Bob Kerrey’s Decision Is Right On
But It Was Too Long Delayed

Former Senator Bob Kerrey made the right call in deciding not to again seek high public office as he had so frequently done or considered doing in the past—from governor to senator to president, plus consideration of a run for Mayor of New York City.

The right call, but the record should be clear that Kerrey took too long to make it and perhaps shouldn’t even have publicly raised the possibility.  From the day Senator Ben Nelson announced his decision not to run, the arguments against Kerrey’s seeking high office in Nebraska again after 11 years of residence in New York City, were compelling.

With the deadline for incumbents to file for another office only eight days away (February 15)  and the deadline for other candidates only 22 days away (March 1), Kerrey’s near-seven-week consideration of whether to run certainly made it difficult for Nebraska Democrats to find a credible candidate in the short time remaining before the filing deadline.

The Democratic cause isn’t helped, either, by the fact that a potentially attractive candidate, former Lieutenant Governor Kim Robak, has announced that she will not run.  This seems a realistic decision in view of the fact that this is not likely to be an easy year for any Democrat, Bob Kerrey or Kim Robak or whoever, to win a senatorial election in Nebraska.

The prevailing political winds seem strongly against President Obama and any Democratic Congressional candidates in usually conservative-voting states like Nebraska.

So let Bob Kerrey continue to enjoy his life with his second wife and their son in New York City, comfortable in the knowledge that he still has friends in Nebraska who will surely be pleased to see him from time to time.  But friends who think he made the right call by not trying, in a fourth election, to win—or retain—a high public office in a state which, in this case, he had left 11 years earlier.

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Santorum Or Gingrich, Hard-Right Nominee,
Is A Poor Prospect For The White House

Evangelicals and Tea Party activists don’t seem to get it.

The more successful they are in winning victories for a far-right political conservative Republican—victories such as they helped Rick Santorum achieve Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri—the slimmer their chances are for defeating President Obama come November.

After Santorum’s three-state victory, credited largely to the support of religious evangelicals and Tea Party activists, CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s comment:  “The corks are popping in the White House tonight.”

The point that Santorum and his religious evangelical and Tea Party supporters don’t get is that, as a good many political observers see it, the trend in American politics is away from political extremism in either party.

There is steady growth in the number of voters who consider themselves moderates and/or independents.  It is increasingly likely, as I see it, that elections will be decided by these moderate and/or independent voters.

The trend for some years now has been for the traditional parties to lose registered voters while the number of registered independents has increased—increased enough to tip the balance of power in favor of the candidate who reject the views of extreme liberals in the Democratic Party or the views of the extreme conservatives in the Republican Party.

A moderate or independent middle ground peopled by voters who are wimping out?  I don’t think so.  Rather a recognition that the truth—and the solution to national problems—often lies somewhere between the political extremes.

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Does Governor Really Not Understand
The Role Of The NU Foundation?

Does Governor Heineman really not understand the role of the University of Nebraska Foundation?

The question is prompted by the governor’s recent outburst of criticism of the university for asking for a $50 million legislative appropriation to help jump-start a project which, with the aid of perhaps $200 million in private contributions, would build a $370 million cancer research and treatment center on the university’s Medical Center campus in Omaha.

The governor compared the university to a wealthy “special interest group” with a hand out for taxpayers’ dollars while the state’s citizens seek tax relief.  The governor also took note of the more than a billion dollars in assets managed by the University of Nebraska Foundation and asked why the university can’t afford to spend “$400 million to $500 million” to build the cancer research and treatment center.

I would have thought the terms under which the NU Foundation has accumulated that billion-dollar-plus total are pretty well known.  A very small percentage is free for the university to use at its discretion.

The money, of course, has been accumulated largely as the result of successful efforts by the foundation and the university to attract donations of funds for very specific uses—such things as scholarships and distinguished professorships and certainly building projects.

NU Can’t Break Faith In Relation With Donors

Dip into those trust funds as the governor suggests and the university would be breaking agreements with the people who pledged them to be held and used for specific purposes.

It may well be that the university has not done enough to explain the very explicit terms under which nearly all of the foundation’s assets are donated and managed by the foundation for the benefit of university programs—in the process, of course, very substantially relieving the burden on the state’s taxpayers for whom Governor Heineman expressed such concern.

Do the governor and legislators need an explanation of (1) the way the foundation funds are raised and restricted in their use and (2) how a $50 million state government contribution could help leverage an estimated $200 million in private contributions and the rest of the funding to build a $370 million cancer treatment and research center.  A center which would be important to a good many Nebraskans, most of them presumably taxpayers about whom Governor Heineman has been expressing so much concern in this legislative session.

(The $50 million is part of a $91 million total which the university is seeking in a special appropriation to help advance the cancer center and three other projects, one on the Kearney campus, one in Lincoln and one at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.)

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In 65th Paragraph, The Real News:
Pelini Considers NU ‘Destination’ Job

Sometimes you have to work hard to get to the real meat of one of those l-o-o-o-n-g journalistic offerings which run on for 60 to 70 paragraphs.

I find myself ignoring them if the subject matter seems unimportant or uninteresting, occasionally encountering a reason to stop and read a paragraph or two, but hurrying quickly to the final five or six paragraphs, where frequently the author gets to the most important point—saving the best for last, I guess you might call it.

Hardly traditional journalistic practice, but I realize I trained on different journalistic principles which put the most important news first when news stories were considered news reports and not short novels.

The Sunday paper included a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.

One sports section column ran 65 paragraphs with what was, to me, the most important news to the next to last paragraph.  This was a paragraph in which Cornhusker Coach Bo Pelini was quoted as saying:

“I love it here.  I’ve said this before.  This is not a stepping-stone job.  This is a destination.  I enjoy what I’m doing here.  I love who I’m working with.  I love who I’m working for.  I’m not looking for another job.  I’m committed to winning a championship here.  I’m passionate about winning a championship here.”

At Last, Why Giants Lineman Calls Omaha ‘Home’

The other sports page novel involved a puzzle as to why a New York Giants player named Dave Tollefson was referred to in a headline as an “Omaha resident.”

It was a l-o-o-n-g story about Tollefson’s career, from a Californian walking on at Northwest Missouri State University to a starting job with the New York Giants.  But how he became an Omaha resident was like a question in a mystery novel.

A quick skim brought a hint in paragraph 30 that at Northwest Missouri he met Megan Stalder, a softball player from Omaha.  Another quick skim finally produced the answer:  Dave Tollefson and Megan Stalder married and decided to make their home in Omaha.  That explanation was in the final four paragraphs of the 62-paragraph story.

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‘Feel Good’ Laws Don’t Change Behavior
So Are They Really Worth The Bother?

I don’t suppose any harm is done by what I call “feel good” proposals put forward by well-intentioned political office holders, but I wonder if they are really worth the effort that goes into them.

I have in mind a proposal like that of Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray—a proposal which would amend the city’s current anti-discrimination legislation to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identify.”

Translated, this would mean a ban on discrimination against persons based on the fact they are homosexuals or lesbians or bisexual.

Gray offers no examples of such discrimination or how the law could be enforced.  And I don’t think his case is helped any by excluding all religious groups from adhering to the anti-discrimination provisions.

Is such discrimination acceptable if based on religious belief?  If so, why exempt only the religious organizations?  Why not exempt all their members also?

Another “feel good” initiative is the proposal in the Nebraska Legislature for a popular vote on a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing Nebraskans hunting rights.

There is simply no sign of any credible movement to deprive Nebraskans of their right to be issued hunting permits under such restrictions as those promoting safety and hunting and setting seasons and bag limits.

The threat, if there is one, is not of enough significance to warrant authorizing a popular vote to amend the state constitution to guarantee hunting rights.  Certainly the Legislature—and the people of Nebraska, including hunters—have more real problems to deal with.

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Halftime Super Bowl Show A Real Bummer;
Give Us Marching Bands And Better Ads

I usually try to end these weekly columns on an upbeat note.  Today a definite downbeat note—my opinion of whatever it was that Madonna and fellow performers were engaged in during the halftime of the Giants/Patriots Super Bowl game.

Why in the world do the promoters of the annual professional football championship shootout feel they have to put on some kind of a halftime extravaganza?

Could the bad taste and utter incomprehensibility of what Madonna and all those acolytes were trying to demonstrate lead to a reassessment of the need for a halftime spectacular?  How about a more football-oriented, shorter show—something featuring one or two of the nation’s best collegiate bands?

While I’m on the subject of Super Bowl distractions, I thought the ads were mostly dumb and/or incomprehensible.  But then I judge them against my favorite television ad of all time—the Super Bowl halftime Budweiser ad which featured a Dalmatian dog training one of those big Clydesdale horses into shape for joining the Clydesdale team which would pull the Budweiser wagon—Dalmatian dog atop it—in the following year’s Budweiser Super Bowl commercial.

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