Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) sat down with the Financial Times this week, talking, among other things, about the recent fiasco surrounding the debt ceiling. The clip is worth watching, and ThinkProgress posted this excerpt:

YouTube video

For those who can’t watch clips online, Hagel directed nearly all of the blame at his own party. “The irresponsible actions of my party, the Republican Party over this were astounding. I’d never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” he said. “I was very disappointed, I was very disgusted in how this played out in Washington, this debt ceiling debate. It was an astounding lack of responsible leadership by many in the Republican Party, and I say that as a Republican.”

He added, “I think the Republican Party is captive to political movements that are very ideological, that are very narrow. I’ve never seen so much intolerance as I see today in American politics.”

I mention this in part because it’s true, and in part because it’s rare.

Thomas Friedman noted several weeks ago that “sane Republicans” need to do more to stand up to the “Hezbollah faction in their midst.” But have you noticed how infrequently this actually happens? Even during the debt-ceiling debate, arguably the most dangerous scheme launched by a major American political party since the Civil War, no elected GOP officials — literally, not one — ever stood up during this process to say, “Wait, this is wrong. We shouldn’t do this.” They all just went along. The party’s presidential field cheered them on. High-profile retired Republicans and the GOP’s elder statesmen sat on their hands. Even Hagel, who deserves credit for speaking up now, is about six weeks too late.

I’m reminded of this item from Robert Prather, published in July on the center-right Outside the Beltway blog, about his sense of what’s become of the GOP.

I’ve been moving to the left for a few years now, but these idiots are radicalizing me. I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life (full disclosure: I didn’t vote the last two elections due to moving), but I doubt I’ll ever vote for a Republican again. They’re either stupid or evil, but either way they’re dangerous and bad for the country.

Shouldn’t there be a legion of Republicans — former office holders, party loyalists, life-long members, all of the above — who are sympathetic to this perspective? Even if they’re not willing to go as far as Prather, aren’t there any GOP officials left who heard Hagel’s concerns and found them compelling?

Isn’t it about time more of them said so?

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.