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In U.S. heartland, anxiety over Iraq, oil

By Alan Elsner

In the solidly Republican state of Nebraska, voters are expressing deep anxiety about rising gasoline prices and the war in Iraq, a possible early warning sign for President George W. Bush in one of his most reliable strongholds.

When Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) traveled around his home state this week, citizens at every stop brought up Iraq policy and the inexorable rise in fuel prices.

"Is there anything the United States can do to get some stability in crude oil prices in the world, because it affects everything we do?" Larry Ahlers, a manager at medical device manufacturer Becton and Dickinson in Broken Bow, asked Hagel in one of dozens of such encounters.

Hagel, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2008, responded that gasoline prices were likely to stay high for the foreseeable future because of rising world demand and the U.S. failure to develop new energy sources and conserve.

Earlier the same day in Lincoln, an elderly woman asked about Iraq. "Why are we there in the first place?" she asked.

On Tuesday in the central Nebraska town of Lexington, after a meeting with law enforcement officials on drug problems, three sheriffs expressed serious doubts about what the United States was doing in Iraq and whether it could succeed.

Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, acknowledged the U.S. military presence was becoming harder and harder to justify. He believes Iraq faces a serious danger of civil war that would threaten Middle East stability, and said there is little Washington can do to avert this.

"We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should," he said at one stop.


In an interview, Hagel said uncertainties over Iraq and oil prices fed off and reinforced each other.

"The mood is one of a certain sense of unsteadiness," he said. "I have sensed that since September 11, 2001. Our people have still not found an equilibrium and when you get these shocks, like gasoline at $2.50 a gallon and projecting natural gas costs doubling and tripling from what they paid last year, that further shakes them."

"I don't think there's panic, I don't think there's cynicism. I think there's this steady unsure sense about where is this all leading -- the constant daily reports on Iraq, our people being killed there, the money being spent there," he added.

Nebraska has been a solid Republican state in presidential elections for decades. Republicans dominate state politics and hold most elective offices.

But Hagel said even some who had previously backed Bush strongly on Iraq now felt deep unease.

"The feeling that I get back here, looking in the eyes of real people, where I knew where they were two years ago or a year ago -- they've changed," he said. "These aren't people who ebb and flow on issues. These are rock solid, conservative Republicans who love their country, support the troops and support the president."

Hagel said Bush faced a growing credibility gap. "The expectations that the president and his administration presented to the American people 2 1/2 years ago is not what the reality is today. That's presented the biggest credibility gap problem he's got," he said.

"I hope he has some sense that something's going on out in the country, that there's a lack of confidence that has developed in our position."


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Yup, it's truly amazing how those "solidly Republican" beneficiaries of Bush's tax cuts and no-bid war contracts can stoically face thousands of deaths of other people's children. But their attitudes change rapidly when the chickens start coming home to roost in dollars and cents.

Sacrificing in time of war just isn't on the agenda for medical device manufacturers and other such establishment supporters of Republican "strategy".

BETTER GET USE TO IT! oil production peaking and rising demand are what is driving these prices. goggle "oil production peaking" and be prepared to devote 1/2 hr to reading. i can assure you greed is not the cause for these prices. demand rising above and beyond the ability to supply the growing need in this country is what fans these flames. THESE PRICES ARE HERE TO STAY! todays word for you all is "CONVSERVATION". PRODUCTION PEAKING IS THE REASON FOR OUR PRESENSE IN IRAQ! IT'S A GRAB FOR control of the last MAJOR GLOBAL OIL RESERVE.
THERE ARE MANY REASONS FOR THIS GRAB, ONE OF WHICH IS THIS IS WHAT THE NEO-CON'S BELEIVE WE WILL, OR WOULD, EVENTUALLY WANT THEM TO DO TO KEEP US LIVING THE LIFESTYLE OF WASTE WE HAVE ENJOYED SINCE THE END OF WWII. I know there are those who will reject what im saying here but read, study, and you'll learn the facts. we are going to have to impliment some serious lifestyle changes soon or face real hardship. the key to long term success will be in fossil fuel conservation. this will be especially relivant for natural gas. IN CASE SOME OF YOU ARN'T AWARE, 1/2 OF THIS PLANET'S ELECTRICAL GENERATION IS FROM NATURAL GAS FIRED POWER PLANTS. HALF THE PLANET PEOPLE! THATS WHAT WE KEEP WARM WITH IN WINTER MONTHS. NATURAL GAS IS IN SERIOUS DECLINE ON A GLOBAL SCALE. in this country, we cant grow electrical production facilities due to lack of fuel. (coal & nat gas)CONSERVATION8! CONSERVATION!**HUMPHREY**

I think you're right. Hope we wake up in time.

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