From NBC's Abigail Williams and Frank Thorp
After telling the American public for the last month that he is stepping out of the mess of political life, Sen. Chuck Hagel spent the morning telling those left in office how to clean up after he's gone.
Invoking the recent Gallup poll showing that 81% of the American public did not like the direction America was headed, Hagel called for a new consensus within the next administration and emphasized the need for a bi-partisan coalition no matter who takes the White House.
Referring to Sen. John McCain as a "good friend," Hagel continued to criticize the Republican presidential candidate's foreign policy platform, pointing to a financial toll of $12 billion to $15 billion a month for the Iraq war and a high casualty rate.
"We have lost 900 Americans since the surge began," Hagel said. "We are in a mess in Iraq. And the reality is we are going to have to deal with it."
Hagel was blunt but could offer no specifics on the troop levels needed in the present or future. He was however, quick to absolve himself from finding any solution.
"I don't intend to be in the government next year," he said. "I don't anticipate it, and I don't look forward to it."