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 Leader Mitch McConnell of a consigliere and the Foreign 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 persistently voting alongside different conservatives on most Senate enterprise.

“A United States senator has a term that’s longer than the president of the United States — is not term-limited. A United States senator has the ability to think on a long-term basis, on a strategic basis. And that’s exactly what I came here to do,” Hagerty stated 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 trendy GOP that Hagerty stands out inside it, even whereas taking Biden to activity over the messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, his failure to impose sanctions on a Russian pipeline and his posture towards China. But he’s nonetheless an outlier in a celebration typically inclined to yield the bluntest political devices in opposition to Biden: Hagerty has referred to as Biden’s commerce chief a “bright spot” and praised the brand new U.S.-U.Ok.-Australia submarine deal, which he stated strengthened the Quadrilateral Security 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 willing to applaud them and be supportive where I think they’re moving in the right direction,” Hagerty stated. “But, at the same time, I’m going to be very clear to call them out when they move in the opposite direction.”

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

While Emanuel was dealing with 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 stated he and Emanuel “saw eye-to-eye on the threat that China poses” and “the critical role that Japan can play there.”

“I would be surprised if there were a single issue on the domestic policy front that Rahm Emanuel and I would agree upon,” Hagerty quipped. “[But] I thought it was important that the people of Japan — and frankly that China, North Korea and anybody else that might be watching as well … they needed to see that there is strong bipartisan support for the U.S. ambassador to Japan.”

Hagerty’s opposition to main Biden international coverage initiatives stands notably to the fitting of Corker, who typically 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 provide 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.

Indeed, 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 House 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 “maximum pressure” marketing campaign in opposition to Iran to his efforts to crack down on China.

“President Trump has a long list of foreign policy achievements that not only he should be proud of, but advanced America’s interests in a positive way,” Hagerty stated, bouncing from topic to topic with ease. “You talk about the predatory posture of China — President Trump called that out.”

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

“Each person’s unique — Bob Corker is a dear friend, he really created an incredible knowledge base and reputation in foreign policy,” Cardin stated in a quick interview. “Sen. Hagerty’s just starting out, but he is very serious about foreign policy.”

Hagerty was the Trump marketing campaign’s 2016 chair in Tennessee, and later served because the director of presidential appointments on the Trump transition staff. Before 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 right temperament — not just to represent us on the diplomatic stage, but also to work with colleagues, to talk through issues in which there exists a principled disagreement,” stated Indiana Sen. Todd Young, who chaired the Senate GOP marketing campaign arm the yr Hagerty was elected and has disagreed with him on war-powers points.

But Hagerty’s efforts have prolonged properly past the partitions of the Foreign Relations Committee’s assembly area on Capitol Hill.

After Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Hagerty flew to London and Brussels to satisfy together 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 need to work together because the threat has escalated now,” Hagerty stated, recounting his conversations.

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

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

After Israel and Hamas militants had been engaged in a violent taking pictures battle earlier this yr, 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 that have been coming out of the Biden administration have required me, from time to time, to upend what’s happening here, get on a plane and go do what I’ve learned to do as a businessperson and as a diplomat,” Hagerty stated. “And that is to step up, face the problem head-on, find pragmatic solutions and let them know that you’re here and willing to work.”



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