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Chuck Hagel's Very Strange Speech

The other day I went to that firefighter gig at the Hyatt Regency where something like 235 presidential candidates showed up. I would have blogged about the event sooner, but I'm worried that this blog could become "timely," and then, who knows, "relevant," which would then create expectations of quality -- I guess the word I'm searching for is "standards" -- that I could not possibly meet without exerting effort (what I privately refer to as the e-word).

In any case, I feel compelled to post one minor aspect of the day-long panderthon (Ana Marie Cox's term): Chuck Hagel, who many people admire for his maverick stance on the war, delivered one of the stranger speeches in recent Washington history. It featured multiple layers of pointlessness. He's not running for president and thus shouldn't have been there to begin with (as he noted at the outset). He's known for opposing the war, but barely mentioned it. And as noted by The Post's Dan Balz and Zachary Goldfarb, Hagel decided that this would be a good venue for praising the virtues of volunteer firefighters. But perhaps a staffer could have tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out that the International Association of Fire Fighters is a union group. These people have actual paying jobs. They don't like volunteer firefighters. This was like rhapsodizing about juicy steaks and the many fun uses of bacon at a PETA convention.

I kept expecting him to say: "Who am I? Why am I here? And who the hell are you people?"

But maybe I'm being ungenerous, obstreperous, crabby, etc.. Here are some excerpts. You make the call.

Sen. Chuck Hagel:

"I am grateful to Harold and to the international firefighters for an opportunity to address you today. I know I am unworthy, of course, to do that for many reasons, probably most specifically that I am not an announced candidate for anything yet; I have no intention of announcing anything today... I tried that once this week.

"There seems to be some confusion over that, so we'll try again at a later date.

"So I am particularly grateful for allowing me to be an interloper here and not with the credentials that my colleagues who have appeared before me have and those who will appear later also possess, and that is their defined interest in leading this country.

"And to those individuals who have spoken today and those who will come after me, I first commend them and thank them for their service to our country and their willingness to put themselves -- again -- on the line for beliefs and ideals that are important to them; and their vision for our country.

"That is the strength of a democracy. That is the very fiber of a society.

"So I wish them well.

[skipping ahead a bit]

"What America will be looking for, probably more than at any time in modern history, is a government led by leaders who are honest, competent and accountable; who will focus on fixing America's problems in a dignified and focused and responsible way.

"Now, that statement probably, in some way, is included in almost every civics book in our schools across America and should not be a particularly profound statement. It is not. [LET ME BE THE CRITIC, SENATOR.]

"But it cuts to the heart of what your president was referring to. Americans deserve a country, a government, a worthy of them, their sacrifices and our society.

"The firefighters, those who serve our nation in a very selfless way, whose interests are far greater than their own -- your interests are, first, your community's interests. The sacrifices made by firefighters, by policemen, by teachers, and certainly our armed forces and many others, is all about interests greater than their own self-interests.

"That is who we are.

"That does set America apart from every other nation, every society. It doesn't mean that we're better, it doesn't mean we're smarter, it doesn't mean we're more moral.

"De Tocqueville wrote about it in the 1830s, this strange land called America, when communities would come together and address the challenges, the threats, the issues in their communities.

"It worked because the people made it work. They came together a spirit conducive to making the town work, the community work.

"And I know of no better example of that than voluntary fire departments across this country. I know about volunteer fire departments in Nebraska; of the 400 and, I believe, 78 fire departments in Nebraska, 456 of them are volunteer fire departments.

"That is the essence, the core of contributing to your democracy.


"Well, you can have your moment up here. He's a volunteer fireman. [NO, A UNION GUY WITH A JOB] But we thank you.

"These are the people who give so much for so many. These are the people we rely on..

"I think we have an opportunity in this country, in the world, to bring a convergence of interests together like few times in our history. I think maybe the last time we had such an opportunity was right after World War II when the world was adrift and it looked to the United States for leadership.

"That leadership came not just from America, but it came through a consensus of our international allies and our friends. And why was that? Why were we so successful over the last 60 years?

"Because we build an international frame of reference. [I KNEW THAT WAS THE ANSWER.] Coalitions of common interest brought people together for common purpose, just as you do in your communities, just as you do in your communities every day. And again, the firefighters embody that, as well as any group of individuals that we have in America.


"You make your communities better. You make our country better. You deserve a government worthy of your efforts, just like our brave young men fighting in Iraq [FINALLY MENTIONS WAR] deserve a policy worthy of their sacrifices.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Thank you very much."


Josh Marshall speculating on how long Gonzales will last before he announces he is an obstacle to the achievement of President Bush's law enforcement objectives. I'm guessing he's defenestrated at about 8 p.m. Friday night, to minimize the coverage.


Light's duality confirmed (phew!):


Who is this twit named "Gatorborn" who picked Duke to go to the Final Four? What an idiot!!!

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 16, 2007; 5:38 AM ET
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