Hagel And Kerrey Give Thoughts On U.S. Presidential Campaign

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey expressed concern over the current U.S. presidential campaign. (File photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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November 1, 2016 - 5:45am

Former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke recently at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They discussed the current U.S. presidential race and their feelings about what happens after Election Day. 


While attending a symposium at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on the political and social repercussions of the Vietnam War, former Nebraska Senator and Governor Bob Kerrey and former Nebraska Senator and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, both veterans of the Vietnam War, shared their perspectives on how the war changed America.

At one point the discussion turned to politics and the tumultuous presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Hagel, a longtime Republican, sounded a little disgusted with both campaigns.

Chuck Hagel spoke at The Vietnam War: Lessons and Legacies Symposium at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (Photo by Brandon McDermott, KVNO News)

“Elections and campaigns should be about hope and it should always be about how can we do things better. How can we unite our country and come together to deal with the big problems? This campaign has gone in a totally different direction,” Hagel said.

Hagel, who served as secretary of defense under President Obama, said it seems like the majority of campaign rhetoric has been spent on lobbing personal insults back and forth rather than engaging in a serious discussion of the issues.

“We are so much better than what our leaders are showing and what this election has been about,” Hagel said. “No wonder we have a situation where two presidential candidates are the most distrusted and disliked two presidential candidates in the history of our country.”

Secretary Hagel said the rise of populist candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is evidence of a shift from the political ‘old guard’ for both Republicans and Democrats.

“There’s a severe disconnect with the governed and those who govern. Trust that is the coin of the realm, confidence, lack of real confidence in our institutions particularly politics,” Hagel said. “I think what’s been unfortunate for our country is a real debasing of our political process that we’ve seen.”

Kerrey generally agreed with Hagel about the politics of this presidential election campaign.

Former Nebraska Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey speaks to the media at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (Photo by Brandon McDermott, KVNO News)

“The only time I’ve seen anything like this is when I was on meds,” Kerrey said with a smile. “Now that I’m off my meds, no I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Kerrey, a Democrat, noted that social media has played into the discord among Americans.

“Some of it is the impact of social media - Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat - all these things really increase the level of participation. But I think in some ways it degraded the quality of the debate,” Kerrey said.

Kerrey, who supports Clinton, said the two candidate’s platforms are quite different. He also said it not only matters who gets elected but what they do after they are inaugurated in January.

“Well I think it matters a lot,” Kerrey said. “If you look at the underlying platform of these two individuals at the presidential level, they are dramatically different. It’s not just about picking one person that’s less crazy than the other. It’s about looking at what they are promising to do for the middle class, for education, for the environment and all the things that are on the list of the concerns people have.”

Hagel said whomever the winner turns out to be, that person is going to have to govern this divided nation. He said this means the candidates are going to have to try to somehow bring this country back together, and work with the Congress to establish a functioning, responsible government.

“We’ll come back out of it,” Hagel said. “We’re too good a country, our fabric, our people are too good. We will find a new center of gravity of political center of gravity. But it’s going to be painful for a while.”

Hagel refused to say whom he supports in this campaign but he did make it clear there will be long term effects for this election

“To demoralize a nation through a process it should be an enhancing uplifting time is really the tragedy of what has occurred in this campaign,” Hagel said.

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