have been governors with no time inside the beltway.

“But I do think in a world that is so complicated, so interconnected and so combustible, you really got to have some people in charge that have some sense of the bigger scope of the world,” Hagel said. “I think that’s just a requirement.”

So is Palin qualified to be president?

“I think it’s a stretch to, in any way, to say that she’s got the experience to be president of the United States,” Hagel said.

Hagel said voters ultimately will decide between McCain and Obama. He hopes the debates will refocus both campaigns on important issues like the economy, energy policy and international relations.

One last note on Sen. Hagel; He’s not running for re-election.  Would you be surprised if Hagel was offered a cabinet position in the Obama administration if the Democrats win in November?

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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