Hagel served in combat during the Vietnam War. He knows very well the cost -- in blood, fear, and anguish -- that war imposes on our soldiers. As a presidential hopeful he would be the candidate not just of the peace party, but of his fellow grunts as well.
Despite misgivings, Hagel voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002. Like many others in Congress, he has come to oppose the war. Unlike many of his fellow legislators, however, Hagel went into opposition well before the war became unpopular with the country at large.
His principled stand on this and other issues has left him with few friends among the conservative base of the Republican Party. The race for the Republican nomination for president would, clearly, be an uphill one for Hagel. But the dynamic may be changing. Peggy Noonan recently came out in praise of Hagel on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Unquestionably, there is a growing hunger in the country for truth-telling about Iraq. No Republican has been speaking the truth about Iraq longer than Chuck Hagel has.
Does history repeat itself? Well, the election of 2000 sure looked a lot like that of 1876, did it not? Today, Iraq looks more and more like Vietnam. If President Bush's "surge" in Iraq goes sour, and we find ourselves spiraling into disaster in the Middle East, 2008 may look a lot like 1968 -- the country in chaos as a result of an unpopular and unwinnable war. The prospects for an anti-war Republican with Hagel's credentials might then be very different.
I mentioned a changing dynamic. I haven't voted in a presidential election in twenty years, but I've already sent in my name as a volunteer for the Hagel campaign, should the Senator decide to run. It takes an awful lot to make a cynic like me get up and volunteer for anything.
We're fed up with this war, and with Bush. Run Chuck, run.