Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ignoring Ambition Checking Ambition

At the founding of our country, James Madison felt confident that a system of checks and balances between different branches of the federal government would work, because "[a]mbition must be made to counteract ambition." Neither Madison, nor the founders generally, anticipated the role that dominant political parties would play in harmonizing the goals of the various branches when those branches were instructed to toe the party line.

Today, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Ne) is valiantly and eloquently standing up to the Bush surge-scalation effort, vocally opposing the White House and demanding that his fellow Senators take a position. In chiding his fellow colleagues into being clear about where they stand on Iraq, Hagel offered this:

What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why were you elected?

If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business. But is it any tougher, us having to take a tough vote, express ourselves and have the courage to step up on what we’re asking our young men and women to do?

I don’t think so.
If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes is probably the most concise, memorable statement about political responsibility that I've heard during my adult life.

So how does the neoconservative establishment respond to Hagel's ambition? By ignoring it. In the 58 posts and 8,604 words that National Review editors have written today on their blog, the word "Hagel" appears exactly once — and then, only in reference to an immigration bill he co-sponsored last year.

Until the authors of the current debacle — whether it be the intellectual authors at the National Review or the strategic authors like Dick Cheney — learn to address their critics in a forthright and authentic manner, it will be impossible for them to repair any of the erosion that has so completely undermined their credibility.

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