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 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?