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"Nosy Congress Makes
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"Right Decision Could
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"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
This week we are again making my column available Friday instead of each Saturday as we had originally planned.
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 Friday reminder that a new column is available.
November 2, 2007
Somehow the title of the popular Thomas Wolfe novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” came to mind as I read of Bob Kerrey’s decision not to return from New York and try to take advantage of an opportunity to be the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Chuck Hagel.
Kerrey certainly wouldn’t have faced the kind of rejection by his former fellow citizens as did Wolfe’s leading character. But I believe Kerrey might have been surprised by the number of Nebraskans who would feel that he was being a political opportunist more than a returning Nebraskan.
So I believe Bob Kerrey, long a friend, made the right decision, although, of course, I reach that conclusion for a different reason than did Bob.
Kerrey indicated clearly that he was strongly attracted by the opportunity to “go home” (his version) and ask Nebraskans to again elect him to an office in which he could help influence national policy. But, Kerrey said, disruption of the life of his family (he and wife Sarah and six-year-old Henry) was too high a price to pay.
This brought to mind some other home-related language - - the old saying “Home is where the heart is.” And Bob Kerrey’s heart in recent years has been in New York City, happy there with his second family and his work as president of the New School University.
Kerrey, of course, wouldn’t have considered running unless he figured he had a reasonably good chance of winning. But I believe the former Nebraska governor and two-term senator would have faced this prospect:
The majority of voters, I believe, would have felt that the election of Nebraskan Mike Johanns, Republican, would better reflect the interests of Nebraska than would the election of former Nebraskan Bob Kerrey, Democrat, whose victory presumably would have meant an increase in what can reasonably be predicted to be a continuing Democratic majority in the Senate as a result of the 2008 elections.
Bob Kerrey remains an attractive public figure whose membership in the Democratic Party has never involved a doctrinaire liberalism. In announcing that family considerations came first (his wife Sarah said she hoped he would not run), Kerrey said he remains interested in public life. He added that “it’s possible” that he might accept an administration position if offered one by the next president.
I hope that a responsible position is offered to Kerrey by the next president, Democrat or Republican. But the opportunity would go to Bob Kerrey, former Nebraskan but now a New Yorker, not a Bob Kerrey who had assumed the role of a “home again” Nebraskan in an effort to win a position for further public service.
Among the safer political bets in the wake of Kerrey’s decision would be this: Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey will soon announce that he will not be a candidate for the Senate but will seek a third term as mayor. A less safe bet is that Scott Kleeb of Hastings will be the Democratic candidate. Kleeb, a newcomer to Nebraska politics, won 45% of the vote in losing to State Senator Adrian Smith of Gering in the contest for Third District Representative in Congress last November.
When I say a “less safe bet,” I don’t mean “unlikely.” Kleeb clearly has political ambitions and would receive substantial backing (to the extent that Nebraska Democrats can provide such backing) and could position himself for future political opportunities with a reasonably strong showing against Johanns.
Fat Gonzo Moviemaker Is Part of the Problem
In the expanded space available as my columns are delivered electronically rather than on the printed newspaper page, I have a chance to get around to some non-pressing column topics which have been accumulating in my “this will make a column item some day” file. For example:
In mid-summer, Thomas Martin, professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, drew some Public Pulse scorn when he wrote in a Midlands Voices article in The World-Herald:
“Why should any government offer free health care to people who do not care for their own health, except for congenital problems, diseases and accidents?
“It makes as much sense to offer a universal dental care system to people who refuse to brush their teeth or a universal auto insurance system to Demolition Derby drivers.”
Professor Martin took a well-deserved swipe at that darling of the liberal far left, Michael Moore, the moviemaker who has never met a topic he couldn’t irresponsibly slant.
Martin said his point about people taking at least some responsibility for their own health is illustrated in Moore’s latest movie, “Sicko,” in which Moore purported to document the failings of the American health care system. Professor Martin wrote: “Moore is a good 100 pounds overweight and thinks every resident of America must have free, universal health care for life. Reality check: Yo, Michael, you are part of the problem.”
We will, of course, never come to the point where Americans with good health habits have no responsibility for paying for the health care of other Americans suffering from self-induced ailments.
But we should at least recognize that this is what is happening and work harder to promote healthful living habits - - including especially non-glutinous eating habits. You only need to look at the number of obviously overweight people you encounter every day - - unless you don’t get out much - - to see the validity of Professor Martin’s point.
Nausea and Humor
My reaction to this week’s two-hour, NBC-sponsored “debate” among Democratic presidential candidates:
A mixture of nausea and amusement.
Most nauseating: Former Senator John Edwards’ unctuous remarks which seemed to bring him almost to tears as he seemed to suggest that there’s almost nothing right with this country and won’t be until a Democrat - - specifically John Edwards - - is elected president.
Most amusing: NBC co-host Jim Russert says that Shirley MacLaine had written in her new book that Representative Dennis Kucinich, Ohio Democrat who says he is a candidate for president, sighted a UFO over her home in Washington. Russert asks Kucinich: “Did you see a UFO?”
Kucinich replies: “Uh, I did…It was an unidentified flying object…You have to keep in mind that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO.”
Is there any way to disinvite Kucinich to the next in what is seemingly an endless string of presidential candidate “debates”? On the other hand, he might provide another “most amusing” contribution.
In post-debate efforts to press flesh with everyone in the audience, doesn’t it get wearying to have to smile with a sort of “delighted-to-meet-you” expression - - Hillary Clinton is a consistent practitioner of this - - each time someone reaches out to shake your hand?
Final observation: Words never uttered in response to a question during the two-hour talkfest: “I don’t know.”
Going to the Dogs -- Again
Another of the delightful cartoons from a newly published dog-cartoon book - - “They Moved My Bowl” - - by New Yorker magazine cartoonist Charles Barsotti: