Sen. Chuck Hagel Strikes Again

HAGEL STRIKES AGAIN:  Two years after he made it clear he preferred Barack Obama for President to his fellow Republican and Vietnam War veteran John McCain, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.) demonstrated once again why conservatives have been distrustful of him. Last week, Hagel endorsed arch-leftist Rep. Joe Sestak (D.-Pa.) in his bid for the U.S. Senate against the Republican nominee, solidly conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey. Hagel then campaigned with Sestak throughout the Keystone State. Recalling how he has known Sestak since they traveled to Iraq together in April 2007, Hagel hailed the two-term congressman as “a courageous and independent thinker.” Most observers in and out of Pennsylvania were left wondering what aside from their opposition to the Iraq War Hagel (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 85%) had in common with Sestak (lifetime ACU rating: 0%). Responding to Hagel’s endorsement of Sestak, Toomey told reporters that “if Joe Sestak is looking for an out-of-state visitor who best reflects his voting record, he ought to invite Nancy Pelosi.” Noting that Hagel now serves as co-chairman of Obama’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, former Rep. Hal Daub, a one-time mayor of Omaha, Neb., and a past Republican national committeeman, told HUMAN EVENTS:  “Sen. Hagel is a good friend but he’s marching to the beat of a different political drummer. He’s clearly working to ingratiate himself with the Obama Administration in pursuit of further job potential. Many of his other friends here look at who he’s supporting and would like to know who the real Chuck Hagel is.” 

UNION LABEL A HUGE DOLLAR SIGN:  With polls showing voters increasingly likely to elect a Republican majority in Congress this fall, Big Labor is getting nervous. Following a series of meetings between AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry, the two union titans agreed to pool their resources to elect pro-union candidates to Congress. Trumka said that the AFL-CIO will spend more than the $44 million it spent in the ’06 midterm elections, and the SEIU has also budgeted $44 million, or 26% more than in ’06. The unions also plan to deploy their members to contact 15 million union households to guarantee a large turnout of supporters and to have more campaign workers on the ground than in ’06 or ’08. But judging from a statement by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen to the Wall Street Journal, it is not at all certain that national Democrats feel more confident after the labor lords made their decision. “It’s unclear to what extent you are going to see the labor and other groups be able to match the right-wing [groups],” Van Hollen told the Journal.

HERITAGE ACTION ON REPEAL DEAL:  Having assisted in securing 170 Republican co-sponsors for the sponsored discharge petition by Rep. Steve King(R.-Iowa) to force an up-or-down vote on repeal of the healthcare measure enacted earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation’s new 501(c)(4) group will now move to “Phase Two.” Heritage Action for America last week announced a television blitz in the districts of seven vulnerable House Democrats who voted against Obamacare but have yet to sign King’s discharge petition. The first wave of ads will be in the districts of three of the “Gang of Seven”—Representatives Travis Childers (Miss.), Ike Skelton (Mo.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.)—who have formidable Republican opposition this fall. So far, the petition is 48 signatures shy of the 218 needed to get repeal up for a vote in the full House.  Eight Republicans have yet to sign it (Boustany (La.), Buyer (Ind.), Cao (La.), Capito (WVa.), Castle (Del.), Gerlach (Pa.), Kirk (Ill.), and Reichert (Wash.), and no Democrat has so far signed, including none of the 32 who broke with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted against the healthcare package.

DURBIN BREAKS WITH REID ON MOSQUE:  Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (N.-Nev.), embroiled in a tough re-election fight, broke with President Obama over whether a mosque can be built on the site of the 9/11 attack in New York (see “Capital Briefs,” last week), the No.2 Democrat in the Senate is so far sticking with the White House on this one. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) told reporters that “the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has given his assent to this center and I support his decision.” Durbin, who is not up for re-election until 2012, also charged that “politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin who try to divide America with fear and hate over this issue betray the diversity which makes our nation great and the Constitution which they profess to honor.”

OBAMA STIMULUS COSTS MORE THAN IRAQ:  For all of the left-wing rhetoric that George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq and his economic policy caused the present bad economy, new statistics show that the total cost of the Iraq War is still less than that of President Obama’s stimulus package. Randal Hoven of American Thinker cites Congressional Budget Office figures show that, since the invasion of Iraq in ’03, the total cost of the war has been $709 billion. The Obama stimulus, passed in ’09, will cost $787 billion, or more than the cost of the entire Iraq effort so far. 

‘ENTHUSIASM GAP’ HURTING DEMS:  Republican voters nationwide are far more enthusiastic about voting at this time than Democrats and much more enthusiastic than they themselves were at this point in ’06 (when the GOP lost its majorities in the Senate and House after 12 years). According to a just-completed poll by Ipson Public Affairs, 79% of self-identified Republicans are enthusiastic about voting for their party’s candidates in November. The same survey showed that last month, only 60% of Democrats were enthusiastic about voting as were 49% of independents. 

STEM CELL POLICY STOPPED (FOR NOW): The Obama Administration’s new guidelines on stem-cell research were thwarted last week, as a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of a suit by several Christian groups that said stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. Writing in his 15-page ruling that “[Embryonic stem cell research] is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction on the grounds that the research being done at the National Institutes of Health violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment banning the spending of tax dollars to destroy human embryos. Shortly after taking office, President Obama overturned guidelines set by the Bush Administration allowing federal research money to pay only for work done on a few existing lines of cells. The administration has announced it will appeal Judge Lamberth’s ruling.