On Sunday morning Republican Senator Chuck Hegel of Nebraska was on NBC’s Meet the Press. After talking mostly about the situation in Iraq, guest host David Gregory asked Hegel if there was growing momentum to impeach President Bush. “Well, you can’t just arbitrarily impeach a president.  There has to be a grounds for impeachment.  There have to be articles of impeachment drawn up based on did the president obstruct or lie or violate something in the Constitution?  It’s clear,” Hegel replied. Gregory asked Hegel if he would oppose impeachment, and he answered, “Well, certainly, I don’t see anything today.  I’ve just said that I think the president believes in what he’s doing.  I think he believes that, that this is the right course of action.  I happen to disagree with him.”

Gregory then moved on to the topic of whether on not Sen. Hegel will run for president. When asked if he plans to run Hegel said, “Well, I’ll make that decision in the next couple of months, and I, I need to make that decision as to my political future.  I’ve got to decide whether I want to ask the people of Nebraska to consider giving me a third term in the Senate.  I also have said, and said this when I first ran for the Senate after I got elected in 1996, that 12 years, two terms, may be enough. And that’s another option.  And then, if there might be a place for me along the presidential road somewhere, to try to have some influence and change the course of this country, then I’ll look at that.  But that decision needed to be made soon, and I’ll make it soon.”

Hegel then said that he wouldn’t change parties, but he didn’t exactly slam the door shut on an independent presidential bid. Gregory asked him first if he planned to change parties. “Well, I have no intention of changing parties.  And that doesn’t mean, by the way, that I don’t think an independent does not have some renewed possibilities next year to be president,” Hegel said. Gregory then asked if the senator had ruled out running as an independent. Hegel answered, “For right now I am, and what the world looks like next year, I don’t know.  But I have no plans to change parties or run for president as an independent.”

Hegel made it clear that he was leaving his options open for the future. “I think anybody in this business, but anybody in life, and I’ve learned this in 60 years, David, that you try to keep as many options open for yourself in life for yourself as you can.  And you try to be in a, a position where you’ve got some opportunities.  I can’t say today what the world looks like in a year.  I don’t know what, what this is going to—the political world in America’ll look like in six or seven months.” He said that he was waiting to make a final decision because he thought that the campaign started too early and there is too much emphasis on fundraising right now. He didn’t want to be declared an also ran if his campaign got off to a slow fundraising start.

He also said that he feels like the nation is ready for an independent candidate. “Well, I think that there’s a possibility that America—and look at the polls.  Look at how lowly regarded Congress, both parties, the president, is in any poll in job approval ratings.  Look at the question in your poll, by the way, The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll two weeks ago:  Right way, wrong way, is America going in the right direction or the wrong direction?  Eighteen percent, historic low, said America’s going in the right direction.  That means America’s lost confidence in both parties and its leadership.  Would there be room for a third party or an independent candidate?  And there’s a difference—that, that’s different, by the way, and—as you know.  I don’t know, maybe so.  The question there always is how do you get to 270 electoral votes?”

Despite his denials, Sen. Hegel seems to have left open the possibility that he may run with Mike Bloomberg on an independent ticket next year. He brings up a very good point about Americans seeming to lose confidence in both political parties. However with many in the GOP moving closer to his position on Iraq, one has to wonder if it would make sense for Sen. Hegel to leave the party. He might be better served by staying in his party and running as social conservative who is against the war. He might be able to do more in the party, than he ever could by leaving it.

One thing is certain though, something has to give in the Republican Party. They can’t keep supporting this war, and hope to win an election next year. As for Chuck Hegel, it doesn’t seem like he has made up his mind yet, but I think that he is going to do something. He will either run for the GOP nomination or leave the party, because as we have seen, there is no room for anti-war positions in the GOP right now. So Hegel has a tough choice, he can either try to change the party from within or abandon his lifelong political home.

Transcript of Hegel interview 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse

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