The panel was considering a resolution condemning President Bush’s proposal to send 21,000 additional troops to Iraq; Hagel, a cosponsor of the resolution, would be the only Republican on the committee to vote for its passage…He had no prepared text but the words came easily as he took his turn at the mike. Calling Iraq the country’s most divisive issue since Vietnam, he dared his fellow committee members to take a stand. “I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this,” he said. “If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.”
But Hagel, who as of late last week was in the final stages of weighing a presidential run, is never mentioned in the top tier of Republican candidates for one, simple reason: since the initial buildup to the war in Iraq, he has assailed the Bush administration’s policyâ€”in sharp words, in constant refrain and, most unforgivably, in public.
His stance has earned him the enmity of the White House. Asked about Hagel last week in an interview with NEWSWEEK, Vice President Dick Cheney said: “I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: THOU SHALT NOT SPEAK ILL OF A FELLOW REPUBLICAN. But it’s very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved.”