Daniel Larison gets it just right about Chuck Hagel:
I have no problem if some folks want to applaud Hagel's criticisms and acknowledge that he has at least dissented a little bit from the party line, but let's not get carried away. I also have no problem if some want to support his candidacy, if and when it ever comes into existence, provided that they understand that he is not an antiwar candidate and represents pretty much standard-issue Republican Party political establishment views on everything from immigration to foreign policy to trade. Chuck Hagel is a party man in the Party of Immigration, Imperialism and Insolvency, so Hagel supporters should consider themselves forewarned. You may as well support Sam Brownback–you would be getting almost exactly the same thing. When Hagel does do something really impressive, then we can start praising him. Until then, the unseemly gushing over someone who isn't even on our side in the debate and who makes a point of distancing himself from our positions is bizarre. Rick Santorum has also dissented from the administration on foreign policy, albeit in the opposite direction of ever-crazier and more dangerous ideas, but his status as an "outspoken" critic alone shouldn't recommend him to us.
And Ross Douthat and Mark Schmitt beat up on the Prairie Hamlet in streaming internet video, if that's your bag. In my Hagel-mocking post of Monday (in a perfect world, all Hagel posts would be Hagel-mocking ones), I realize that I ignored the reason why he gets so much media coverage for basically doing nothing: He's a war hero. In the past, when he's compared Iraq to Vietnam, he's been taken seriously in a way that, say, Ted Kennedy hasn't been. Call it the Jim Webb Exception. This makes it even stranger that Hagel voted not just for the Iraq War, but against the Senate's anti-surge resolution. Yes, the one that prompted his "go sell shoes" remark. Hagel's stance seems to be "Anyone who supports this terrible idea is an idiot who's forgotten his history. I support this terrible idea."
Enough about him. Gene Healy's observations about the grown-up GOP contenders deserve a link. He rules out Rudy and McCain and writes:
That leaves Mitt Romney, the guy I currently consider the least dangerous among the GOP frontrunners. I read someone recently who called him the Republican Clinton. There's something to that. He's a wonderfully shameless liar and seemingly incapable of embarassment if you've watched him getting grilled on his flip-flops. "Governor, here in 1998 you said A. Last week you said not-A. But A is A, no?" "That's an interesting question George…"
Like Clinton, he wants to be president because it's there. And that's repulsive. But the great political scientist Theodore Lowi was right when he coined his "Third Law of Politico-Dynamics of the Second Republic of the United States," even if I'm not sure what politico-dynamics are. Lowi:
The Law of Succession: Each president contributes to the upgrading of his predecessors.
I used to find Clinton's slavishly poll-tested approach to governance contemptible. And so it was. But George W. Bush has made me realize that there's something worse: the conviction that God has put you in office to work his will, even if in the end, only God, Laura, Barney and Hugh Hewitt recognize your role in implementing God's plan. Compared to that, a president who has no principles to speak of, a president who just wants to be popular–well, it could be worse. Thus, Romney.
Plus, Romney can occasionally make a decision!