“Political parties unite people under a common message, but individuals must not be constrained by their party,” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said Tuesday night at a GW College Republicans meeting.
“Good citizens need not belong to the College Republicans, College Democrats or College Socialists or College Greens,” Hagel said. “But these kinds of institutions help develop a consistency of philosophies about government.”
About 100 people, including several Howard Dean supporters, attended the speech, held in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom.
The ballroom was decorated with red, silver and blue stars on the walls and elephant-shaped confetti that covered 18 round tables. Hagel spoke from a stage decorated with balloons and crepe paper.
He addressed the importance of international institutions and said the George W. Bush administration needs to enlist the support of the United Nations in its war on terror.
“I don’t know a time in recent history that represents such an array of dynamics in the world – challenges, threats, potential, hope – than in this time in which we live,” said Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Our policies are lagging behind the realities of the kinds of threats and challenges we have today,” he added. “We are living in the most fast-paced time in the history of man.”
Hagel said he supported giving Bush the $87 billion he requested for reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
“The sooner the Iraqi people see the quality of their lives improve and the sooner the Iraqis can take over the governance of their own country, the sooner we get out of there. The sooner we bring our 130,000 troops home,” he said.
He also allowed the audience to ask a number of questions, touched on the Democratic presidential candidates, China’s launch of a manned space shuttle and terrorism in the Middle East.
Responding to a student’s question, Hagel said Israel’s retaliatory attacks against terrorists need to stop for the sake of peace.
But when the student followed up by asking if the United States should stop its similar retaliatory strikes against terrorists, Hagel said “no.” The student was flustered by Hagel’s contradiction, but the senator said he wanted to move on to the next question in the interest of time.
“He said what we are doing wasn’t the same thing (as what Israel’s doing),” the audience member said. “I think that’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely the same thing, and Israel needs to protect itself.”