Hagel’s at the Pentagon "a lot"

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November 12th, 2010

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Chuck Hagel's name continues to surface as a possible Obama cabinet member (Photo courtesy U.S. Senate)

Omaha, NE – Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel’s name continues to be thrown around in Washington… as a potential 2012 Presidential candidate, or, most recently, a new Secretary of Defense for the Obama administration. Thursday, he said he’s not looking for a new job, but had empathetic words for President Barack Obama and talked about a tough ride for Republicans in 2012.

Hagel was at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for a Veteran’s Day service. The Nebraska Republican is a veteran of the Vietnam War, and served in the U.S. Senate representing Nebraska for 12 years. In fact, his biography is expansive, which led him to interrupt his introduction, kissing a blushing speaker at the podium, with a quip to the laughing, mostly military, crowd, “If this crowd doesn’t know who the hell I am now, it won’t make any difference.”

Hagel spends most of his time in Washington, and after retiring from the Senate in 2008, continues to be actively involved in political decision making. He said he has conversations with senior staff at the Obama White House frequently, and is in the Pentagon “a lot” but asked if he was looking for a cabinet seat, Hagel made a quick dodge. “I’m not looking for work. I’m not looking for government work. I’m not looking for a new job.”

But asked what he thought of President Obama’s job performance so far, Hagel was forgiving. He said he began his term with the worst set of problems since Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had to pull the country out of the Great Depression. And though his poll numbers are down, Hagel said, other politicians shouldn’t be pointing fingers.

“When you look at every other identifiable political leader in America,” Hagel said, “Obama’s in a stratosphere by himself.” “Look at John McCain’s, you pick the person, or Sarah Palin, Pelosi, McConnell or Boehner, the President’s numbers are three or four times better than anyone else.”

Hagel gave the example of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who both suffered defeats during their first midterm election.

“I remember vividly after the first two years of Clinton, he lost both Houses… one term President, this guy’ll never come back, it’s a joke… It was ‘Ronald Reagan should never have been elected anyway…’ Well, “Ronald Reagan came back two years later and won one of the most overwhelming victories for re-election in the history of our country.”

While that doesn’t sound like a politician gearing up for a 2012 challenge, Hagel did say he thinks the President will begin a post-midterm shift, with a reorientation to the center, and the possible inclusion of new cabinet members – new picks that would show a bipartisan effort to solve problems. And that, Hagel says, is what the country wants to see from all its elected officials.

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