One of the best conservative coinages is the Strange New Respect award: When a conservative in Washington “grows” (i.e., adopts leftward positions), the media discovers a strange new respect for him or her. John McCain had cornered the market on straight talk in 2000. But now, notes Jim Pinkerton, Chuck If-You-Aren’t-Brave-Like-Me-Sell-Shoes Hagel is the media darling:

“It’s official: Chuck Hagel is the new John McCain, getting the glowing treatment from glam publications such as GQ. And John McCain is the new Bob Dole — and we know what kind of press Dole got. Perhaps I should explain.

“Of course, just as the media take away, the media also give. And the recipient of media blessings these days is Chuck Hagel, senator from Nebraska. As a Republican critical of the Bush policy in Iraq, Hagel is infinitely more valuable to the antiwar cause than a mere Democrat. After all, nobody is surprised anymore when a Democrat opposes the war, but it’s notable when a Republican breaks ranks with his own party’s president — especially when he uses such punchy language, referring to the Iraq surge as the “most dangerous foreign-policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” Such hot talk has earned Hagel a place of honor in the pages of GQ magazine’s January issue, under the headline “The Angry One.” And the object of much of Hagel’s anger, of course — to the media’s obvious delight — is Bush and his neoconservative coterie.

“So the liberal-media beat goes on, especially in the wake of Hagel’s vote — played prominently on all the broadcast news channels — alongside the Democrats on an anti-surge resolution. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann declared that Hagel’s position on the war was “breathtaking,” then heaped more praise on the Cornhusker: “He sounds like me on civil liberties,” Olbermann pronounced admiringly.

“That’s the media sweet spot that McCain once occupied — till the pressies soured on him.”