(painting of President Dwight Eisenhower by Mike Hagel; hanging in Senator Chuck Hagel’s private Senate office)
Before he departs the Senate 16 months from now, Senator Chuck Hagel will have many opportunities to focus a national spotlight on the gaps in the foreign policy and national security course the country is on.
Hagel has 16 months to channel Eisenhower and to challenge in an Ike-inspired way those who aspire to live in the White House and those who surround Bush now to be far better stewards than they are being now of America’s national security portfolio.
Hanging in Chuck Hagel’s Senate office is a portrait of Dwight Eisenhower painted by his brother Mike. This article by John Judis tells the story of Chuck and his brothers — particularly Tom who fought alongside him in Vietnam — and is important to understand the Senator’s decision-making DNA.
I think that the Senate will be far worse off without Hagel there to stand up to the brow-beating and recklessness from the Cheney wing of the Republican national security establishment, but I don’t think Hagel will be disappearing at all from public service or Washington.
But 16 months in the Senate is still a long time. Hagel has responsibilities not just for Nebraska but for the country — and hopefully will play a key role in preventing any new wars hatching while he still has access to the Senate floor and like any Senator can make the nuts and bolts of “unanimous consent” procedures a bit less unanimous.
Here is Chuck Hagel’s formal statement made today:
I will not seek a third term in the United States Senate, nor do I intend to be a candidate for any office in 2008. It has been my greatest honor and privilege to serve my country and represent my fellow Nebraskans in the U.S. Senate. My family and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity and the trust placed in me by the people of Nebraska. It has enriched all of us.
I have always tried to live up to the promise I made to the people of Nebraska the day I announced my intention to seek this Senate seat. On March 30, 1995 I said, “I intend to be a Senator all Nebraskans can be proud of.” I hope I’ve done that, and made some contributions to our state and country along the way. History will sort that out.
I am proud of my Senate record and deeply grateful to all those who helped get me there and keep me there, and those who have worked so hard for the people of Nebraska — my staff. I would like to particularly thank Mike McCarthy, Ken Stinson and Lou Ann Linehan. I owe a great deal to these three individuals.
I would have been unable to do my job without the love, wise perspective and constant encouragement of my wife Lilibet, my daughter Allyn and my son Ziller. My appreciation for their support is immeasurable. I would also like to thank my brothers, Tom and Mike, for their constant support and occasional brotherly constructive evaluations.
I said after I was elected in 1996 that 12 years in the Senate would probably be enough. It is. I have always believed that democracies work best when there is a constant cycle of new energy and ideas, and fresh leadership.
I will leave the Senate with the same enthusiasm, sense of purpose and love of my country that I started with. I leave maybe a little wiser, surely a little more experienced and with a very respectable amount of humility.
Public service has always been a big part of my life, and I hope to have another opportunity to serve my country in some new capacity down the road.
This afternoon, my family and I will return to Washington, and I will go back to work. I look forward to working as hard in the remaining 16 months of my Senate term for the people of Nebraska as I have over the last 11 years.
I think what really just happened in Hagel’s statement is that he has just issued a warning to Cheney’s people that even though he and they are out in 2008, he’s going to do his best to keep them from further wrecking the military and degrading America’s standing in the world.
Watch for fireworks from Hagel tomorrow in the Petraeus/Crocker hearings.
— Steve Clemons