(Originally posted at the Republican Party of Virginia’s blog)
What a tumultuous month it has been for Republican U.S. Senators. Almost overnight the climate has changed dramatically with the planned retirement of Senators Warner and Hagel, and the resignation of Larry Craig. As Republicans, we can view this as “Woe is us,” or “Hooray for us.” I view it as the latter because we can and should hold all three seats, and we have some excellent candidates. I wanted to share with the readers of the Republican Party of Virginia’s blog my thoughts on the style of the departures and the prospects for the future, especially here in Virginia.
Let me start with Larry Craig. Of course there is no comparison whatsoever between Craig and the Warner/Hagel departures. While all of us have erred at times, in my view Larry Craig acted disgracefully in his behavior and in his expeditious guilty plea. Of course he was subjected to a sting operation, and it is unlikely he would have been convicted if he had fought the charge. At my alma mater, West Point, we were taught in the cadet motto to “have the courage to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” a phrase so ingrained in me that it adorns the plaque in my honor at the Malek Tennis Center at West Point. Larry Craig chose the easier wrong, and he has put his party and the Senate through a humiliating spectacle. He should resign as he originally announced.
The polar opposite of Craig is John Warner who not only has served with the greatest honor and distinction in his 29 years in the Senate, but came to the most difficult of decisions for any leader: Depart at the top of his game and create the opportunity for a new generation. He is a Senator’s Senator, and a consensus builder, and a great champion of U.S. military forces and national security. He announced his ‘08 retirement as he should, with the greatest of honor and class. He placed country ahead of politics or personal in the best spirit of the Party of Lincoln.
Chuck Hagel has also served two terms with strength and independence. As Ambassador to the Economic Summit of Major Industrialized Nations in 1990, I had the good fortune of selecting fellow Vietnam veteran Chuck as my deputy. He proved to be an effective manager with a unique blend of toughness, charisma, and judgment. He was even able to make me look good – a tall order. In recent years Chuck’s reservations about a U.S. policy in Iraq grew to the point of disaffection. I believed he was also fed up with the inability to get much done in the Senate. While I disagree with him on the conduct of the war against terror, and in particular Iraq, I deeply respect his independence and conviction. He is making the right decision for his family and himself, and his future will continue to be bright. I hope he will join John Warner in supporting John McCain’s candidacy.
I believe we will readily hold the Senate seats in Idaho and Nebraska and also believe we can and will hold Virginia. As the State Finance Chairman for the Republican Party of Virginia, it is of course my job to believe and say this. However, the efforts are there. We have two likely contenders for the Republican nomination, and both are dynamic, hugely qualified candidates. Tom Davis has been one of the most effective leaders in the U.S. Congress for a decade, and his leadership helped keep a Republican majority when he chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee. Jim Gilmore was an effective Governor who reduced taxes, including the car tax. They will likely engage in a spirited primary which will raise their profiles and put the victor in a strong position to defeat Mark Warner in 2008.
Call me a pollyanna if you will. But I believe that led by a strong Presidential candidate in 2008, our Senate prospects are strong, and Republicans will hold all the seats with the election of vigorous newcomers.