Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) gave a grim assessment of the Bush administration Thursday and said the problems facing America today are “far deeper and wider and worse than what FDR faced.”
Speaking at the Cato Institute in Washington DC where he was promoting his new book America: The Next Chapter, Hagel blasted the administration for refusing to adjust to the realities of a dynamic and changing world. He was particularly critical of President Bush’s aggressive war policy.
“We can’t compare Iraq or the Middle East today to the bipolar challenges of the Cold War. Relatively simple, those days,” he said.
He accused the Bush administration of focusing exclusively on terrorism and ignoring other crucial challenges, saying the government had “deflected our attention and resources over the past seven years to scaring the hell out of the American people.”
He also criticized the government’s Iran policy, saying President Bush needed to take a “wider-lens view” of Iran and couldn’t risk alienating Iran’s 75 million people, many of whom despise its current regime.
The articulate Nebraska senator and Vietnam War veteran emerged as a leading Republican critic of the Iraq war in 2005. Although he had initially voted to give the president authorization to use force in Iraq in 2002, he later said he regretted his vote, compared the intervention to the Vietnam War, and called the White House “completely disconnected from reality.”
Hagel addressed recent rumors that he could be a choice for fellow anti-war Senator Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee, saying he could not rule out the possibility, the same as “any responsible citizen who cares about his country.”
Rather than divert the nation’s attention to terrorism, Hagel recommended that the next president address a plethora of interconnected global issues, many of which had been neglected under Bush.
“We have no trade policy. We have no energy policy. We spend a lot of money, but there’s no greater purpose, greater context to it,” he said.
Hagel has announced he will not seek reelection for a third term this year.