Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hagel: Democrats Are More Honest

Q: You're one of a growing number of Republicans who have lately accused President Bush of botching the war in Iraq.

If someone says I am a disloyal Republican because I am not supporting my party, let them say it. War is bigger than politics.

Q: You, John McCain and John Kerry are the only current U.S. senators who served in Vietnam.

I got to Vietnam in December of 1967, and I was wounded twice with my brother Tom, who was with me. I still have some shrapnel in my chest that the doctors never took out. The second time my face was burned pretty bad, and I had both eardrums blown out.

Q: Are you saying you are deaf?

Eardrums heal, but I did lose some hearing.

Q: Did you kill anyone in the war?

Well, I am sure I did.

Q: How would you compare the situation in Iraq with the one in Vietnam?

Congress was absent during the Vietnam War, and they didn't ask the tough questions, and consequently we lost 58,000 Americans and lost a war and humiliated this nation. It took a generation to get over it. As long as I am here as a U.S. senator, I am going to do whatever I can to make sure that isn't going to happen.

Q: What do you suggest that the president do?

For starters, we don't have enough troops. But I don't think the answer to increasing manpower is to pursue some of the things the Pentagon is doing, such as doubling and tripling bonuses for those in the military. Kids do not serve their country because they are in it to make money.

Many serve to help pay for school and because they see it as a career.

Of course. But you aren't going to attract the kind of people we have been able to attract just by incentives. When you try to project military recruitment through bonuses, you are going to get people signing up for the wrong reasons.

On the other hand, with our deficit now exceeding $400 billion, aren't we sort of out of money?

In terms of the deficit, we have blown the top right off. We're a bunch of Democrats.

Q: I've never heard anyone call President Bush a Democrat.

That's my point. We're less honest about it. We built the biggest government history has ever seen under a Republican government. The Democrats are better because they are honest about it. They don't pretend. I admire that. They'll say: ''We want more money. We need more money.''

--NY Times, July 4, '05


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