–Praise For Bell, Amack
Pipeline ‘Hardball’ Poses Problem For Obama
Gingrich Would Be Second Oldest President

If you’re not all that interested in the Keystone Pipeline and how its supporters are trying (1) to advance the pipeline cause while (2) forcing President Obama to make a controversial political decision, skip today’s lead item and go to the second item for my further comments on Newt Gingrich as a potential president of the United States.

And I hope you will read my comments praising two retiring executives:  HDR chairman and chief executive officer Richard Bell and Rex Amack, longtime director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

To the pipeline story:

You could call it hardball politics—the kind you deplore when you’re on the losing side and excuse—or even praise—when the hardball helps the cause you support.

As I see it, that’s the political picture which emerges from Congressional deal-making which is designed to merge the pipeline issue with a “must pass” proposal extending payroll tax relief to many millions of Americans.

The measure would have the effect of putting pressure on President Obama to decide—before the presidential election next November—between offending the pipeline supporters or offending the “greenies” who say the Canadian/American oil bearing pipeline project should be scrapped in favor of more emphasis on solar power and wind power.

The so-called “greenies” rarely if ever mention that (1) solar and wind power generation is more expensive than energy generated by the burning of oil and that (2) solar and wind power projects are possible only because of large tax subsidies from a nearly bankrupt federal government.

Whichever way Obama would decide, there would very likely be political damage—or at least a Republican hope for political damage.  Damage which the president could have avoided had he been able to get away with his indicated intention to delay the controversial decision until after next November’s election.

I don’t approve of attaching unrelated controversial matters to “must pass” legislation.

I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the pipeline project, but I wish it could have prevailed on its own merits as a Congressional issue.  But Obama made that unlikely by his indicated intention of delaying a decision until after the November election—a decision on a project which had been in the public arena for at least the past three years.

But political hardball is political hardball, and Nebraska’s Second Congressional District Representative Lee Terry is playing a role, for which he will have earned credit from pipeline supporters.

* * *

Age A Factor In Presidential Contests?
Gingrich Would Be Second Oldest In History

Some further comments as to the qualifications of Newt Gingrich to be president of the United States:

If elected next November, Newt Gingrich would be the second oldest of America’s 45 presidents at the time of taking the oath of office for a first presidential term.

Gingrich would turn 70 some five months after being sworn in on January 20, 2013.  Only Ronald Reagan was older, being 16 days from his 70th birthday when he took the oath of office January 20, 1981.

But, you might ask, wouldn’t John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, have been older than Gingrich if he had won and started his first term as president on January 20, 2009?

Yes, John McCain would have been 73 on taking the oath of office.

But remember that McCain’s age was a major argument used against him.  Incidentally, McCain appeared to be in top physical condition while Gingrich looks—well, let’s say it—somewhat fat.

Newt Says He Will Debate Like Lincoln

On the campaign trail, Gingrich has been something of a loose cannon in terms of his rhetoric.  That, of course, is a hazard when you talk so much.  But he has an exceptionally high percentage of extreme claims and statements for which he quickly issues reversals when he realizes the adverse public reaction.  Some examples of his campaign rhetoric:

In envisioning debates between himself and President Obama in the 2012 president campaign, Gingrich said he would do to Obama what Abraham Lincoln did in his famous series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas.  So Gingrich is somehow comparable to Abraham Lincoln?  Hardly.

Then there was the recent Gingrich assertion that there aren’t really any Palestinians, there are simply Arabs hoping to win approval of creation of a Palestinian state.

An obvious effort to court Jewish voters, but so unrealistic that within a day he had issued a statement in which he three times referred to Palestine or Palestinians in realistic terms.

Will Michele’s New Hairstyle Help In Iowa?

Then there was the case in which Gingrich criticized Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal as “right-wing social engineering.”  He quickly reversed himself and issued this public statement:  “Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood.”

It should also be remembered that Gingrich is the only Speaker of the House who has been formerly censured by the House for unethical conduct.

If the Republican Party nominates Newt Gingrich for president, the party will deserve defeat which, as I see it, it will suffer.

Before leaving the subject of Republican presidential politics, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed the new shorter hairstyle hairdo displayed by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who lags badly in polls—a trend which she is seeking to overcome with a good showing in her native state of Iowa when the votes are tallied at the much over-hyped Iowa caucuses in January.

I’m pretty sure a new hairdo won’t do it, but she does look a good deal more attractive.  If the caucuses were literally a beauty contest, Michele would have my vote.

* * *

More News Media ‘Advice’ For Bo Pelini;
Holiday Season Mail Is A Mixed Bag

Some bits and pieces of comment on assorted subjects:

–Sports page critics (they may consider themselves reporters or reporters/commentators) continue to snipe at Nebraska Cornhusker head football Coach Bo Pelini.

Latest criticism was aimed at Pelini for his response when asked what discipline he might have in mind for senior center Mike Caputo, who was charged with drunken driving when found asleep in his vehicle at a filling station.

Pelini, it seems to me, is entitled to weigh the fact that Caputo’s case will not come to trial until after the Huskers bowl game against South Carolina.  He also may be considering that this would be Caputo’s last game as a Husker after starting at center for two years.  A Cornhusker-career-ending suspension would have considerably more impact than an in-season suspension for two games or whatever.

Should these factors be controlling?  Not necessarily, but they are factors that Pelini is entitled to consider without being pushed for a quicker decision by impatient news media questioners.

–I’ve commented before on what I consider the massive news media overkill of Penn State University former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s case before he has been tried in court.  “Conviction by news media” is a fair description.

The Sandusky case came to mind as I read a three-paragraph news story which, under a Netherlands dateline, began:  “Up to 20,000 children suffered sexual abuse in Roman Catholic institutions here over the past 65 years, and church officials knew but failed to adequately address the problem, a long-awaited report said Friday.”

Certainly the story of priests abusing children has been widely reported in a variety of stories over the years, both in this country and abroad.  But I recall no case where a single priest has been given the intensive coverage—in effect, convicted by the news media—that comes even close to what the news media have done in the Sandusky case.

–The mail these days brings about an equal volume of very welcome holiday season greetings from friends and very annoying solicitations for year-end contributions from organizations I’ve never even heard of.

The most extreme example of such solicitations reaching our home this year came from an organization which calls itself “The Good Samaritan Society,” headquartered in Oakes, North Dakota.  I have no idea how our names came to the attention of the Oakes, North Dakota Good Samaritan Society, but their mailing asks us to “be a light to seniors in our community.”

I’m sure that there are some very worthy seniors living in Oakes, North Dakota, but Marian and I think it best that we confine our year-end contributions—and  those doing the year, too—largely to worthy causes closer to home.

* * *

‘Well Done,’ Dick Bell, Rex Amack

At the start of the column today I promised comment on Dick Bell and Rex Amack, both of whom have been leaders in their respective fields of activity—Dick Bell in building Henningson, Durham and Richardson, the Omaha-based architecture and engineering firm, to national and worldwide stature and Rex Amack, working in the public sector for 45 years as an employee of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the last 24 years as director of the commission.

Both Dick Bell and Rex Amack, in their differing roles, have been the kind of Nebraskans who do our state proud.

To all the well-deserved words of praise coming their way, I add my enthusiastic “Amen!” and am pleased to add my compliments in this space today.

* * *

The True Christmas Message:  ‘Do Unto Others…’

Finally, a column-ender which I’ve used before during the holiday season and which I think is appropriately positive and upbeat in the tradition of the way I try to end each of these weekly talks with you:

“All the ways in which the religions of the world are analyzed, interpreted, reinterpreted, departmentalized and divided into sects (with sometimes bloody results, as in the Shiite-vs.-Sunni power struggle in Iraq today)—all this divisiveness seems to me to stand in stark contrast to the simplicity of a moral standard that could well serve as a cornerstone of anyone’s religion or, indeed, anyone’s philosophy of life regardless of religion.

“A simple foundation for a good and useful life can, I believe, be found in this teaching of Jesus of Nazareth:  ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’”

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