This Week:  I Start With A Political Question:
How Unfair, Low-Road Can Ads Go?

For this week’s offering, a political smorgasbord.  Appropriate, I believe, in the final days before the polls close November 4th.

Before serving up specific political news and comments, I think it’s appropriate to ask this question:

Are the political ads getting worse every election year—more unfair, more on the political low road or in the political ditch, more often repeated even when credible rebuttals have been offered?

Both Republican and Democratic spokesmen are guilty.

The most recent events—political ad campaigns and advertising definitely included—tend to be uppermost in our minds.  But the accuracy and common sense and good taste of the majority of this year’s political advertising is the worst in my memory.

Turning to today’s smorgasbord, let’s start with a news item which—quite predictably, I believe, was given top play in The Omaha World-Herald’s Midlands News section.

The headline read:  “Two Republicans denounce anti-Ashford ad.”  The Republican Party ad had linked Democratic Congressional candidate Brad Ashford with the early release of Nikko Jenkins, who went on a four-murder killing spree.

Political Ads Justify Criticism Of Both Parties

The Ashford/Jenkins ad was based on the fact that as chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, Ashford had been alerted to early release of prisoners who should pretty obviously have been continued in confinement.

Republicans charge that that alert to Ashford, given in closed-door testimony by a fellow Democrat, then Mayor Jim Suttle, led to no effective action by Ashford to address the early-release problem.

A controversial Republican Party ad attempted to link Ashford to the Jenkins scandal.

Two GOP Ad Critics Speak Up

The ad was quickly followed by the Democratic Party recruiting two Republicans—former county attorney Stu Dornan and former county commissioner George Mills—attacking the ad and demanding that Ashford’s Republican opponent, eight-term Second Congressional District Congressman Lee Terry—repudiate it.

A Terry spokesman said that the Terry campaign (apparently as distinct from the national Republican Party House of Representatives campaign committee) does  not plan to run ads linking Ashford to Jenkins or any particular criminal but will continue to shine light on Ashford’s opposition to changing the so-called “good time” prisoner-release law.

I agree that the ad aired by the Republican House Campaign Committee went too far.  And I think it would be wise for Terry to further distance himself from it.

But what about some criticism of the level of the Democratic campaign ads attacking Terry?

One example of such unfair pro-Ashford ads, repeated over and over and over:

The ad offered only part of the story of Terry’s reaction to a suggestion that he join some other Congressmen in giving up his salary during a time when other emergency measures to help hold government costs down during an economic downturn.

The Democratic Party ad quotes Terry’s initial reaction accurately.  Terry declined the suggestion that he join in the salary freeze, citing the facts that he had expenses in paying for his home and family expenses which would go on without any salary support.

Democrats jumped on this reaction with a torrent of criticism which continues in TV ad after TV ad after TV ad.

Never mentioned, of course, is the rest of the story.  Terry quickly realized he had made a political mistake and called a press conference to announce he was agreeing to a salary freeze and publicly apologizing for his earlier reaction.

Terry’s second reaction and public apology is, of course, never acknowledged in the Democratic Party’s continuing TV advertising barrage.

* * *

Puzzle:  WH For Liberal Ashford, Conservative Ricketts

Apparently determined to oust eight-term Representative Lee Terry from office, The World-Herald for the second consecutive Congressional election endorsed Terry’s opponent.

This time the opponent is Brad Ashford, who has held three different political affiliations in about a two-year period, switching from more than 20 years as a Republican to registration as an Independent to run for mayor, then to the Democratic Party and run against Congressman Terry.

I wouldn’t expect any explanation from The World-Herald as to why its editors pick liberal Democrat Ashford over Republican Terry, then follow with an endorsement of conservative Pete Ricketts over liberal Chuck Hassebrook as the newspaper’s choice for governor.  Newspapers generally don’t explain such things.

Incidentally, I think Ricketts is a good choice.  Hassebrook, with lifelong honorable credentials as a liberal, has tried to create the image that he is really a “moderate” but has, for one example, taken a public position against construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

This puts him in the company of such pipeline opponents as ultra-liberal Jane Kleeb, head of BOLD Nebraska.

A puzzling inconsistency in the two World-Herald endorsements.

* * *

Bond Issue Story Not Fully Told

I plan to vote for the $421 million Omaha School Bond issue, but I do believe school district officials have been less than forthcoming (less than honest?) with the public in their effort to sell the bond issue.

In the first place—a decision I agree with—the School Board cut a proposed bond issue approximately in half, probably the right strategy.

But what if the first half of the total bond package is only narrowly approved?

What Happens To The Second Half

And the district has not made clear that to the cost of the bonds must be added to the cost of the interest that must be paid on the bonds—interest high enough to attract investors to buy the bonds.

Incredibly to me, school officials have failed to mention clearly and upfront the cost of the interest and the term of the bonds.

All in all, not a very honest job by OPS spokesmen in dealing with the public in terms of possible further bond issue efforts and the true likely cost of the initial half-a-loaf package.

* * *

Minimum Wage Hike Has Definite Downside

Also under-publicized, as I see it, is the effect on employment and the Nebraska economy if the liberal-pushed proposal to increase the state’s required minimum wage is approved in this year’s voting.

The proposal to move the Nebraska required minimum wage from the same as the federal requirements–$7.25 an hour—moves the Nebraska minimum to $8.00 an hour by January 1, 2015 and to $9.00 an hour on January 1, 2016.

This would move Nebraska into the very small number of states—four as of today—with minimum wage requirements as high as $9.00 or more an hour.

Virtually no publicity has been given to this pertinent fact.  Nor has there been any significant attention to the question of what happens to the employment opportunities of students and other young people whom you see when driving up to a fast-food window.

And what happens to the deserved profits of the present employers of workers who, either from age or experience, are working at the current minimum wage, hopefully on their way to earning substantially higher incomes in the years to come?

* * *

Easy Upbeat Ending:
Huskers’ Win Last Week

It’s not hard to find an upbeat note on which to end this week’s offering:

Last Saturday’s remarkable second-half performance by the Nebraska Cornhuskers in thoroughly whipping Northwestern on the Wildcats home turf.

As Husker fans among my readers well know, Nebraska was only a 6-1/2 point favorite in the Las Vegas betting line.  But the final score provided a 21-point margin.

That second half performance showed what the predominantly young Husker team is capable of.  The challenge now is to maintain that level of performance through the rest of the season.

Go Big Red!

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