Monday, September 10, 2007

Chuck Hagel's Blaze of Glory?

by Kyle Michaelis
By: Ryan Anderson

If you're looking for some perspective on Hagel's announcement today, you can't do much better than Don Walton's column for the Lincoln Journal Star. Eschewing for a moment the horses racing and dominos toppling, Walton stops to reflect on Hagel's service in light of the promises he made and the statements he gave during his breakout campaign in '96.

The main thrust of Walton's column is that Hagel is a simple man and an honest politician who simply kept the promises he made... namely: to support the Republican Party whenever he could, to support his country's interests whenever he must, and to try and get the job done in twelve years. Fair enough. But there's another story in this piece about another Chuck Hagel: the warrior, the fighter, and, ultimately, the champion.
Hagel and his team had just finished what Jim Exon later would describe as the most flawless campaign he had ever seen. Grudging praise from the Democratic political maestro and retiring senator Hagel would succeed.
During that 19 months, Hagel emerged from comparative obscurity to overcome and handily defeat the Republican and the Democrat who had been the leading vote-gatherers in their parties two years earlier.
First, Hagel caught Attorney General Don Stenberg in the Republican primary. Then, he ran down Ben Nelson, who had been re-elected governor in a statewide landslide.
In the beginning, Chuck Hagel was a Republican hero.
Hagel was never a man short on energy and talent, and those gifts have served him exceptionally well in every fight he's picked and every race he's run. That's a good thing for us, and I mean it. Our political system works best when it works us the hardest. We should value worthy opponents: they force us to rethink old strategies and question old ideas. Hagel was such an opponent, and we owe him for that.

It's a shame, really, to see the old gladiator lay down his sword before an opportunist like Bruning, but perhaps Hagel's got fight left in him yet. Freed at last from party allegiance and political jockeying, he's left only with that talent and that energy, that fight and that promise: to serve the interests of his state and his nation. And we need that service, now more than ever.  The spotlight may have passed from Hagel's political career, but it shines everyday on the challenges left in Iraq. As Senator, Hagel has not always shown the judgement or the courage to take whatever action neccessary to meet that challenge. But he has shown an ability to question, a capacity for growth, and in these dual qualities he has proven a potential to lead.  Well, Senator, this is your chance. Now is your time. You have the talent and the opportunity. What you haven't is an excuse. Here's hoping there's still one fight left in this dog.

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