Bill Hagerty embraces diplomatic roots: ‘I’ll stay here longer than Joe Biden’

Bill Hagerty embraces diplomatic roots: ‘I’ll stay here longer than Joe Biden’

After Tennessee lost two influential GOP powerhouses in Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — whose back-to-back retirements robbed Senate leader Mitch McConnell of a consigliere and the Foreign Relations Committee of its top Republican — Hagerty is turning to foreign affairs for his mark. He mixes it up by backing some of Biden’s more polarizing nominees, while consistently voting with other conservatives on most issues in the Senate.

“A United States senator has a term that is longer than that of the president of the United States—no time limits. A United States senator has the ability to think long-term, on a strategic basis. And that’s exactly what I came here for,” Hagerty said during a half-hour interview in his Capitol Hill office, once occupied by then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson.

It’s sort of a statement about the state of the modern GOP in which Hagerty stands out, even as he holds Biden to account for the messy US withdrawal from Afghanistan, his failure to impose sanctions on a Russian pipeline, and his attitude toward China. But he’s still an outlier in a party that is generally inclined to turn in the most blunt of political instruments against Biden: Hagerty has called Biden’s trade chief a “bright spot” and praised the new US-UK submarine deal and Australia, which he said strengthened quadrilateral security dialogue in the Indo-Pacific. That comes on top of his rescue from appointing Rahm Emanuel, the longtime Democratic legislator and mayor who drew opposition to the left.

“I was willing to applaud them and support them where I think they are going in the right direction,” Hagerty said. “But at the same time, I’ll be very clear about calling them out when they move in the opposite direction.”

It’s rare for a first-term senator to focus so consciously on foreign affairs—an arena on Capitol Hill that has long been dominated by old bulls who tend to outlive presidents and adhere to the famous phrase “politics stops at the water’s edge.” ‘, the idea that domestic political concerns should not cloud foreign transactions. Foreign affairs is also a policy area where the loudest supporters are less effective and the spotlight shines least, meaning ambitious freshmen lawmakers often shun it.

While Emanuel faced backlash from liberals over his track record as mayor of Chicago, Hagerty defended him vigorously, even going so far as to propose the longtime Democrat at his confirmation hearing. The 62-year-old conservative said he and Emanuel “came eye to eye on the threat China poses” and “the crucial role Japan can play there”.

“I would be surprised if there was one issue in domestic policy that Rahm Emanuel and I could agree on,” Hagerty joked. “[But] I thought it was important that the people of Japan — and frankly that China, North Korea, and anyone else who might be watching too … they needed to see that there is strong bipartisan support for the US ambassador to Japan.”

Hagerty’s opposition to major foreign policy initiatives from Biden is particularly on the right of Corker, who often acted as a GOP bellwether on important foreign affairs during his two terms in the Senate. For example, Corker led the charge to allow the Senate to vote on then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran; Hagerty’s national security adviser, Robert Zarate, is an old hand in Senate foreign policy who helped GOP opposition to that deal.

Indeed, unlike Corker, who spent the end of his career voicing the former president, Hagerty is as pro-Trump as they come. When he took office in January, Hagerty hired several former Trump White House employees to staff his DC office. And during his brief tenure in the Senate, Hagerty hyped Trump’s foreign policy — on everything from his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran to his efforts to crack down on China.

“President Trump has a long list of foreign policy achievements that he should not only be proud of, but that advance American interests in a positive way,” said Hagerty, bouncing from topic to topic with ease. “You’re talking about China’s predatory attitude — President Trump mentioned that.”

sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Hagerty, enthusiastically supported Hagerty’s nomination for Ambassador to Japan in 2017, and now heads the State Department’s subcommittee with Hagerty. Cardin said Hagerty is on track to reclaim the state’s traditional firepower in foreign policy, but he praised Corker as a more independent voice on the global stage.

“Everyone is unique – Bob Corker is a great friend, he’s really built an incredible knowledge base and reputation on foreign policy,” Cardin said in a short interview. “Sen. Hagerty is just getting started, but he takes foreign policy very seriously.”

Hagerty was the president of the Trump campaign in Tennessee in 2016 and later served as director of presidential nominations on the Trump transition team. Prior to that, he headed Tennessee’s economic development division and was chief financial officer for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. He previously worked in private equity at Boston Consulting Group, a three-year tenure in Tokyo, and speaks conversational Japanese .

“[Hagerty] has the right temperament — not only to represent us on the diplomatic stage, but also to work with colleagues, to discuss issues where there is a difference of principle,” said Indiana Sen. Todd Young, who was president of the Senate GOP campaign arm the year Hagerty was elected and disagrees with him on war powers.

But Hagerty’s efforts extend far beyond the walls of the Foreign Relations Committee meeting room on Capitol Hill.

After Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Hagerty flew to London and Brussels to meet with his parliamentary colleagues and strengthen allied cooperation on the security situation. His message?

“I’m staying here longer than Joe Biden, and we need to work together because the threat has now escalated,” Hagerty said, recounting his talks.

He has also sought accountability in other ways. After witnessing other countries firing leaders responsible for the Afghanistan debacle, Hagerty asked Foreign Minister Antony Blinken — whose nomination he supported — at a public hearing if he had offered his resignation to the president.

Its conservative allies have used other tactics to force action, such as holding back nominees from the State Department and Pentagon until their demands are met. That’s not how Hagerty works. Instead, he emerges as a defender of Biden’s foreign policy.

After militants from Israel and Hamas were embroiled in a violent shooting war earlier this year, Hagerty flew to Israel as a sign of support for the US ally, believing Biden and other Democrats did not sufficiently support the Israeli government’s response to Hamas missiles. .

It was an unusual move by a congressman, influenced by his diplomatic experience.

“The messages that have come out of the Biden administration have asked me from time to time to stop what’s happening here, get on a plane and do what I’ve learned to do as a businessman and as a diplomat,” Hagerty said. . “And that’s to stand up, face the problem head-on, find pragmatic solutions, and let them know you’re here and willing to work.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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