2501Hagel is calling it quits
- Sep 8, 2007http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=2835&u_sid=10126829
Published Saturday | September 8, 2007
Hagel is calling it quits
BY JAKE THOMPSON
WORLD-HERALD BUREAU, COPYRIGHT 2007 OMAHA WORLD-HERALD
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hagel-authored provisions to allow more easily
traceable political contributions were included in
major campaign finance reform legislation that
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
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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