One thing I love to point out to people who dismiss my home state of Nebraska as being automatically red is that we aren’t your typical red state. Most Nebraskans I know have a pretty strong independent streak. We don’t much like being tossed into groups without our consent, nor do we think much of arguments based chiefly on popular opinion or what a large group of people believe. This has led to some interesting conversations with my wife, who was born and raised in Alabama. Alabama, and much of the southeast, tends to be much more hierarchical; sometimes it almost feels like they have a functional aristocracy. We don’t know much about this in Nebraska, where most everyone that lives here is either the descendent of a homesteader, an immigrant, or is an immigrant themselves. That sort of backdrop to a state has a flattening effect, I think. We tend to think that just about everyone here has what they do because they’ve worked damned hard for it or their parents or grandparents did–or both.
Anyway, Nebraska’s independence has a way of showing up on the national stage. True, we do occasionally produce some partisan hacks. (I’m looking at you Lee Terry… well, I’m actually looking at the dictionary entry for “corrupt political hack.” Your picture just happens to appear where the definition should be.) But we also produce some real free-thinking gems. Most famously, we’ve produced Bob Kerrey, Ben Nelson, and Chuck Hagel. Jeff Fortenberry has also shown a more independent streak, as one of the few Republican congressman not kowtowing to Norquist.
But anyway, back to Hagel: When I heard Obama was looking at him for Sec. of Defense, I was thrilled. Hagel’s nomination is great news for any foreign policy realists who hope to see a less aggressive, less interventionist brand of American foreign policy. Predictably, of course, the hawkish wing of the GOP has gone after Hagel in a big way. My hunch–and hope–is that in doing so they’ll once again demonstrate how extreme their bloodlust has become so that they’ll become even more marginalized than they already are. In any event, their day seems to be fading. If David Brooks is right–and I hope he is–Hagel will preside over a shrinking Pentagon that is going to have to learn to live with less (just like everyone else is).
If you want more reading on the Hagel nomination, you will not do better than the always-excellent Daniel Larison. If Hagel is approved, this will likely be the opening chapter of a new less intrusive, less arrogant, less destructive brand of foreign policy. I hoped it would come with the Obama administration, but, as irony would have it, it looks like the new era will actually begin with a Republican in charge of the Pentagon. Go figure.