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Will Hagel Bolt GOP Ticket In ’08?

The soon-to-be retired Senator won’t confirm his vote.

It was a surprise to run into Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.) and his wife Lilibeth Wednesday morning at Reagan National Airport. But it was an even greater surprise to learn that Hagel — who is stepping down this year after two terms in the Senate — may not support the Republican nominee for President, his old friend and comrade-in-arms from Vietnam John McCain.

Referring to a recent item in HUMAN EVENTS’ “Capital Briefs” section (March 10) in which we reported how Hagel told CNN’s John King “Chuck Hagel is out of the mix [for ‘08”],” I asked the senator whether that meant he had not yet endorsed McCain for President. 

“You heard right,” Hagel replied, “John [McCain] and I have some serious disagreements on foreign policy.” When I asked if this meant their very public difference of opinion on Iraq, Hagel said: “It’s not just Iraq. It’s about the direction of where U.S. foreign policy is going over the next few years.” 

That a sitting Republican senator would refuse to say whether he backs his party’s certain nominee for President was a bit of a jolt — especially since Hagel was one of a handful of GOP senators to support McCain over George W. Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000. After flirting with a presidential bid of his own and then opting against it, the 61-year-old Nebraskan met in New York with Michael Bloomberg when the New York mayor was being widely mentioned as an independent candidate for President in ’08. This fueled talk of an insurgent Bloomberg-Hagel ticket — talk that the Republican senator would not dampen or dismiss. Bloomberg eventually ruled out running as an independent. 

Even after he and McCain had their disagreements over the U.S. presence in Iraq, the two senators and Vietnam veterans were still considered friends and Hagel was talked of as a prospective secretary of state in a McCain Administration. 

Sitting Republican office-holders who refuse to back their party’s nominee for President historically have been either punished through defeat for renomination or they eventually switch parties. Nebraska’s Republican Sen. (1912-42) George W. Norris, to whom the maverick Hagel has been likened to, publicly endorsed Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt for President at least once and was denied renomination in 1942. Michigan Rep. Don Riegle, a liberal Republican, publicly explored not even voting for President Nixon’s re-election in 1972 and, a year later, became a Democrat. (Reigle was re-elected in ’74, and went on to serve three terms in the Senate as a Democrat). These options don’t really apply to Hagel, who is retiring from the Senate this year. 

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Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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