HAGEL DECRIES ‘IRRESPONSIBLE’ GOP…. It seems odd to think about now, but just a few years ago, former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was a pretty conservative Republican lawmaker. He clearly grew estranged from his party in the last Congress — Hagel even refused to endorse John McCain, despite having served as a national co-chair of McCain’s 2000 campaign — and even expressed some interest in joining the Obama ticket. (The senator’s wife endorsed the Obama campaign.)

A year later, Hagel still apparently doesn’t care for what he’s seeing from his party.

Republican senators trying to kill healthcare reform have acted irresponsibly, one of their former colleagues asserted.

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) chided some of his former colleagues who have suggested that halting healthcare reform would be politically beneficial to the GOP.

“If your attitude is wrong, if your intention is to use healthcare to destroy the other party, or to destroy the presidency of Barack Obama, then it’s very unlikely you’re going to find much consensus from people who want to use healthcare,” Hagel said earlier this month in a speech at the University of Michigan, video of which was only made available recently.

“As some Republican senators have said publicly — that if we kill Obama on this, and we destroy this, and we defeat his, that will drive a stake through his political heart on this administration,” the former senator, who retired at the end of his term in January, added. “I just find that about as irresponsible of a thing as I can think of.”

Hagel added that he continues to speak with some regularity with Obama administration officials, including the president.

It almost certainly wouldn’t happen, but if Hagel were to run against Ben Nelson in a Democratic primary, who’d win? One thing’s for sure: Hagel is far more critical of the GOP than Nebraska’s Democratic senator is.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.