Politics

Bill Hagerty embraces diplomatic roots: ‘I’m gonna be here longer than Joe Biden’

After Tennessee misplaced two influential GOP powerhouses in Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — whose back-to-back retirements robbed Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell of a consigliere and the International Relations Committee of its high Republican — Hagerty is zeroing in on international affairs to make his mark. He’s mixing it up by backing a few of Biden’s extra polarizing nominees whereas constantly voting alongside different conservatives on most Senate enterprise.

“A United States senator has a time period that’s longer than the president of the USA — will not be term-limited. A United States senator has the flexibility to assume on a long-term foundation, on a strategic foundation. And that’s precisely what I got here here to do,” Hagerty mentioned throughout a half-hour interview in his Capitol Hill workplace that was as soon as occupied by then-Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson.

It’s one thing of a press release on the state of the fashionable GOP that Hagerty stands out inside it, even whereas taking Biden to job over the messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, his failure to impose sanctions on a Russian pipeline and his posture towards China. However he’s nonetheless an outlier in a celebration usually inclined to yield the bluntest political devices in opposition to Biden: Hagerty has known as Biden’s commerce chief a “vivid spot” and praised the brand new U.S.-U.Okay.-Australia submarine deal, which he mentioned strengthened the Quadrilateral Safety Dialogue within the Indo-Pacific. That’s on high of his rescuing of the nomination of Rahm Emanuel, the longtime Democratic lawmaker and mayor who attracted opposition on the left.

“I’ve been keen to applaud them and be supportive the place I feel they’re shifting in the precise path,” Hagerty mentioned. “However, on the similar time, I’m going to be very clear to name them out once they transfer in the other way.”

It’s uncommon for a first-term senator to focus so intentionally on international affairs — an area on Capitol Hill lengthy dominated by outdated bulls who are likely to outlast presidents and cling to the well-known phrase “politics stops on the water’s edge,” the concept that home political issues shouldn’t cloud international dealings. International affairs can be a coverage space the place the loudest partisans are much less efficient and the highlight shines the least, which implies bold freshman lawmakers usually shun it.

Whereas Emanuel was going through backlash from liberals over his document as mayor of Chicago, Hagerty vigorously defended him and went so far as to introduce the longtime Democrat at his affirmation listening to. The 62-year-old conservative mentioned he and Emanuel “noticed eye-to-eye on the menace that China poses” and “the essential function that Japan can play there.”

“I might be stunned if there have been a single subject on the home coverage entrance that Rahm Emanuel and I might agree upon,” Hagerty quipped. “[But] I assumed it was essential that the individuals of Japan — and albeit that China, North Korea and anyone else which may be watching as effectively … they wanted to see that there’s sturdy bipartisan help for the U.S. ambassador to Japan.”

Hagerty’s opposition to main Biden international coverage initiatives stands notably to the precise of Corker, who usually acted as a GOP bellwether on key foreign-affairs questions all through his two phrases within the higher chamber. For instance, Corker led the cost to offer the Senate a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear cope with Iran; Hagerty’s nationwide safety adviser, Robert Zarate, is a longtime Senate international coverage hand who helped marshal GOP opposition to that deal.

Certainly, not like Corker, who spent the tail finish of his profession talking out in opposition to the previous president, Hagerty is as pro-Trump as they arrive. When he got here into workplace in January, Hagerty employed a number of former Trump White Home aides to employees his D.C. workplace. And all through his brief Senate tenure, Hagerty has hyped Trump international coverage — on every thing from his “most stress” marketing campaign in opposition to Iran to his efforts to crack down on China.

“President Trump has a protracted record of international coverage achievements that not solely he ought to be pleased with, however superior America’s pursuits in a constructive means,” Hagerty mentioned, bouncing from topic to topic with ease. “You discuss in regards to the predatory posture of China — President Trump known as that out.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who serves with Hagerty on the Senate International Relations Committee, enthusiastically backed Hagerty’s nomination for ambassador to Japan in 2017, and now co-leads the panel’s State Division subcommittee alongside Hagerty. Cardin mentioned Hagerty is on his approach to reclaiming the state’s conventional firepower in international coverage, however hailed Corker as a extra unbiased voice on the world stage.

“Every individual’s distinctive — Bob Corker is an expensive good friend, he actually created an unimaginable data base and popularity in international coverage,” Cardin mentioned in a quick interview. “Sen. Hagerty’s simply beginning out, however he’s very critical about international coverage.”

Hagerty was the Trump marketing campaign’s 2016 chair in Tennessee, and later served because the director of presidential appointments on the Trump transition crew. Earlier than that, he led Tennessee’s financial improvement division and served as finance chief for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential marketing campaign. He beforehand labored in personal fairness at Boston Consulting Group, a tenure that included a three-year stint in Tokyo, and speaks conversational Japanese.

“[Hagerty] has the precise temperament — not simply to symbolize us on the diplomatic stage, but additionally to work with colleagues, to speak by points through which there exists a principled disagreement,” mentioned Indiana Sen. Todd Younger, who chaired the Senate GOP marketing campaign arm the 12 months Hagerty was elected and has disagreed with him on war-powers points.

However Hagerty’s efforts have prolonged effectively past the partitions of the International Relations Committee’s assembly house on Capitol Hill.

After Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Hagerty flew to London and Brussels to fulfill along with his parliamentary counterparts and reinforce allied cooperation on the safety state of affairs. His message?

“I’m gonna be here longer than Joe Biden, and we have to work collectively as a result of the menace has escalated now,” Hagerty mentioned, recounting his conversations.

He has additionally sought accountability by different means. After seeing different nations sack leaders answerable for the Afghanistan debacle, Hagerty requested Secretary of State Antony Blinken — whose nomination he supported — at a public listening to if he had supplied his resignation to the president.

His conservative allies have adopted different ways to drive motion, akin to holding up State Division and Pentagon nominees till their calls for are met. Hagerty doesn’t function that means. As a substitute, he’s rising as a foreign-policy foil to Biden.

After Israel and Hamas militants have been engaged in a violent taking pictures battle earlier this 12 months, Hagerty flew to Israel as a present of help for the U.S. ally, believing that Biden and different Democrats weren’t sufficiently backing the Israeli authorities’s response to Hamas rockets.

It was an uncommon step by a member of Congress, one influenced by his diplomatic expertise.

“The messages which have been popping out of the Biden administration have required me, every now and then, to upend what’s taking place here, get on a airplane and go do what I’ve discovered to do as a businessperson and as a diplomat,” Hagerty mentioned. “And that’s to step up, face the issue head-on, discover pragmatic options and allow them to know that you simply’re here and keen to work.”

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