Monday, January 07, 2013

Obama DOD Nominee Chuck Hagel


January 7, 2013
Dateline: Washington, DC

Obama DOD Nominee Chuck Hagel

Lightning Rod or Voice of Reason?

Today President Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense and the first enlisted soldier to ever hold the office.  The nomination met with instant criticism from liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans alike.
I believe no better nominee could be considered for this critical cabinet position and I say that not as a journalist, former political junkie or political party member but as someone deeply concerned about the future of America in a time of fiscal austerity.
Also I say that as someone who worked with Chuck when he first began his political career in Nebraska as we both served as congressional staffers and learned political warfare Midwestern style.
What does that mean?

 We served a Republican congressman from Omaha Nebraska in a congressional district that was dominated by Democrats from the city of Omaha with a non-partisan mayor and non-partisan state legislature.
In fact, from 1969 - 1973 I worked for three different mayors of Omaha, first a Republican, then a Democrat, then a Republican who turned Democrat in order to run against our congressional boss for US Senate in 1976.
Politics in the Heartland forced one to be accommodating of different views.  Once elections were decided the political party labels and political philosophies dissolved or nothing could be accomplished for the good of the people.

Compromise was a way of life and working together was far more important than party litmus tests.

When I worked in the mayors office we coordinated extensively with the GOP congressman and I got to know Chuck and appreciate the independence we all had to master in order to do good for the people.

After a stint in the Executive Office of the President I joined the same congressional office as a fellow staff member and Chuck worked in DC while I stayed in the district working with the Democrats and coordinating with the Strategic Air Command headquarters also in our district.

On many trips to Washington to meet with federal agencies Chuck let me stay at his apartment on Capitol Hill as we were both compulsive workaholics.

Chuck Hagel, though a Republican, is one of few Washington political veterans with no strings attached in terms of being beholden to special interests.  While most of our national politicians were owned by defense contractors and special interests Chuck was a former enlisted man, not career military politician, who understood the underbelly of the military and defense industry.

Because of his experience he also understood the financial implications of federal policy and was never afraid to speak his own mind, not parrot the will of the political party or president.

President's Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan all warned of the dangers of a military industrial complex, one in which our politicians and military leaders became senior executives or rich lobbyists in the defense industry when they retired, got defeated or driven from office.

Today more than ever we need government leaders who can stand up to the military industrial complex and make changes that no political party loyalist would ever be allowed to support.

Our federal government is riddled with conflicts of interest, special interests and greed because our public policy is determined as much by how much money can be made by individuals, foundations and politicians as by how well the policy serves the public good.

We need government officials who refuse to play the game that has nearly destroyed our ability to govern America FOR THE PEOPLE instead of for the political party or special interests.

Defense, like all government functions, has to be cut back and made affordable.  There are more American soldiers stationed overseas than in America and nations around the world are charging us excessive amounts for the bases we maintain to protect them.

Chuck Hagel is a pragmatic person who tells us the truth about wars and relationships and he has demonstrated consistently that he is far more patriotic than political, dating back to the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for service in Viet Nam.

We need a Defense Secretary whose first concern is for America, who is not a hack for either political party, who will not sugar coat the truth and will never forget the people and needs of Main Street America.

We also need a Secretary not interested in advancing his political career but in serving the public interest.  In the 42 years I have known Chuck Hagel and followed his career he has never been a yes man or someone who sucked up to the media to enhance his own agenda.

Hagel is an All American patriot from our nation's populist Heartland who never lost his perspective on the needs of the people nor catered to special interests in Washington.

The Senate should confirm him because of his differences with politicians and party platforms in Washington.

Jim Putnam
Coltons Point Times