NORMAN, Okla.—I was one of a couple of reporters who got a chance to chat with Chuck Hagel last night as he left the house of former Senator David Boren’s house here ahead of a bipartisan conference on compromise in politics.
Hagel said that Americans “are going to have to break a very dangerous partisan deadlock in this country in order to face the great challenges that lie ahead. And we think it’s serious.”
When asked if Michael Bloomberg, who is at the conference, should run for president, Hagel said, “Well, that’s his decision.”
As for being his running mate, Hagel told us, “Oh, that’s all hypothetical. We’re not about that here and the mayor says he’s not a candidate.”
The full exchange:
HAGEL: We talked about movies, we talked about politics, the future of America, a little of everything.
Q: Did you have any Junior’s cheesecake?
HAGEL: We did. The mayor was very generous. And it was very tasty. He received many compliments.
Q: Did you talk about him running for president?
HAGEL: No we didn’t. We talked, we talked about a lot of things, politics of course, our country and issues, framing and trying to influence the direction of our country, and breaking this partisan paralysis that we have in the country today. Putting our situation, and our people, and our country in a position where can deal with these big problems. Our next president is going to have to break that. As well as the Congress and all of us.
Q: Do you think the mayor should run for president?
HAGEL: Well, that’s his decision.
Q: What are your thoughts on it?
HAGEL: Oh, I’ll wait and see what he has to say. That was not what tonight was about nor why we’re here.
Q: How would you describe his level of participation tonight. More listening? More proactive?
HAGEL: Oh, he participated like all of us. There was 17 of us and we all listened and we all participated.
Q: Was there any heated debate at any point?
HAGEL: No. There were a lot of different points of view. I mean, you put 17 people in a room, we’ve all held elected office, some of us still do, from all over the country, Democrats, independents Republicans. You’re going to have a very interesting, stimulated exchange. And we did. But we all are of the same opinion, that unfortunately we are going to have to break a very dangerous partisan deadlock in this country in order to face the great challenges that lie ahead. And we think it’s serious.
Q: Did the results out of Iowa, where the candidates of ’change’ prevailed, ease things here?
HAGEL: That didn’t have anything to do with what we’re talking about.
Q: This meeting is sort of bigger than what’s happening?
Well, we’re talking about a 21st Century framework of strategy. How are you going to break the deadlock? How are you, the new president, is he or she going to build a truly, unity government? A truly bi-partisan government? What are your ideas? How are we going to deal with these great issues, regardless of the primary season. The elections will go on, as they should.
Q: Would you run as Bloomberg’s vice president?
HAGEL: Oh, that’s all hypothetical. We’re not about that here and the mayor says he’s not a candidate.