Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bob Kerrey & Chuck Hagel: Best Friends Forever???

by Kyle Michaelis
In Nebraska politics, we've all seen how ambition for higher office has driven Attorney General Jon Bruning from declaring himself "a Hagel guy" to making Sen. Chuck Hagel a target of any attack he could think of in just a matter of weeks.

Unreported has been the similar flip-flop by Hal Daub, who went from announcing in December that he would not consider a U.S. Senate bid if Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel seeks a third term to now declaring "I don't care who runs."

And, how can anyone forget the August fundraiser for the Nebraska Republican Party where praise for Hagel by the night's keynote speaker was met by nothing but silence from his party's faithful.

With responses like these, you might expect Hagel to be feeling a little bit lonely. A little bit isolated. A little bit betrayed. But, then, of all people, there is Bob Kerrey - the lone voice in Nebraska politics defending Hagel, praising Hagel, and even encouraging him to run for re-election.

What might distinguish Kerrey even more than the respect he continues to show towards Hagel, though, is that he's actually been consistent regarding his friend and former colleague.

Well, if the following article from the Omaha World-Herald or the above picture are any indicator, it looks like Kerrey is still the one leader on whose support Hagel could actually count:
Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Sen. Bob Kerrey appeared together Wednesday, following the same script: Both smiled and both sidestepped questions about which, if either, of them may run for the Senate next year. The Vietnam veterans teamed up at a Capitol Hill press conference to voice support for the Omaha-based Wounded Warriors organization, which hopes to build a retreat for wounded service members, their families and relatives of those killed in combat on 80 acres near Crawford in northwest Nebraska. But neither Kerrey nor Hagel had much to say when the subject turned to next year's U.S. Senate race.... 
Before Wednesday's press conference, the two met behind closed doors in Hagel's office in the Russell Senate Office Building. Loud laughter could be heard outside....  
"I just told him I knew it is a tough decision, since I went through the same thing seven years ago, and I told him I hope he goes for third," Kerrey said in an e-mail sent later in the day. "It will be a big loss for Nebraska and the nation if he leaves the Senate," Kerrey added.
Admittedly, the New Nebraska Network has not always been so praising of Hagel, but I certainly appreciate his leadership and insight in foreign policy matters going well beyond his outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq. More importantly, it is heartening to see a politician of Kerrey's stature disregarding party lines and political games with the same independence and integrity for which he's always been known by the people of Nebraska.

Of course, it's understandable why ambitious Republicans like Jon Bruning and Hal Daub would turn their backs on Hagel, hoping to appeal to all those silent Republican activists who don't care to face the truth about President Bush's failures. One wonders - one might even expect - that they will change their tune if Hagel announces he won't be seeking re-election - an effort to create a false united front, as if they hadn't just been preparing his political destruction.

It shouldn't matter. However Hagel ultimately chooses to position himself politically, the people of Nebraska have seen these men's true colors for themselves - pandering to their party's extremists. At the same time, the people have seen Kerrey stand by Hagel, reflecting Nebraska's tradition of nonpartisanship. In doing so, Kerrey is also representing the vast majority of Nebraskans who overwhelmingly elected Hagel in 2002 and - looking to 2008 - have concerns far greater than protecting President Bush and the Republican status quo.

Bob Kerrey is a man for all Nebraskans. He was as Governor. He was as Senator. Let's hope he'll again be the candidate for all Nebraskans very, very soon.

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