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Ak-Sar-Ben Itself Merits Praise Along With King Dick And Queen Suzanne - 10-14-10

Come Election Day, White And Terry Can’t Duck Party Labels Any Longer - 10-07-10

Today, Second-Guessing Other Sports Commentators But Some Thoughts On Current Political Issues, Too - 09-30-10

Gates Gives Somber Non-Political Appraisals Of Iraq, Afghanistan - 09-23-10

At Last, A Prominent Moderate Muslim Speaks Out Against Muslim Terrorists - 09-16-10

Today, It’s All About College Football With Some “As I See It” Commentary - 09-09-10

Danes’ Sensible Approach To Immigration Won’t, Unfortunately, Fly In The U.S.A. - 09-02-10

Mosque Controversy Isn’t About Legal Rights; It’s About Moral Use Of Those Rights - 08-26-10

Time To Answer The Obvious Question: What Chance For Success In Afghanistan? - 08-19-10

Two-Paragraph News Story Offers Scary Prospect For World’s Future - 08-12-10

Outdated Constitutional Language Adds To Today’s Illegal Immigration Mess - 08-05-10

Not Wall Street But Democratic Policy Caused Mortgage Market Crash - 07-29-10

Windfarm Promoters Need More Facts, Less Rhetoric - 07-22-10

Nebraska Democrats’ ‘Find A Candidate’ Problem Began Long Months (Years?) Ago - 07-15-10

When The Subject Is Disasters,Obama Needs A History Lesson - 07-08-10

McChrystal’s Firing Spotlights Afghan War And The Slim Chance Of U.S. Victory There - 07-01-10

Advice For An Egocentric President: “I, I, I” Suggests One-Man Team - 06-24-10

Texas Decision Good For Big 12 But Even Better For The Longhorns - 06-17-10

Europe Is Sobering Up From 'Welfare' Binge; Obama-Led U.S. Moving Toward Similar Crises? - 06-10-10

A New Issue: Does ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ Make Military Service Easier For Gays? - 06-03-10

Do State Officials Really Understand The Challenges Faced By Omaha Schools? - 05-27-10

Democrats Continue Cheap Shot Campaign Against Republican Congressman Lee Terry - 05-20-10

Cartoonist Koterba Says It Clearly: Don’t Put All The Blame On Schools - 05-13-10

Citizenship For Immigrants Is Inevitable But Start By Closing The Border - 05-06-10

Punish Wall Streeters If They Deserve It But Liberal Dems Spawned The Mortgage Mess - 04-29-10

Did Legislature, Speaker Mike Flood Deserve All Those Kind Words? - 04-22-10

Tiger Sulks His Way Through Masters— Is Obama Gambling On The Nuclear Issue? Rogue States And Terrorists Won’t Sign Up - 04-15-10

Did Obama/Pelosi ‘Sausage Factory’ Produce A Debt-Increasing Unpopular Health Plan? - 04-08-10

The Stories Behind Some Disturbing Headlines And Some Advice For Avoiding National Bankruptcy - 04-01-10

Four-Vote House Margin Makes Americans Swallow Trillion-Dollar Pill They Don't Want - 03-25-10

Insurance Pays 96% Of Family’s Cost For Seven Years Of ‘End Of Life’ Treatment - 03-18-10

President Angry Replaces President Cool; ‘ObamaCare’s’ Chances Helped Or Hurt? - 03-11-10

Americans To Get ‘ObamaCare’ Even If They Don’t Want It? - 03-04-10

Despite The Headlines, There’s Progress In Curbing Violence In North Omaha - 02-25-10

Corporate Expenditures Bad For Politics Except When They Benefit Liberal Candidates? - 02-18-10

Wind Energy Industry Faced Disaster; V.A. Hospital Not Personal Obama Choice - 02-11-10

Some Remarkable Legislative Comments And Some Questionable Media Performance - 02-04-10

When The Subject Is Nebraska Wind Energy, ‘Green’ Is The Color Of Money - 01-28-10

The “Teddy Kennedy Seat” Lesson Might Benefit Both Democrats and Republicans - 01-21-10

Some Legislative Issues—Like Gambling—Deserve Quick Death But Water Issues Deserve Careful Attention - 01-14-10

Today: ‘Big Daddy’ Government Wrong Again, And How Justified Is Cornhusker Title Talk? - 01-07-10

Dan Neary Worthy Of The Honor--
Today Some Upbeat Comments But "Obama Care" Debate Demands Attention
- 12-30-09

Even Without That Health Bill Vote, Another Term For Nelson Was Questionable - 12-23-09

Let’s Talk Football And Why Nebraska’s Suh Deserved The Heisman - 12-17-09

Image of Immigrants Would Be Helped By Less Cinco de Mayo, More 4th of July - 12-10-09

Image Of Islam Is Badly Damaged By ‘God-Approved’ Slaughter Of Non-Muslims - 12-03-09

Close Call For NU Research, Reputation; Thanksgiving Reminder: Count Your Blessings - 11-25-09

NU’s Reputation And Research Role Are Both At Stake When Regents Vote - 11-19-09

Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’
Changing To ‘Maybe We Can’t’?
- 11-12-09

Review The History Before Renaming A Street; Memories Of Sarah, Our Sweet Senior Dog - 11-05-09

“Socioeconomic Diversity” More Important Then Academic Achievement In “Learning Community”? - 10-29-09

A Visiting Sports Columnist Agrees: ‘There Is No Place Like Nebraska’ - 10-22-09

Might Obama Wish He Had A Chance To Say ‘No, Thanks’ To Early Nobel Prize? - 10-15-09

Don’t Overlook The Variety Of Aid Which Goes To ‘Poverty Level’ Families - 10-08-09

Smorgasbord Today: From UN’s “Nutcake Day” To Obama Performance Here And Abroad - 10-01-09

Must Defense Continue To Cover For Huskers’ Anemic Red Zone Offense? - 09-24-09

'Energizer Bunny' President Continues To Add Proposals For Reform - 09-17-09

Today, Variety: Football, Golf And Why No President Should Televise Himself Into The Nation’s Classrooms - 09-10-09

Massachusetts Gave Kennedy Significant Second Chances - 09-03-09

Obama’s Problem Not Just With GOP
But With A Great Many Americans
- 08-27-09

Tiger Could Use Sportsmanship Lesson—And Less Coverage From Fawning Media - 08-20-09

Gallup ‘Competitive’ Label, If Accurate Long Term, Is Good News Not Only For Nebraska Democrats - 08-13-09

Democrats Go All-Out Negative:
Trash Private Insurance Industry
- 08-06-09

Journalistic Watchdogs Turned Lapdogs When Obama Called That ‘News Conference’ - 07-30-09

Look Back, Mr. President: Opposition Is Catching Up - 07-23-09

Dem Lynch Mob Might Hang President’s Hopes - 07-16-09

Dems Start Oust-Terry Effort In The Political Gutter - 07-09-09

Despite Liberal Media's Views, Nation Better Served By Viable GOP - 07-02-09

A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09

Freshman President Learning Some Political Realities? - 06-18-09

Voices Of Reason Raised Too Late To Slow Rush To Wind Power? - 06-11-09

Public Will Be Watching Prosecution Of Three Teen-Age Creatures - 06-04-09

Wealthiest Paying Less, In Taxes?
It’s Simply Not True
- 05-28-09

Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson
- 05-21-09

Special-Interest Liberals
Shouldn’t Badger Obama
- 05-14-09

A Surprising Source: Obama
Cites Positive Results of Iraq War
- 05-07-09

Media Transfer Their Love
From Candidate to President
- 04-30-09

Suttle Campaign Subtly Two-Faced? Or ‘Just Politics’? Voters Will Decide - 04-23-09

If America Is "At War
With Islam," It's Self-Defense
- 04-16-09

Seven Iowans Change Marriage
Tradition For 3 Million Others
- 04-09-09

Will Liberal Democrats Continue
Escaping The Verdict Of History?
- 04-02-09

Multi-Focused President
Upsets Even Liberals
- 03-26-09

Richard Nixon—Appropriate To Recall The Good As Well As The Dark Side - 03-19-09

Not Reducing Mortgage Costs; We’re Simply ‘Modifying’ Them - 03-12-09

Fair Warning From NY Times: Obama’s “Breathtaking Plans” Would “Transform American Society” - 03-05-09

A Look At Academy Awards Nastiness, But First A Plug For My Book, “Life With Marian” - 02-26-09

Let’s Not Move Slot Machine Cancer From Iowa Casinos To Nebraska Race Tracks - 02-19-09

Whiteclay Is Wrong Target;
Aim At Alcoholism Problem
- 02-12-09

For The Best “Stimulus” Formula:
Put Economic Recovery First;
“Remaking USA” Can Wait
- 02-05-09

Journalistic Hounds Are Still
In Full Pursuit Of Bush
- 01-29-09

‘First Black President’ Celebration
Shouldn’t Further Distract Us
From Job We And Obama Face
- 01-22-09

‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real
- 01-15-09

Advice For Husker Fans:
Rejoice—But Be Realistic
- 01-08-09

Kennedy Dynasty History
Includes Shameful Chapters
- 12-31-08

Today Some Merry Christmas Thoughts But A Few Political Barbs, Too - 12-24-08

This Time It’s Indians
Who Break The Treaty
- 12-18-08

Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So
- 12-11-08

Obama Steers A Moderate Course
But Congressional Democrats Veer Left
- 12-04-08

Too Many "Non-Blessings"
This Thanksgiving Week
- 11-26-08

Let’s Hear More About
The Principal ‘Crisis’ Victims
- 11-20-08

Color-Blind Issues Voting
Showed No Turn To The Left
- 11-13-08

Election Made History
But Big Questions Remain
- 11-06-08

Today, A Choice of Topics:
Politics Or Football—Or Both
- 10-30-08

Splitting Electoral Votes Good Idea? Then Why Do 48 States Reject It? - 10-23-08

Dems Take 11th Hour Low Road
In 2nd Congressional District Race
- 10-16-08

Another Government “Welfare Program,” Bargain Mortgages, Caused The Crisis - 10-09-08

Words Can Lose Their Meaning
When A Government Program Is Involved
- 10-02-08

—Have We Learned This Lesson?— Crisis Results When Individuals, Encouraged By Financial Institutions, Try To Live Beyond Their Means - 9-25-08

Bonds To Build Four-Lane Highways?
Where Would The Money Come From?
- 9-18-08

Today, a Large Load of Political
Commentary After a Brief Plug For
My Book, ‘Life With Marian’
- 9-17-08

Major News Media Look Bad
In Non-Coverage of
Edwards’ Sex Affair Story
- 9-11-08

Disadvantaged Students Can Be
Helped Without Discriminatory ‘Affirmative Action’
- 9-04-08

My Favorite Olympic Champion?
It Wasn’t Michael Phelps
- 8-28-08

Will Chinese Get Away With
'Out Air Is Clean' Scam?
- 8-21-08

Windmills, Solar Won't Do It;
Time To Get Real On Energy
- 8-07-08

I Doubt That God or Jesus
Have Heavenly Money on Either Team
- 8-07-08

‘Pop Star’ Obama Lacks Experience,
McCain Lacks Clear Campaign Strategy
- 7-31-08

Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit?
- 7-24-08

Would Odor of Politics
Taint Fire Chief Choice?
- 7-17-08

Will Hospitality, Qwest Center
Lure Swim Trials Back to Omaha?
- 7-09-08

Omaha Stars Again
On National TV Stage
- 7-02-08

Omaha's CWS Reputation
Gets New "Rave Reviews"
- 6-25-08

S.D. Vote Could Lead
To National Abortion Battle
- 6-18-08

Don’t Let Niobrara Go The Way
Of The Republican And The Platte
- 6-11-08

Voters Didn’t Impose Term Limits
To Rid Legislature of Chambers
- 6-04-08

“It’s Our Turn” Pitch Might
Not End With Hillary Defeat
- 5-28-08

Prime Nebraska Political
Battleground This Year:
2nd Congressional District
- 5-21-08

The 'Browning' of America:
How Far Will It Go?
- 5-14-08

Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08

"Does Homebuyer Bailout
Reward the Irresponsible?"
- 4-30-08

"Was McCain, Not Clinton,
The Real Winner in Pennsylvania?"
- 4-25-08

"Cleaner Skies Advice For Gore:
Pressure On China, More Nuke
Power If Jane Fonda Will Allow It"
- 4-16-08

"Why The Big Fuss Over
Tiny Gasoline Cost Increase?"
- 4-09-08

"Quietly, Nebraska Yields
All-Public-Power Status"
-  4-02-08

"Obama’s ‘Historic’ Speech Left
Big Questions Unanswered "
-  3-25-08

"Overweight Moore Produces
“Sicko,” Finds An Ally In Creighton Doctor"
-  3-19-08

"Bush Sings, Praises Press
At Annual Gridiron Dinner"
-  3-12-08

"Obama Would Be Least
Formidable Opponent For McCain"
-  3-7-08

"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" -  2-27-08

"Could Citizen ‘Packing Iron’
Have Stopped Von Maur Killings?"
-  2-20-08

"Obama’s Style Without Substance
Exciting, But Is It Presidential?"
-  2-13-08

"Barack Obama and John McCain:
A Major Contrast in Egos? "
-  2-07-08

"‘First Black President’
Emphasis Wouldn’t Help Obama"
-  1-30-08

"Kimball Lauritzen: Think of Her
As Joyous on Some New Dawn"
-  1-23-08

"What 'Tough' Election Contest
Was Ben Nelson Talking About?"
- 1-16-08

"Overhyped New Hampshire
Offsets Overhyped Iowa"
- 1-10-08

"Coach Bo Now Well Welcomed;
Time to Start Thinking of NU Wins"
- 1-2-08

"Words of Jews Most Moving
To Me This Christmas Season"
- 12-25-07

"AT LAST: TALK OF PREVENTION
JOINS MOURNING OVER KILLINGS"
- 12-19-07

"Killer Is Getting Just What He Wanted;
Let's Add Anger and
Action to Our Sorrow"
- 12-12-07

"Bo Brings Emotional Fire to NU Job;
Scary News: Huckabee Gain in Iowa"
- 12-05-07

"Callahan Outclasses Loudmouth Critics;
Tom Osborne Treated Him Fairly"
- 11-28-07

"A Thought for Thanksgiving Day:
Tell Them You Love Them"
- 11-21-07

"Callahan Critics: Is Loss to CU
The Only Way to Satisfy Them?"
- 11-16-07

"Crybaby Fans, Sports Commentators
Distracting Players From Their Job?"
- 11-09-07

"Did Bob Kerrey’s Decision Avoid
the Likelihood of Defeat?"
- 11-02-07

"Nosy Congress Makes
Three Bad Calls"
- 10-26-07

"Is This The Way to Run UNL´s
Athletic Program?"
- 10-19-07

"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL"
- 10-12-07

"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07

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As I See It
Harold W. Andersen is a retired Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the Omaha World-Herald Company. Full biography.

A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)

And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.

‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing

February 27, 2008

There’s a report going around that in one of his emotional campaign speeches, Senator Barack Obama paused to blow his nose and the crowd responded with applause and cheers as they did after virtually every other sentence in his customary display of oratorical charisma.

Whether or not Obama’s support from what The New York Times recently described as “a cult of personality” has reached the stage that even a pause for nose blowing draws cheers of applause, I don’t think there is any doubt that unquestioning, unthinking, support of any charismatic figure should be of concern to anyone who believes that important political decisions should be based on reason, not emotion.

A recent New York Times column carried a headline which read: “Follow Me” followed by these words: “The Charisma Mandate.” You’ll not be surprised to learn that The New York Times column took a generally friendly view of political “charisma” and a resultant “cult of personality.” The Times reasoning is that a charismatic leader can bring about desirable change more effectively than a political leader who doesn’t have that magnetism.

The Times column didn’t address what I think is a clear potential downside; i.e., that charisma, leading to a kind of blind following of a charismatic leader could also bring about undesirable political change.

When I stopped for a bit of business at a small “mom and pop” shop operated by two friends of mine, the conversation turned, somewhat inevitably, to the current presidential campaign. I referred to The New York Times article which had emphasized that Obama had “charisma.”

“So did Hitler” was the immediate reaction of the “mom” of the “mom and pop” team.

My friend had a good point. Charismatic leaders can be essential to a country’s very survival in some cases, as in Winston Churchill’s leadership of Great Britain during World War II. And charismatic leaders can steer countries through very difficult times, as in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership during his presidency. But then there are charismatic leaders like Hitler and Mussolini. And for closer-to-home examples of charisma which destroys democracy rather than encourages it, one need look no further than Cuba under Fidel Castro and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.

Now before members of the Obama cult of personality accuse me of comparing him to Hitler or Mussolini or Castro, let the record show that I am simply emphasizing the importance of learning, to the extent that we can, where a charismatic leader might lead us before electing him to the presidency of the United States.

* * *

Gasoline Tax Increase
Painful But Necessary

I wonder if the Nebraska Legislature shouldn’t simply “cut to the chase” as the saying goes, and increase the state gasoline tax to provide funds for additional highway construction.

Using cash reserve funds as some senators have proposed or dipping into the state general fund revenue—an idea voiced some months ago but apparently not now under serious consideration—would be at best questionable temporary patches on the basic system of financing state highway needs.

Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine has talked of an ingenious way of raising more highway funds without a direct increase in the state gasoline tax. Her proposal would levy a tax on the wholesalers who provide gasoline for thousands of pumps all over the state. But, as Senator Fischer conceded when she first announced her plan, the wholesalers would in turn presumably pass the cost along to the filling station operators, who in turn would pass it on to the customers.

One might ask what difference it makes to a driver whether the 30-cents-a-gallon price increase is a result of a direct increase in the state gasoline tax or the result of a tax imposed on petroleum wholesalers who pass it back to the driver through the filling station operator.

Highway revenue discussion ought to proceed in an atmosphere that avoids language like some which has been voiced in recent weeks. A Public Pulse writer, for example, recently wrote that our roads are falling apart. This is nonsense.

An inquiry to the Nebraska Department of Roads produced these answers:

A shortfall in federal highway aid (a situation which still might be corrected by Congress) will still leave the state with enough funds to adequately maintain the existing state highway system, including such major maintenance as replacing worn-out sections of existing highways.

It is the capital improvements budget—the construction of additional miles of four-lane expressways, for example—that will be affected, at least in the short term.

In all the stories which have been written in recent weeks about the highway funding problem, it seems to me that the most sensible viewpoint was expressed early on by Governor Dave Heineman.

Near the close of a story which was headlined: “General fund eyed for roads project.” Heineman was quoted as saying: “Quite honestly, there’s no way we can do every road that’s being suggested out there. What I hear from citizens is that we need to make some priority decisions and get more projects completed, as opposed to doing more projects and taking longer to get them done.”

* * *

Hats Off To The Legislators
Who Overturned Petition Bill Veto

A tip of my columnist’s cap—the one with the fur-lined earflaps, of course—to State Senator DiAnna Schimek and her 29 legislative colleagues who voted to overturn Governor Dave Heineman’s veto of a bill which will help protect the integrity of Nebraska’s citizen-petition-process of amending Nebraska law.

At issue was Legislative Bill 39, designed to end the use of hired carpetbaggers to come into the state and exercise (perhaps “abuse” is a better word) a right supposedly reserved to the people of Nebraska; i.e., the right to place proposed laws and constitutional amendments on the ballot through the circulation of petitions.

The language in the state constitution seems clear enough: “The first power reserved by the people is the initiative whereby laws may be enacted and constitutional amendments adopted by the people independently of the Legislature…This power may be invoked by petition…”

That language makes no mention of the possibility that Nebraskans’ right to place issues on the ballot can be hijacked by people like Howard Rich, a wealthy New York City resident. Rich and his associates provided more than $1 million to send professional petition-circulators into the state in 2006 in a successful effort to place on the ballot a tax-limitation constitutional amendment which he was promoting in Nebraska and several other states. (The Rich-sponsored amendment was voted down by Nebraskans by a 61-39 margin.)

There are, of course, also Nebraska-based abuses of the people’s right to place issues on the ballot by petition: These abuses involve the importing of hired-gun petition circulators to bring to the ballot issues sponsored by Nebraska-based organizations which don’t want either to go to the trouble of having their own members circulate the petitions or to hire Nebraskans as petition circulators.

Legislative Bill 39, has, in my opinion, the weakness of still allowing paid circulators—who have no interest in the issue except using it to make money—to be used to circulate petitions.

But, importantly, LB39 requires that the circulators be residents of Nebraska and cannot be paid so much per signature. This latter provision was designed to discourage petition-circulators from simply piling up the greatest number of signatures in the shortest possible time, instead of obeying a state law which requires that the circulator explain the purpose of the proposal to each voter whose signature the circulator is soliciting.

In a later column, additional discussion of the initiative petition issue—a path to the ballot which, incidentally but significantly, a majority of states have found they can do without and still function democratically. Today I’ll conclude with a hearty “Well done!” to Senator Schimek and her 29 veto-overriding colleagues:

Senators Adams, Aguilar, Ashford, Avery, Burling, Carlson, Chambers, Christensen, Dubas, Engel, Harms, Howard, Hudkins, Johnson, Karpisek and Kopplin.

Senators Kruse, Lathrop, McDonald, McGill, Nantkes, Pankonin, Pedersen, Preister, Raikes, Rogert, Synowiecki, Wallman and White.

* * *

What About Abraham Lincoln?

Predictably, the United States, with some news media heavily involved, again this year figuratively deified Martin Luther King, Jr. on the anniversary of his birthday and brushed off the nation’s presidents—including Abraham Lincoln, who also could be said to have died in the cause of civil rights—with scant attention to “Presidents’ Day.”

(Exception: Car dealers, a number of whom had “Presidents’ Day Sales.”)

In Omaha, for example, the scope of the annual celebration of King’s career led The World-Herald to provide coverage of more than 1 ½ pages, including 15 pictures, eight of them in color.

The newspaper acknowledged Presidents’ Day with an editorial. There was also, at the bottom of a section-front page, a story mentioning a Durham Western Heritage Museum exhibit recognizing Presidents’ Day. Included was a small cartoon reflecting President John Quincy Adams’ habit of swimming in the nude.

* * *

Hillary Rapped For Telling The Truth

While on the subject of the way the nation recognizes Martin Luther King each year (a celebration which I think should be replaced by a national Civil Rights Day to recognize King and others who contributed significantly to the civil rights movement):

Hillary Clinton was soundly criticized by some for an absolutely truthful remark which she made in connection with King’s achievements. It took a president to turn the civil rights momentum generated by King into the historic Civil Rights Act passed by Congress in 1964, Clinton observed. Her remark was criticized as being “insensitive.”

Her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, joined those trying to take political advantage of Hillary Clinton’s telling the truth at a time when blacks could accuse her of being “insensitive” towards King. Obama said that Clinton had “made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark about King and Lyndon Johnson.”

Here are the facts: Before he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy was being pushed by Vice President Lyndon Johnson into introducing civil rights legislation, which Kennedy did before his death. At Johnson’s urging, the civil rights legislation was strengthened, and Johnson was largely responsible for pushing it through the Congress over strenuous objections from members of Congress, including Democrats.

Legend has it that after signing the landmark Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, Johnson said to an aide, “We have lost the South for a generation.”

Whether or not Johnson made such a statement, the reality was that he fully realized that passage of the act at the urging of a Democratic president could cost the Democratic Party the South, where during the years following 1964, Republican candidates unseated a significant number of Democrats.

# # #

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