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A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09
Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
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‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real - 01-15-09
This Time It’s Indians
Who Break The Treaty - 12-18-08
Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
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On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
Three Bad Calls" - 10-26-07
"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL" - 10-12-07
"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
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January 16, 2008
I thought the most interesting part of Senator Ben Nelson’s explanation of why he is endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president was something Nelson ad libbed after he had read his formal statement.
Surprising, I thought, and perhaps a little amusing when Nelson said that in 2006, when he was in a “tough” contest for re-election, Obama stepped forward and helped him, so he thought it appropriate to help Obama who is now in a tough contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.
I don’t know how Nelson defines “tough” in terms of election contests. But I believe that a good many Nebraskans would find it an exaggeration if not a bit laughable when Nelson applies that description to his competition with Republican candidate Pete Ricketts in the 2006 senatorial campaign. It was expensive, but “tough”?
Nelson led from wire to wire, as they say at the racetrack, and finished with a 164,460-vote margin over Ricketts, 378,388 votes to Ricketts’ 213,928. Percentagewise, that meant that Nelson “toughed out” a 64-to-36 per cent victory over Ricketts.
Obama’s contribution to Nelson’s campaign involved a visit to Omaha where he described Nelson as the most popular senator in the body and appeared with Nelson at a North Side church meeting and a Democratic fund-raiser. There is, of course, no way to measure how much that contributed to Nelson’s 164,460-vote victory margin in his “tough” contest.
In his prepared statement, Nelson said that he feels Obama is “the best hope” for bringing about a “reconciliation” among the varying interests which make America today “a divided country.”
In terms of his post-election position in Washington, it seems to me that Nelson was rolling the political dice. If Obama goes on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency, his endorsement of Obama could enhance Nelson’s access to the White House.
But what if another of Nelson’s Democratic senatorial colleagues, Hillary Clinton, becomes president? It’s unlikely that word would go out to the White House staff: “If Senator Nelson calls, put him right through to me.” There’s the potential downside of Nelson’s gamble.
Another interesting aspect of Nelson’s endorsement of Obama:
A combination of Nebraska Democrats, Independents and Republicans who have elected Nelson have been attracted to his image as a middle-of-the-road moderate who sometimes takes the leadership in working with like-minded Republicans. He certainly has never been considered a member of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
But, coincidentally, on the same day that Nelson’s endorsement of Obama was reported in The World-Herald, on another page there was a column by David Brooks of The New York Times which, while generally complimentary to both Obama and Republican Senator John McCain, also had this to say about Obama:
“His weakness is that he never breaks from his own group. In policy terms, he is an orthodox liberal. He never tells audiences anything that might make them uncomfortable. In the U.S. Senate, he didn’t join the Gang of 14, which created a bipartisan consensus on judges, because it would have meant deviating from liberal orthodoxy and coming to the center.”
Nelson, interestingly, was a member of that group of 14 senators. How a centrist moderate like Ben Nelson can support a presidential candidate with a reputation for resisting “deviating from liberal orthodoxy and coming to the center” is a puzzlement.
But then we shouldn’t forget that the first-term senator from Illinois helped Nelson in his “tough” senatorial contest in 2006.
* * *
I would think I’m not the only one who is tired of hearing John Edwards, the talking head from North Carolina who is so obsessively intense on becoming president of the United States, rail against “greedy corporations.”
Edwards, former senator from North Carolina and vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket in 2004, uses language so broad that it sounds like an indictment of all of corporate America—language like “Greedy corporations have a stranglehold on America.” So far as I’m aware, Edwards has cited only one specific example of what he considers corporate greed.
I can cite countless examples of corporations which are not only not greedy but which use a significant portion of their profits to benefit their communities through philanthropy, in addition to their basic mission of providing goods and services to make the American economy function in a much better way than some of its political critics will acknowledge.
A current example: The Omaha-headquartered First National Bank, which is celebrating its 150th birthday. One of the bank’s themes is “150 years of commitment to community.”
Chairman and CEO Bruce Lauritzen would be the first to agree that other Omaha-headquartered corporations also do an exemplary job of providing services which the community needs and in addition use a significant share of their earnings to help finance a variety of worthy philanthropic programs—the exact antithesis of the “greedy corporation” picture which John Edwards keeps painting. (Does the fellow ever stop talking?)
I conclude by offering—and I’m sure I speak for a great many people in the Omaha community—very best wishes for a well-deserved happy birthday for the First National Bank and, even more importantly, a wish for a good many more.
* * *
What a splendid choice The World-Herald made in this year’s selection of the “Midlander of the Year.”
Connie Spellman, director of Omaha By Design, has spearheaded significant initiatives for the community, including the “Omaha 2000” effort to improve K-12 education in the Omaha metropolitan area and now Omaha By Design, an initiative aimed at giving the city a distinctive, first-rate physical appearance.
The World-Herald story announcing Connie Spellman as Midlander of the Year said her selection was based on “the significance of those initiatives, her ability to achieve consensus and her grace in giving credit to others.”
Making Omaha a livelier, more attractive city was the goal set by the Omaha Community Foundation in 2001 in launching a program entitled “Lively Omaha.” Del Weber, former UNO chancellor who had become head of the Omaha Community Foundation talked Spellman into coming out of her recent retirement to lead the effort.
It took several years, but new zoning and building standards designed to make Omaha a better-looking community were finally voted into law by unanimous vote of the City Council.
A good many people deserve credit, but none more than Midlander of the Year Connie Spellman.
* * *
Add reasons—the list is a fairly long one already—why I consider Southern Baptist minister and former television evangelist and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee something of a joke when considered as a candidate for president of the United States:
Campaigning in South Carolina where the ranks of Republicans include a good many conservative Christians, Huckabee was asked to defend an earlier statement in which he had backed the Biblical admonition that wives should submit to their husbands.
Huckabee replied that the statement had nothing to do with the presidency—this despite the fact that he has indicated his religious beliefs would be the foundation for the way he conducts himself in the White House. Huckabee then added that the Bible also commands husbands to submit to their wives (the news account didn’t indicate that he quoted chapter and verse).
Huckabee plunged further ahead with yet another version of biblically blessed husband-wife relationships: “Marriage is not a 50-50 deal,” he declared. Biblically, he said, each spouse must give 100% to the other (again, no citation of chapter and verse).
His South Carolina audience apparently loved it, erupting in applause, according to the news report.
* * *
Readers who have been with me for some years will know that on more than one occasion, Catholic Archbishop Elden Curtiss and I have crossed verbal swords on various issues.
But let me today take the side of the Archdiocese and the Archbishop in the controversy over the cost of a retirement home being provided for Curtiss.
Some Public Pulse writers have criticized the Archdiocese for spending $389,000 for a retirement home for Curtiss on Sunset Trail in the Dillon’s New Fairacres neighborhood. The house was purchased by its previous owners for $155,000 in September, 2006. The previous owner responded that the house was expanded and totally renovated at a cost of more than $200,000.
The Archdiocese had been looking for a home for Curtiss near its offices at 62nd and Dodge Streets, since Curtiss intends to continue working at the chancery after his retirement becomes effective. (He submitted his resignation to the Vatican last year when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. The Archdiocese is waiting for the Pope to accept his resignation and name a replacement.)
It seems to me that a man who has devoted his adult life to his church, becoming a leader in that church, is entitled to live in retirement in what is really a modest home close to the chancery where he intends to continue being active.
Besides, as the Rev. Joseph Taphorn, Chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese said, the house will be a good investment for the Archdiocese.
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It seems to me that concern over potential harm from so-called “second-hand smoke” has moved from legitimate concern to something of an obsession with some Nebraskans.
I’m thinking of a bill introduced by State Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha which would ban smoking in motor vehicles when a person under age 16 is present. The ban would apply whether the car windows were up or down. No fresh air loopholes in that proposed piece of legislation.
I have written before that I think anyone who smokes is foolish. I think it would be unfortunate, although not necessarily health threatening, if an adult were to expose a child, especially a toddler, to secondhand smoke in a closed vehicle.
But the proposed law would simply be “feel good” legislation, virtually impossible to enforce.
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