Chuck Hagel


Chuck Hagel

Moving Forward

Charlyne Berens

230 pages


January 2013


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eBook (EPUB)

February 2020


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About the Book

In late August 2004 the Republicans were celebrating the nomination of incumbent George W. Bush for another term as president of the United States. In the midst of the festivities, Chuck Hagel, a senator from Nebraska, was telling reporters that the Republican Party had “come loose of its moorings.” This was a bold position for someone identified by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe as a prospective 2008 presidential candidate, but it was not surprising coming from a Republican senator who had also recently remarked that the occupation of Iraq was poorly planned and that it had encouraged the spread of terror cells throughout the world. Who is Chuck Hagel, what is his story, and is he a genuine player on the national political stage? Charlyne Berens sets out to answer these questions in her close and careful look at one of the most interesting and independent figures on the current American political scene.

Having survived a tour of duty in Vietnam and having made a fortune as a pioneer in the cellular phone industry, Chuck Hagel seemingly came out of nowhere to beat a popular sitting governor in a race for the U.S. Senate in 1996. Berens charts Hagel’s quick rise to national recognition and influence and examines the background that has led Hagel to an outspoken internationalism that often puts him at odds with his own party and president. This complex, plain-spoken Nebraskan may be on his way to the White House. Charlyne Berens explains why and how.

Author Bio

Charlyne Berens is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is the author of One House: The Unicameral’s Progressive Vision for Nebraska (Nebraska 2005) and Power to the People: Social Choice and the Populist/Progressive Ideal.


"In writing the first full-dress biography of Senator Chuck Hagel, Charlyne Berens has illuminated the experiences of a major contemporary public figure. Her honest and readable account of Hagel's personal life and career in politics is certain to be the definitive work on the subject."—Ross K. Baker, Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University

"After reading Charlyne Berens's very thorough study of Chuck Hagel, I am more than ever proud to call this fearless, outspoken, passionate, and principled man 'friend.' Choosing conscience over conformity, he represents the best of bipartisanship and patriotism."—Bob Kerrey, President of The New School and former U.S. Senator

"Charlyne Berens's terrific biography brings Chuck Hagel's straight-shooting, courageous character to life. The Senator is one of a kind on Capitol Hill, and Berens's book leaves the reader waiting to witness the next chapter in Hagel's remarkable political career."—John D. Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress and Chief of Staff to former President Bill Clinton

“A sympathetic portrait of a public figure who is immensely appealing and astute.”—Washington Post

"Readers keeping an eye on the next presidential election will appreciate this profile of a possible contender."—Booklist

“There is little doubt that Chuck Hagel will be remembered as one of the leading statesmen in the domestic and global political scene. Indeed, Senator Hagel should be of keen interest to students, scholars, lawmakers, and citizens in general. Charlyne Berens’s Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward is therefore a timely read for concerned onlookers. Yet, as Berens illustrates, the Chuck Hagel story is more than an account of a beltway career. . . . Berens captures joyful, painful, and poignant moments. Her account of the death of Hagel’s younger brother is only one telling example of the hardships that imprinted themselves on the characters of his highly capable man from the Great Plains. And, of course, his story is still moving forward.”—Peter J. Longo, Great Plains Quarterly


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi
Acknowledgments vii
1. Who Is This Guy? 1
2. The Early Years 11
3. Vietnam 27
4. Looking to Washington 45
5. Embracing a Political Future 71
6. Moving Forward in the Senate 95
7. Risking the Administration’s Wrath 145
8. Going for the Big One? 185
Notes 219

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