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2501Hagel is calling it quits

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  • Greg Cannon
    Sep 8, 2007

      Published Saturday | September 8, 2007
      Hagel is calling it quits

      WASHINGTON - Chuck Hagel will announce Monday that he
      is retiring from the U.S. Senate and will not run for
      president next year, people close to the Nebraska
      Republican said Friday.

      Hagel plans to announce that "he will not run for
      re-election and that he does not intend to be a
      candidate for any office in 2008," said one person,
      who asked not to be named.

      Hagel has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m.
      Monday at the Omaha Press Club.

      According to one person interviewed, Hagel told Senate
      Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on
      Friday morning that he had decided to retire. Hagel's
      staff learned of his decision that afternoon.

      The North Platte native earned national recognition as
      perhaps the most vocal, at times angry, GOP critic of
      the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

      His outspokenness on Iraq and other key issues,
      including Social Security and foreign policy, fueled
      national interest in Hagel as he flirted with a
      possible presidential bid.

      His national profile reached its zenith in March, when
      he headed to Omaha to hold a press conference on his
      political future.

      But amid wide speculation that he was leaning toward a
      White House run, Hagel announced that he would
      disclose his plans later in the year.

      His pending retirement leaves another GOP Senate seat
      without an incumbent at a time when the Republican
      Party is struggling to stem potential losses and must
      defend more seats than Democrats.

      In Nebraska, the news will trigger a scramble among
      possible successors.

      Attorney General Jon Bruning has been campaigning for
      the GOP Senate nomination since spring. A second
      Republican, financial adviser Pat Flynn of Schuyler,
      also already announced his candidacy.

      Other Republicans who could enter the race are former
      Gov. Mike Johanns, now the U.S. agriculture secretary;
      former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub; and Columbus businessman
      Tony Raimondo.

      Former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey, president of the
      New School University in New York City, has voiced
      interest in returning to the Senate.

      Also mentioned by Nebraska Democrats are Scott Kleeb,
      who lost a race to Republican Adrian Smith in the 3rd
      Congressional District last year, and Omaha Mayor Mike

      Hagel, 60, would leave office after two terms, ending
      a career in which he was a frequently reliable
      Republican vote - but unafraid to show a maverick

      Armed with a deep voice and somber demeanor, Hagel
      rose quickly in the Senate, developing an
      international reputation perhaps faster than any
      previous Nebraska lawmaker.

      He has become a leading Senate voice on foreign
      policy, promoting a pragmatic approach of reaching out
      to allies and adversaries alike to build economic,
      social and political relationships.

      A decorated Vietnam combat veteran, Hagel drew the
      most attention for his break with the Republican
      president on Iraq.

      Early this year, his frustration erupted after Bush
      announced plans for a troop buildup to try to curb
      violence in Iraq. Hagel labeled it "the worst foreign
      policy blunder since Vietnam - if it's carried out."

      That and other criticism triggered a backlash from
      some conservatives, who viewed him as disloyal to the
      Republican president and potentially jeopardizing
      troops abroad.

      Hagel didn't relish the attacks. He explained how
      Vietnam had a big impact on his view of this war. He
      recalled Congress' silence during much of Vietnam, as
      well as the 58,000 Americans who died. He said he
      didn't want that history to repeat itself.

      "I'll be damned if I'm going to stand there and accept
      the status quo and let it all happen again," he said.

      Chuck Hagel never just stood there.

      Born in 1946, he was the oldest of four sons raised by
      Charles and Betty Hagel. He grew up in North Platte
      and in Rushville, Ainsworth and Columbus.

      Life changed abruptly when his father died of a heart
      attack on Christmas Eve in 1962. It thrust Hagel, then
      16, into the role of a father figure for his younger
      brothers, one of whom would die a few years later in a
      car accident.

      Sent to Vietnam in 1968, he served for a time with his
      brother Tom, seeing the violence of war up close. The
      brothers saved each other's lives, they saw friends
      die, they lived in fear.

      Chuck Hagel supported the war then, but changed his
      view later after hearing tape recordings of former
      President Lyndon Johnson saying he knew the United
      States couldn't win but didn't want to be saddled in
      history with defeat.

      In 1971, Hagel landed a job on Capitol Hill as an aide
      to Republican Rep. John Y. McCollister, who promoted
      him within two years to chief of staff.

      From the late 1970s to the 1990s, he worked as a
      lobbyist, Veterans Administration official, cellular
      telephone industry pioneer, USO official and
      investment banker.

      In the 1996 Senate race, he upset then-Gov. Ben

      In 1997, he teamed with Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., to
      lead the Senate to a 95-0 vote opposing the Kyoto
      Protocol, a global warming treaty that was intended to
      curb the effects of greenhouse gases from developing

      He played a key role in reauthorizing the
      International Monetary Fund, which helps emerging
      economies worldwide.

      Hagel-authored provisions to allow more easily
      traceable political contributions were included in
      major campaign finance reform legislation that
      Congress passed.

      During Hagel's first year in the Senate, Washington
      Post columnist David Broder referred to him as "the
      freshman who probably has made the deepest impression
      on his colleagues."

      He won re-election in 2002 with 83 percent of the

      Among second-term achievements were energy bill
      provisions promoting the development of clean-air
      technology to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

      He worked on a number of Nebraska issues, including
      community banking, air service to rural areas and
      health care.

      With a telegenic personality, Hagel has become a
      fixture on the Sunday TV talk show circuit, racking up
      more than 100 appearances. The topic often was foreign
      policy, Hagel's strongest passion.

      As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations
      Committee, he has traveled widely overseas, building
      relationships with foreign leaders that have given him
      a personal and independent view of foreign policy

      Hagel always freely expressed his opinions, often in a
      provocative manner. His temper can flare as it
      frequently has against the Bush administration over
      Iraq. Friends say that passion, coupled with his
      intelligence, have made him unusual in Washington.

      "Chuck is one of those political leaders who marches
      to a drummer of his own," Colin Powell, former
      chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former
      secretary of state, said several years ago. "He
      decides what he believes, then he speaks out."
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