Chuck Hagel, a student of history, can read until the cows come home before he finds any administration as arrogant and incompetent as President George W. Bush's. Hagel's spot-on assessment of Bush's disastrous presidency really should dominate the campaign for his successor.
Whatever the candidates say they would like to do is overshadowed by the monumental mess they will inherit, and Bush still has time to wreak more havoc on the nation and world. Hagel noted it would take the next president at least four years to "dig out from under" the dung heap of the horrible Bush years. Hagel is an optimist.
He made his remarks last week before the Council on Foreign Relations. While expressing confidence that new leadership in the White House can set the nation back on track, the senator lamented Bush's rejection of the opportunity to reach out to a sympathetic world.
"I think this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was in their grasp. Every poll in the world showed 90 percent of the world was with us," Hagel said. "Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America. They squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity."
Bush never misses an opportunity to ramp up fear of Iran, and many Democrats join in the hysteria, as Hillary Clinton did when she voted for a Senate resolution declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.
Bush and his neoconservative Dr. Strangeloves want to create a trifecta of violence in the Muslim world, adding Iran to their other "success stories" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Scott Ritter, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, predicts Bush is planning to attack Iran in the spring of 2008, before "the crazy political season of the summer." In an interview with Detroit's Metro Times, Ritter explained how Bush's aggression continues unchecked, in spite of the manifest failures in Iraq:
"The Democrats, one would hope, would live up to their rhetoric, that is, challenging the Bush administration's imperial aspirations. Once it became clear Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, one would have thought that when the Democrats took control of Congress, they would have sought to reimpose a system of checks and balances, as the Constitution mandates. But instead the Democrats have put their focus solely on recapturing the White House, and, in doing so, will not do anything that creates a political window for their Republican opponents."
Many Democrats are nervous about being branded weak on terror and the predictable Republican slur that they are defending Iran's wacky president and Holocaust-denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The Democrats don't want to go up against that," Ritter said. "They don't have the courage of their conviction to enter into that debate."
But Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., is showing some resolve and facing off with Bush with a pledge to press for impeachment if the president authorizes a military strike on Iran.
"The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran and ... if he does, as foreign relations committee chairman and former chairman of judiciary, I move to impeach him." Biden told a crowd during a campaign stop in New Hampshire last week. Biden got a roar from the crowd, adding, "If you're going to impeach George Bush, you better impeach Cheney first."
Vice President Dick Cheney had another heart scare last week, but after a hospital visit -- paid for by his government health insurance -- he's reported to be doing just fine. Doctors used an electrical current to correct Cheney's irregular heartbeat. The two-and-a-half-hour procedure won't cost our multi-millionaire vice president a dime. God bless socialized medicine!
Biden got off one of the better lines in the campaign when he described a Rudy Giuliani' stump speech. "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb and 9/11," Biden quipped.
Giuliani scares the hell out of me, and it is stunning how many people think this guy is fit for the presidency, even as we learn more about his megalomania and narcissism that might actually exceed Bush's.
In fact, Giuliani and Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunners, are in a contest to sell themselves as "Uber Bush," like "Shrub on steroids." They fashion themselves as tougher than the impetuous cowpoke whose swagger and arrogance have brought so much suffering to the world. Giuliani and Romney seek to top that record.
Tough guy Giuliani is trying explain how he did everything on the up and up when he was mayor of New York City, and the taxpayers paid tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses for his security detail while he was shacking up with his mistress at her love nest in Southampton, Long Island. Judith Nathan would later become Mrs. Rudy Giuliani III.
Giuliani whined that the report in "The Politico" an online journal was not true. "Politico" used New York's Freedom of Information law to force the release of the expense reports and American Express records, which Giuliani kept hidden when he was mayor.
The expenses were buried in the budgets of obscure agencies in the city government, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the mayor's police security detail. Just routine accounting, Giuliani wants us to believe.
Anthony V. Carbonetti, one of Giuliani's political advisers, told The New York Times, "These are all legitimate expenses incurred by the NYPD while performing their duty protecting the mayor."
The issue is: Was it legitimate to bury the expenses, and did Giuliani's accounting minions provide him cover and protect the mayor from exposure for sticking the taxpayers with the bill as he performed his extramarital duty?
As loathsome as Giuliani is personally -- more vile revelations are sure to come -- it is his position on the role of the United States in the world that makes him unfit for the presidency.
He is certainly the first candidate for president ever to make violating the Geneva Convention and U.S. War Crimes Act an important plank in his platform.
Former lawman Giuliani wants to throw international law out the window as he embraces water-boarding. Giuliani shrugged off the torture technique recognized as such since the Middle Ages, saying, "It depends how it is done."
He also did what seemed to be impossible, surrounding himself with a team of foreign policy advisers even nuttier than Bush's people. Giuliani has chosen Norman Podhoretz, the columnist and "Godfather of neoconservatism," to head his team as senior foreign policy adviser.
Podhoretz is crazy as an outhouse rat, and his ties to Giuliani tell us all we need to know about the direction we would take in the world.
Podhoretz has been pleading with Bush to launch an attack on Iran as soon as possible. Podhoretz calmly said in an interview, "Well, if we were to bomb the Iranians, as I hope and pray we will, we'll unleash a wave of anti-Americanism all over the world that will make the anti-Americanism we've experienced so far look like a love fest."
Podhoretz has been wrong about everything he's said about Iraq, and now he wants another war in Iran. Podhoretz is dangerous, and Giuliani turns to him for guidance on the Middle East.
Romney said one thing that should keep him out of public life forever. He said, "We ought to double Guantanamo" and use the hellhole to hold even more prisoners, denying them basic human rights.
Even Bush has talked about shutting down the prison at Guantanamo, and Romney wants to expand it. Why stop at doubling its size? If we tripled its capacity, wouldn't we be even safer?
In the case of Ahmed Khadr, likely to be the first Guantanamo detainee to go to trial, The New York Times reports a military judge has ordered his lawyers "not to tell their client -- or anyone else -- the identity of witnesses against them." Romney wants an even bigger Stalinist gulag.
Hagel may have to rethink his "most arrogant and incompetent administration" assessment if Rudy or Mitt move into the White House. God forbid.
Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News.
© 2007 Niagara Falls Reporter