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Former Senator from Nebraska remembers Colin Powell

Chuck Hagel said his friend was a “national treasure.”
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 10:48 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was surprised at the news his long-time friend Colin Powell had died. The two had known each other since the 1980s when they were both Vietnam veterans rising through the ranks of political and military leadership.

”Magnificent man,” Hagel said. “The most decent, talented human being I’ve ever met.”

Hagel met with WOWT’s Brent Weber after his plane arrived from Washington, D.C. Monday night. He recalled the many times the two worked together, including the Vietnam Memorial Wall project. They didn’t always agree. For example, when Hagel went against the Republican Party and the Bush Administration by opposing the Iraq War.

”We had long conversations about (Iraq),” Hagel said. “They were never really bad because he and I were both coming from the same place, ‘easy to get into war, hard to get out of war.’”

At a critical moment in Hagel’s career, the retired general defended President Obama’s nomination of Hagel for Secretary of Defense against attacks again from his own party, telling NBC’s Meet the Press eight years ago that Hagel was “superbly qualified.”

”He always moved forward,” Hagel said. “(Powell) looked at how do we make America better?”

The two men also had the presidential rumor mill in common. Hagel considered a run for president in 2008 and was mentioned as a potential running mate for Barack Obama. Popular with both parties, Powell was touted as a potential Republican nominee on more than one occasion, but never formally ran, saying he lacked a passion for politics.

”The things he came up with, like the Pottery Barn rule, ‘if you break it you, own it’,” Hagel said. “He had a common sense approach. He had all the degrees and stuff, but he was all about common sense.”

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