Hagel puts Nebraska in the spotlight
Sen. Chuck Hagel was born in North Platte, but his independent political DNA seems to have originated in the same pool as McCook's own Sen. George W. Norris.
It takes a healthy dose of independent thinking, not to mention other attributes, to call on the Republican Party to return to the days of Barry Goldwater.
"We're a bunch of Democrats," Hagel told the Times, referring to the $400 billion federal budget deficit.
Calling the GOP dishonest about the budget, Hagel said he'd take the party back to the days of Eisenhower, Reagan and, yes, Goldwater. "It was a pretty simple party in those days. It was all about limited government, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and pro-trade foreign policy."
Hagel is careful to say he hasn't announced for president in 2008, but said at almost 59, he's just "a puppy."
As a prominent Republican critic of President Bush's war policies in Iraq, Hagel is a common quote on news programs. But he follows in the tradition of Norris, who opposed U.S. involvement in both World War I and World War II.
Hagel said Congress failed to ask the tough questions during Vietnam, and he wants to make sure that doesn't happen in Iraq. He has called the Bush administration "disconnected from reality" in Iraq.
Nebraskans and others who have looked into Hagel's background know that he has the credentials to back up his opinion on war, the deficit and other important issues.
Serving, with his brother, Tom, as an Army infantry squad leader in Vietnam, he received two purple hearts and suffered hearing loss.
An Omaha newscaster and talk show host after his return, he served on the staff of a Nebraska congressman and as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration under Ronald Reagan. He got in on the cellular telephone industry early, co-founding Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc., and now serves on the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Intelligence and Rules committees.
Will Hagel run for president? Might he be in the running for a vice-presidential slot? That all depends on politics, "show business for the ugly," as he quipped to the New York Times.
Whatever the outcome, Nebraska is being well represented in the national spotlight.