Weekly Standard Flags This from Eli Lake: It was August 1998 and Washington was embroiled in President Clinton’s adultery scandals. Chuck Hagel, though, had his eye on the next president. So he asked George W. Bush if Hagel could meet with him at the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas. Karl Rove, then a top adviser to the governor, says he remembers Hagel flying to Austin after Rove politely tried to dissuade him from the trip because the governor’s schedule was crowded.
Hagel flew to Austin anyway. In a meeting with Bush, Rove says, the freshman Nebraska senator gave the governor his personal endorsement for the 2000 election cycle. Bush said he appreciated the senator’s endorsement, but asked him to keep it quiet for the time being, according to Rove, because the governor had not yet announced he was running. After the meeting, Hagel flew to Omaha, Nebraska, and told a group of agricultural executives that he was urging Bush to run. The story was covered in the August 10 edition of the Omaha World Herald, and Hagel briefly became one of the first major politicians to endorse George W. Bush for the presidency.