Former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson taught me a term recently that I did not know about -- the "non-paper" paper. Diplomatic initiatives that need to stay in the dark or that need to be launched with complete deniabiliy are sometimes moved forward with a sheet of paper and a roster of proposals -- with no return address and no promised commitment of the proposing party or government.
Senator Chuck Hagel is at this moment launching a "non-campaign campaign."
Hagel is in Nebraska this morning announcing that he will not announce his candidacy for either the presidency, another senate term, or even retirement from public life until the fall of this year. But he is sending signals -- big ones -- that he's going to be a 'player' in nearly every significant domestic and international policy issue that confronts America at this pivotal point in its national history.
Hagel seems to be announcing a new national and international activism -- in which he will raise money for his political action committee -- and without saying it, he's becoming the new Independent who, like Joseph Lieberman, may be less loyal to scripted party direction. Hagel seems to be saying in his statement (see full Hagel statement below) that this is no time for ideology; this is a time for thinking and problem-solving.
Hagel is not alone in this non-campaign campaign strategy and of waiting while the early "rabbits" in the race, the current front-runners like Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain on the Republican side, stumble and find themselves out too soon.
Hagel is incrementally building -- which will frustrate some -- but he's attempting to avoid the quick boom/quick bust cycle of many other campaigns.
His statement is strong and implies substantial criticism of the status quo political order.
Now, we need to see what evolves from here.
Senator Chuck Hagel's Statement:
Statement by U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel on His Political Future
March 12, 2007
America stands at an historic crossroads in its history. It is against this backdrop that I find myself at my own crossroads on my political future. Burdened by two wars, faced with dangerous new threats and global uncertainty, beset by serious long-term domestic problems and divided by raw political partisanship -- America now reaches for a national consensus of purpose. America's response to the challenges and opportunities that confront us today will define our future. Finding solutions to these challenges and capitalizing on these opportunities will not wait until the next election.
I have worked hard over the last ten years on foreign policy and national security issues, climate change and energy, education, entitlement reform, especially Social Security reform, health care, veterans benefits, GSE reform, and immigration reform. This year will be an important year for these critical issues- and I intend to offer new initiatives on each of them. I want to give these and other subjects my full attention over the next few months. I believe it is in the interests of my Nebraska constituents and this country that I continue to work full time on these challenges.
America is facing its most divisive and difficult issue since Vietnam -- the war in Iraq, an issue that I have been deeply involved in. I want to keep my focus on helping find a responsible way out of this tragedy, and not divert my energy, efforts and judgment with competing political considerations.
I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year.
In making this announcement, I believe there will still be political options open to me at a later date. But that will depend on the people of Nebraska and this country. I cannot control that and I do not worry about it. I will continue to participate in events across this country, raising money for my Political Action Committee to assist Republican candidates, and raising funds for a Senate re-election campaign.
In conclusion, I would first like to commend my colleagues who are currently seeking their Party's presidential nomination. I admire each of them for their willingness to put themselves on the line and pursue their strong beliefs and ideals.
I believe the political currents in America are more unpredictable today than at any time in modern history. We are experiencing a political re-orientation, a redefining and moving toward a new political center of gravity. This movement is bigger than both parties. The need to solve problems and meet challenges is overtaking the ideological debates of the last three decades -- as it should. America is demanding honest, competent and accountable governance.
A global political readjustment is also in play today...and will respond to America's leadership. What is at stake for the future of America is larger than just American politics. Politics is simply the mechanism democracies use to affect responsible change. The world is not static, it is dynamic.
At the beginning of my remarks I said that America is reaching for a national consensus of purpose. We will find it because Americans expect it and will demand it. I do not believe America's greatness is lost to the 20th Century. There are chapters of America's greatness yet to be written. I intend to continue being part of America's story.
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note