Friday, November 25, 2005

Paul Hackett: Still Not Holding Back

There is everything yet to be seen in the race for the 2006 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator from Ohio -- it really hasn't even started yet -- and it looks at this point like quite a contest will occur between Congressman Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett. Hackett is the Iraq war veteran who barely lost a special Congressional race to Republican Jean Schmidt in July, in one of Ohio's most conservative districts, despite running a race in which he pulled no punches in his disdain for the war and for President Bush personally.

I observed that race closely and the way Hackett ran and found myself constantly saying "I like this guy!"

He called George W. Bush on his hawkish posture and on Bush's corresponding failure to serve in the Vietnam war and, despite being questioned about his harsh invective on national television many times during the Congressional campaign, refused to back down from referring to Bush as a "chickenhawk."

Then I opened my copy of Mother Jones magazine a couple of months ago and the cover story on Hackett started with the candidate jumping in a right-winger's face when the guy tried to intimidate him. Here's the excerpt:
It’s August 2, Election Day, and the lanky, blond, 43-year-old Marine has taken up position outside the polling place in Loveland, a burg on the outskirts of Cincinnati, flashing his toothy smile for the early risers. Hackett is dressed smartly in a blue shirt and striped pastel tie. His khaki pants hang loosely from his wiry, 180-pound frame.

“That’s low politics, punk!” a heavy-set man sneers as he marches toward the poll. Hackett wheels around. “Pardon me?“ "You know, that radio ad that says, ‘You don’t know Schmidt.’” He’s talking about one of Hackett’s attack ads against Republican Jean Schmidt.

The man spews a stream of epithets, and Hackett lets out a crybaby whimper: “Waaaaaaa!”

“What’s that, punk?” the big man growls.

A TV crew is setting up nearby, but Hackett doesn’t seem to care. “What’s your fuckin’ problem?” the candidate snaps. “You got something to say to me? Bring it on!” Hackett, all 6 feet 2 inches of him, is nose to nose with the heckler. “Problem?” he taunts. The man turns around and storms away.

“These guys in the Republican Party adopted this tough-guy language,” Hackett tells me, still steamed, an hour later. “They’re bullies. They’re offended when somebody takes a swing back at them.”
God, I love that.

That interaction is a microcosm of what Democrats have been putting up with for years: Bullying from Republicans with nary a significant response from our side. And there's Hackett, on the street, getting right up in some big old conservative's grill.

I'd like someone to tell me how that isn't exactly the kind of candidate we need in our party right now. And there was Hackett on MSNBC's Hardball Wednesday night in his usual, no-holds-barred position.
Hackett: The war-fighting experts are those in the Pentagon with the stars on their collars who consult with the battle experts in the field who are usually Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. And they go through a very in-depth process of planning and that took place leading up to Iraq. This administration and, frankly, their elitist outlook on how to use the military, disregarded that advice. They're effectively nation building over there, despite the president's promise not to use the military to nation build.

Matthews: A lot of people have noted the fact that a lot of the people at the top of this administration are not veterans. They're what I call pencilnecks. They're intellectuals. They have ideals about fighting in a war and –

Hackett: [laughing] Pencilnecks! What??? Pencilnecks? Come on!

Matthews: Is that a good phrase? I like it, it's not derogatory at all. But let me ask you: Do you think the president displayed a lack of courage when he failed to go into the active combat military during the Vietnam era?

Hackett: Yes. I've said that and I mean it.

Matthews: You've said.... In GQ this month you said "he didn't have the stones to serve in his generation's war... he wanted to drink alcohol and snort cocaine and party." You stand by that?

Hackett: Those are the facts. I stand by it.
How sad is it that hearing someone like Hackett just flat-out saying what he thinks and believes, with zero equivocation, is so intoxicating to so many of us? Hackett talks about a lot more than just his negative feelings about Bush in this interview and you can catch the rest here at Crooks and Liars.

None of this cheerleading should be construed as a knock on Sherrod Brown. I know little about him, but he certainly seems to come to the table with some great Democratic credentials.

But in Hackett, I see the fighter we need right now. There will undoubtedly be those who will call Hackett too conservative in some ways and, while I am sure I won't agree with him on every, single issue, I cannot imagine a situation where I will question his guts and his willingness to take the fight to the bad guys.

We haven't seen enough of that in recent years and I like any Democrat who, like Hackett, will make Republicans think twice before they take him on.