Politics & Society

South Africa's Big Election, and Debating Chuck Hagel

Sen Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Getty Images hide caption

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Today, as we like to do, we turned our attention to international news.

I don't know about you, but I loved the discussion about the upcoming ANC elections in South Africa. I loved that both of our guests were very well informed, had strong views, respected each other (and disagreed) on some key points. I felt we got not just a texture of the race, not just the usual geopolitical blah, blah, blah — which is important, sure — but also a feel for how the race is playing out with people. How it feels.

I got a sense of the candidates as real flesh and blood people, thanks to our guests. I hope they'll come back.

And, I also appreciated Sen. Chuck Hagel's coming on. I saw him at CBS' Face the Nation a while back (Mother's Day to be exact). We were both on the show, but not at the same time. We were all hanging out in the green room and I thought at the time, I'd love to have him on. Thanks to our planning editor Beneva Schulte's persistence, we made it happen.

Although I do wish we could get these Members of Congress to come down to the studio. The phone is okay, but it's distant somehow. Their schedules are horrible, so I don't blame them. And there's a reason the political chat shows are all on the weekend — it's the only time the members are not running around like hot peas on a griddle. It's crazy. Have you ever been to an event up there on Capitol Hill? You're going along and all of a sudden somebody whispers something to somebody, and they all jump up and run out of the room to go vote. Or the President calls or something ... Or they have to go to a committee meeting ... Or they have to meet constituents who just stop in unannounced ... It's crazy.

Still. I'd like to hear how you think leaders should grapple with the question of accountability with the intelligence agencies. I heard the Senator kind of grappling with it out loud. But I'd like to hear from you, especially those of you with experience in this area. A former CIA officer has just gone public with his knowledge of an interrogation session that used techniques many consider torture. The agent says that the session yielded important information, but he thought the cost was too high — both to the people doing the work and to the country. He said, we're better than that. How do we draw the line?

... And speaking of drawing the line, there were some in my office who thought my question to Sen. Hagel about the Republicans skipping the debates on minority issues was random and not really his issue because, after all, he's not running for President. I'll let Beneva explain her opposing views:

So, after making sure I got my paycheck this week — I decided to take on the boss. I'm outing myself ... I'm the "some in my office" Michel mentioned who didn't think we should ask Hagel about Republicans skipping debates on minority issues. My argument is the elevator question: if you're on an elevator with someone and you have a chance to ask them one question, what should it be? We were on that elevator in the last few minutes of the Hagel interview, and I think we should have asked him if he thinks there is a place in the 2008 Presidential race for an independent candidate. Hagel is one of the names most often mentioned (along with Bloomberg) as a possible candidate for that third party bid. Voters are asking for change in this election (it's why Sen. Obama is rising in the polls in the early states) ... We had a shot at asking Hagel about this and we didn't. I think it was a missed opportunity.

Uh, yeah, Beneva, which Bob Schieffer asked him about back in May on his show Face the Nation. So there...

Ah, ok Michel, is it my fault this has been going on for a whole year!?!?!

[OK, Michel, Beneva ... it's Lee here. I'm editing this, so the back and forth has to STOP. Driving me nuts].

I obviously disagree because, as a member of the party, I thought he might have an opinion about how his colleagues are conducting their campaigns, just like I have an opinion about how some of my peers commit (-er, I mean conduct, journalism). And, as this is a show that tries to focus on issues of particular interest to minorities. But what do you think? Should I have asked him about whether he and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are still talking that independent talk instead?

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Michel,

I don't think your question to Sen. Hagel was out of line. It was notable Presidential hopefuls from his party who skipped the debates geared toward minorities. So if his former colleagues such as Newt Gingrinch and Jack Kemp could call those Republican candidates to task for what they did (or failed to do), why is he any different? If you ask me (ok you are), for Sen. Hagel to be known as very candid and outspoken, his silence on this issue was deafening.

Another thing, I fail to understand why he got defensive at the end of the interview calling out the media for asking "dumb questions." Has he listened to any of the debates lately? Some of his colleagues are the ones giving dumb answers or worse, perfecting the act of flip-flopping.

Sent by Moji | 1:47 PM | 12-14-2007

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