Being a Republican In Name Only may be the kiss of death in GOP primaries but it’s a great selling point in academia.
- Former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the longtime gray eminence of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be lecturing on statesmanship at Indiana University at Bloomington;
- Former Senator Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., is lecturing at Georgetown; and
- Former Senator Arlen Specter, R, then D-Pa., was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania between his last unsuccessful election and his untimely demise.
Working in Washington for more than a quarter of a century, I had the chance to observe all three of these gentlemen in action. Of this trio, politics aside, Specter was probably the most skilled. Agree with him or not, to observe him at a hearing was to see probably the most adept prosecutor on Capitol Hill at work.
He was perhaps at his best in the Waco hearings. “Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a presidential hopeful, questioned Atty. Gen. Janet Reno on Tuesday about the government’s role in the Branch Davidian disaster in Texas,” the Associated Press reported in 1995. “At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Specter questioned the FBI’s tear-gassing of the cult compound near Waco just before it burned to the ground in 1993.”
“The two-month siege in which four federal agents and about 90 cult members died has become a rallying cause for armed militias and other right-wing groups.”
As for Sens. Lugar and Hagel, it is hard to see what makes them particularly expert in anything. Sen. Lugar achieved renown as a foreign policy maven largely by saying things the establishment media and other elites wanted to hear. These observations do not always hold up well historically. During the Cold War, he told then-Senator Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., that it was dangerous to challenge the Soviet Union on its arms control violations because the U.S.S.R. was too powerful. Arguably, Sen. Wallop was the more prescient of the two yet I have not been able to find an academic post he held after leaving the Senate. Nevertheless, Lugar looks absolutely eloquent in comparison to an old Senate colleague of his who is attempting to get another government job.
As for Sen. Hagel, President Obama’s Republican choice to head the Pentagon, the fact that his nomination is endangered by Republicans speaks volumes. Cliff Kincaid has done in-depth examinations of the senator’s career for Accuracy in Media. Jonah Goldberg summed up Hagel’s reputation nicely: “Hagel — never overburdened with too heavy a reputation for insight, knowledge, or humility — is loathed, with ample justification, by many foreign-policy hawks, Israel supporters, and neocons (those are overlapping but hardly synonymous groups, by the way).”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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