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Monday, March 12, 2007

Senator Hagel Decides Not to Decide

March 12, 2007
Hagel Puts Off Decision on 2008 Bid
Filed at 11:26 a.m. ET

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Sen. Chuck Hagel, the loudest Republican voice in opposition to the Iraq war, on Monday put off a decision about a possible presidential bid.

In an odd twist, the Nebraska senator called a news conference to say he would decide about his political future later this year.

''I want to keep my focus on helping find a responsible way out of this tragedy,'' Hagel said of the Iraq war.

The Republican presidential field is crowded with 10 candidates, a number that could grow as Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson weigh possible bids. Hagel's planned announcement touched off speculation that he would join the 2008 White House race or announce plans to seek re-election to a third Senate term.

Instead, he told reporters at a nationally televised news conference: ''I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year.''

Hagel, 60, is probably best known to voters as a high-profile critic of the Bush administration dating to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That criticism evolved into heated discordance in January when the Nebraska Republican called President Bush's plan to send an addition 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq ''the most dangerous foreign policy blunder carried out since Vietnam.''

Here's the text of Monday's speech:

America stands at an historic crossroads in its history. It is against this backdrop that I find myself at my own crossroads on my political future. Burdened by two wars, faced with dangerous new threats and global uncertainty, beset by serious long-term domestic problems and divided by raw political partisanship—America now reaches for a national consensus of purpose. America’s response to the challenges and opportunities that confront us today will define our future. Finding solutions to these challenges and capitalizing on these opportunities will not wait until the next election.

I have worked hard over the last ten years on foreign policy and national security issues, climate change and energy, education, entitlement reform, especially Social Security reform, health care, veterans benefits, GSE reform, and immigration reform. This year will be an important year for these critical issues– and I intend to offer new initiatives on each of them. I want to give these and other subjects my full attention over the next few months. I believe it is in the interests of my Nebraska constituents and this country that I continue to work full time on these challenges.

America is facing its most divisive and difficult issue since Vietnam—the war in Iraq, an issue that I have been deeply involved in. I want to keep my focus on helping find a responsible way out of this tragedy, and not divert my energy, efforts and judgment with competing political considerations.

I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year.

In making this announcement, I believe there will still be political options open to me at a later date. But that will depend on the people of Nebraska and this country. I cannot control that and I do not worry about it. I will continue to participate in events across this country, raising money for my Political Action Committee to assist Republican candidates, and raising funds for a Senate re-election campaign.

In conclusion, I would first like to commend my colleagues who are currently seeking their Party’s presidential nomination. I admire each of them for their willingness to put themselves on the line and pursue their strong beliefs and ideals.

I believe the political currents in America are more unpredictable today than at any time in modern history. We are experiencing a political re-orientation, a redefining and moving toward a new political center of gravity. This movement is bigger than both parties. The need to solve problems and meet challenges is overtaking the ideological debates of the last three decades—as it should. America is demanding honest, competent and accountable governance.

A global political readjustment is also in play today...and will respond to America’s leadership. What is at stake for the future of America is larger than just American politics. Politics is simply the mechanism democracies use to affect responsible change. The world is not static, it is dynamic.

At the beginning of my remarks I said that America is reaching for a national consensus of purpose. We will find it because Americans expect it and will demand it. I do not believe America’s greatness is lost to the 20th Century. There are chapters of America’s greatness yet to be written. I intend to continue being part of America’s story.