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Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
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‘Adults In Wonderland’
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This Time It’s Indians
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Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
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Top Athletes Should
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Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
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"Right Decision Could
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"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
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.)
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June 4, 2008
As he neared the end of his remarkable 38-year legislative career, Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha several times indicated his belief that the two-term limit voted into the state constitution was motivated by Nebraskans who wanted to get him out of the Legislature.
In the closing days of the 2008 legislative session in April, Chambers said: “I only regret it came the way it did, that white people got what they wanted. They changed the constitution to get rid of me.”
In 2005 Chambers had referred to the term-limit constitutional amendment as “a proposition to get me out of the Legislature.”
During legislative debate in the 2008 session, Chambers said a legislative colleague “is going to be glad when I’m out of here. He’ll be happier than the people who circulated the petitions for term limits.”
During the 1990s, term-limit propositions received considerable backing across the United States. There was even a national organization promoting term-limit votes in various states.
In Nebraska, the first manifestation was a 1992 vote on a state constitutional amendment to put term limits on Nebraska members of Congress. The vote was overwhelmingly favorable—481,048 in favor, 224,114 against. This effort was negated by a court decision holding that not enough valid signatures had been gathered to place the proposal on the ballot.
Term-limit advocates returned in 1994 with a new proposal for term limits on Nebraska representatives in Congress. This time the proposition carried with a vote of 359,774(?) in favor and 224,114 votes against. (The second effort to limit the service of Nebraskans in Congress was held unconstitutional in a federal court ruling which also invalidated such efforts in other states.)
Ironically, the 61.6 vote in favor of a three-term limit on Nebraska’s representatives in the House came in the same election which saw then Representative Doug Bereuter elected to his ninth term representing the 1st Nebraska Congressional district.
So the notion of term limits was pretty strongly established in the minds of Nebraska voters when, in 2000, a petition campaign proposed a state constitutional amendment to limit state legislators to two consecutive four-year terms. This proposal, the one that resulted in Senator Chambers and a number of other legislators being constitutionally restricted from seeking additional terms, prevailed by a smaller margin—a 55.8% majority in favor—than had the Congressional term limit proposal.
I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether a state legislative term-limit proposal, which carried by a significantly smaller margin than two previous efforts to limit terms of Nebraskans serving in Congress, could reasonably be said to have been aimed at a single target—an effort to “get rid of” Ernie Chambers, to use Chambers’ description.
There is no question that a good many Nebraskans had tired of Chambers’ frequently dominating, obstructionist tactics in the Legislature (tactics which tended to overshadow recognition of the positive things which Chambers achieved). But that is a long way, it seems to me, from validating Chambers’ egocentric assertion that “they changed the constitution to get rid of me.”
* * *
With the identity of the Democratic presidential nominee still not finally decided, The New York Times, predictably, stepped up its case against the presumptive Republican candidate, Senator John McCain.
A mid-May issue of The Times Sunday Magazine featured, again predictably, a less than flattering cover page story on McCain, particularly on his continuing support of war in Iraq. You got a hint of what was to come from a headline which read: “Whatever their disagreements on policy, United States senators, even in today’s hyperpolitical climate, are reluctant to impugn one another’s motives or integrity.”
The pretty clear implication, it seems to me, is that there are United States senators who might impugn McCain’s “motives or integrity” if it were not for friendship and senatorial courtesy to a colleague.
The Times article, which covered four full pages and parts of four others, was written by someone named Matt Bai, whose credentials apparently are that he “covers national politics for the magazine.” Bai implied that McCain doesn’t know as much about the horrors of war because his Vietnam experience consisted of five yers in a prison cell while some of his anti-Iraq war senatorial colleagues—Chuck Hagel, Jim Webb and John Kerry—had a true horror-of-war experience because they were fighting the Viet Cong.
The Times reporter wrote that McCain as a prisoner was “sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experience of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel.”
Former Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, another Vietnam veteran, was quoted as saying that while he was aware of this argument, he has never believed it. (Kerrey, who led a Navy Seal team, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He lost part of his right leg.)
So according to The New York Times, John McCain may have suffered abuse during five years as a prisoner of war but he didn’t learn as did his senatorial colleagues that “some wars simply can’t be won on the battlefield.”
Incidentally, I had the impression that John Kerry, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for president in 2004, was in the Navy and did a minimum amount of slogging it out in the jungle and the rice paddies where, according to The New York Times article, the real lessons of the Vietnam War were learned.
* * *
Readers who have followed my comments over the years may remember that I have received some simply ludicrous fund-raising pitches from Republican Party representatives. (One that I recall said something to the effect that if I sent in a contribution, “President Bush will be pleased to learn of your support.”)
Two letters which recently came my way made pretty clear that the Republicans fund-raisers aren’t getting any smarter. One came in an envelope indicating that it was a communication from Senator John McCain and carried this message on the envelope: “Delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. EMERGENCY TELEGRAM. Extremely Urgent. Expedite Delivery.” (I had not previously been aware that the Postal Service delivers telegrams, especially “EMERGENCY TELEGRAMS.”)
Statements supposedly from John McCain covered three pages. (Most fund-raising letters—political or non-political—are entirely too long.) The message was to send money now because “the outcome of the election could well be determined in the next 30 days” because the 30 days is all that McCain had to reach a “critical funding goal”--$21.5 million.
Another stupid—I don’t think that’s too strong a word— Republican fund-raising letter came from “The Honorable Mark Quandahl, Chairman” of the Nebraska Republican Party. (For all I know Mark Quandahl if a fine fellow, but I didn’t realize that being state chairman of the Republican Party earned him the title of “honorable.”)
I was startled to learn that apparently, under Honorable Mark Quandahl’s leadership, you must pay annual dues to qualify as a member of the party. In 13 different places in the fund-raising letter, “membership” in the Nebraska Republican Party was linked to a contribution of “dues,” ranging from $250 down to $35 “or whatever you can afford.”
Now I don’t expect Senator McCain and his staff to keep up with such details, but I’m disappointed that no one in the Nebraska Republican Party organization, including the Honorable Mark Quandahl, is aware that, as reported in my World-Herald column in 2005, I have changed my voter registration from Republican to Independent.
* * *
Other Big 12 opponents—certainly including the Nebraska’s Cornhuskers—are going to have a hard enough time trying to cage the University of Missouri Tigers, without USA Today providing the Tigers with what is described as “bulletin board material”—the kind of news clipping that goes on a locker room bulletin board to inspire the team.
In a look at major football conferences across the country, USA Today’s Big 12 coverage carried this headline: “Pelini has Nebraska in the red.”
Half the brief item dealt with the Cornhuskers coming off a 5-7 season but having eight home games, including the first five.
Kansas and Oklahoma both got brief mention, but not a word about the Missouri Tigers, who return a veteran team considered by some to be a strong contender for the Big 12 championship and possibly even a national championship.
In my non-expert opinion (I don’t consider that having been sports editor of the Omaha North High School Star and a very brief stint as sports editor of the former Lincoln Star qualify me as anything but a non-expert): It won’t take long to see which way the Huskers season may be heading, with Virginia Tech coming to Lincoln September 27 followed by Missouri October 4. A win in either of those games could indicate considerable promise. Passing both of those tests would raise hopes for a 9-3 season, but more realistically, I believe, 8-4 or 7-5 would represent a solid start for the Bo Pelini era.
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