As I see it, there is a full load of potential bad news for Democratic Senatorial candidate Bob Kerrey in a fund-raising luncheon for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Hilton Omaha hotel May 10. The political and business leadership sponsoring the pro- Romney, anti-Obama fund-raiser is as impressive as I have ever seen for any such event.
While the target is pro-Romney and anti-Obama, I don’t see how Kerrey can escape collateral damage since a vote for Kerrey can properly be interpreted as (1) support for Obama’s re-election as well as (2) support for continued Democratic control of the Senate to defend and advance the controversial policies put in place by Obama and certain to be pushed harder by him if he is re-elected.
In his television ads, Kerrey has stressed his intention to try to bridge the philosophical gap between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Understandably, he has not mentioned that he is already committed to support Obama for re-election. He did so in a fund-raising letter in March which included these words:
“The President—who I will support in the election—was wrong when he avoided the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission Report in his 2012 State of the Union.”
No Sign Of Significant Nebraska Support For Obama
While there was alternating criticism and praise of various proposals from both parties in the three-page fund-raising letter, those nine words—“The President, who I will support in the election”—demonstrates Kerrey’s dilemma: seeking election as a Democrat in a state where registered Republican voters outnumber registered Democrats by well over 100,000 and where there is no significant sign of support for Obama’s re-election.
As to the pro-Romney, anti-Obama fund-raising luncheon in Omaha May 10:
Heading the list of sponsors are Governor Dave Heineman, Senator Mike Johanns, First National Bank chairman Bruce Lauritzen and former Republican National Committee member Duane Acklie and their wives.
Also listed as hosts are as impressive an array of prominent individuals and political action committees as I have ever seen assembled as hosts for a political fund-raising event in Nebraska—a total of 110 names of prominent individuals and political action groups, including ConAgra Food Good-Government Association, First National PAC, Leo A. Daly PAC and Mutual of Omaha PAC.
With this array of civic clout committed to support Romney’s effort to unseat Barack Obama, little wonder that Democrat Kerrey committed to vote for Obama’s re-election—travels to Washington to seek fund-raising help from national Democratic sources.
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Michele Preaches Political Hard-Ball
In 2nd Game Of Unannounced Doubleheader
We learned, after the fact, that First Lady Michele Obama came to Omaha to pitch a double-header, not just the well-publicized, well-merited money-raising pitch for Girls, Inc. to a sold-out audience.
After the fact we learned that Michele had moved from focusing attention on support for underprivileged girls to a political hardball speech raising funds for the Democratic Party, presumably funds which she hopes will give her husband and her another four years in the White House.
A crowed estimated at 225 paid $250 apiece to hear Michele’s fund-raising pitch. The crowed included two Democratic mayors—Jim Suttle of Omaha and Chris Beutler of Lincoln—and former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.
Interestingly and perhaps significantly, Democratic senatorial candidate Bob Kerrey was present at the start of the fund-raising meeting but appeared to have left by the time Obama took the microphone. “He had stuff to do,” said Obama, to loud applause.
After remarks praising her husband’s record on a variety of legislative and executive initiatives, the first lady called for those in attendance to get involved in the campaign. “Let me ask you one question: Are you in?” she asked several times. The crowd roared back, “Yes!”
A performance worthy of a cheerleader, I would think, but subject to question when performed by the wife of the President of the United States.
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Legislature’s Record More Plus Than Minus;
Senators Deserve Voter-Approved Pay Increase;
Governor’s University Aid Merits Praise
Having observed Nebraska legislative sessions since I covered the 1949 session for The Omaha World-Herald, I concluded some years ago that the typical session produces more pluses than minuses and the legislators—a great majority of them at least—deserve the public’s thanks for working a good many hours for too little pay.
I would say the recently-adjourned legislative session fit this traditional pattern.
I hope the voters will address the salary issue by approving the constitutional amendment on the ballot by the just-adjourned Legislature. It would increase the annual compensation from $12,000 to $22,500.
And, importantly, allow legislators to serve three consecutive four-year terms. The present two-term limit forces the retirement of too many legislators who could offer a valuable four more years of service.
As to legislative performance, a few examples on the positive side:
–Approval of Governor Dave Heineman’s proposal to allocate funds for needed improvements on University of Nebraska campuses, including $50 million to help fund a cancer research and treatment facility at the University Medical Center in Omaha.
–Providing tax incentives to attract a variety of businesses that have expressed interest in Nebraska if given a tax incentive.
–Appropriating funds to provide prenatal care for children of illegal immigrants.
Prenatal Care Small Part Of The Problem
Not given sufficient attention in the often emotional debate over the prenatal care issue were these questions:
Is there a father figure on hand to help raise the child? What steps, if any, will be taken to encourage the illegal immigrant mothers to become legal residents or to return to their native countries?
Can welfare agencies take steps to see that the children and mothers do not simply move into a repetitive welfare-state cycle of food stamps, subsidized housing, aid for dependent children and more babies requiring state-subsidized prenatal care?
There are signs that providing prenatal care to children of illegal immigrants, which legislators considered a major achievement, is viewed unfavorably by the general public.
World-Herald’s Public Pulse letters, which often reflect public sentiment on an issue, have expressed 10-to-2 disapproval of the Legislature’s action.
Governor Looked Good On Some Issues
Governor Heineman looked good on some legislative issues, not so good on others. But he deserves credit for his University of Nebraska funding support, his approval of tax incentives to attract industries to locate in Nebraska and support for finding an alternative route for the Keystone XL pipeline after rejection of the controversial original Sand Hills route.
One of the issues which stirred a good deal of legislative controversy—allowing cities to levy an additional sales tax if voters approve—will turn out to be much ado about very little, in my opinion.
In the first place, I doubt that very many city councils will provide the super majority vote to put the issue on the ballot. And if it makes the ballot, I can’t imagine many city’s voters giving their approval.
On the negative side of legislative performance surely must be included an effort to further increase the opportunity for Nebraskans to lose money gambling. It is no credit to the Legislature that the bill to—of all things—allow gambling on historic horse races of the past attracted 30 votes—only one short of overriding Governor Heineman’s appropriate veto.
The breeders of Thoroughbred racehorses, hardly a basic Nebraska industry, seem to feel that they have a right to public subsidy to continue profitable existence.
Nonsense, as I see it. You can hardly equate the continued existence of an industry based on gambling when other business enterprises which produce positive, not socially-harming results need support.
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Lincoln; Give Quick Protection To Sex Deviation.
Legislature: End Death Penalty And “Longevity Row”
The customary smorgasbord, always hoping you find some items to your reading taste:
–Advice to the Lincoln City Council: Don’t spend a lot of time on public hearings and debate of the proposed ordinance banning discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians and transgender individuals.
The Omaha City Council heard impassioned arguments pro and con on what I called a solution in search of a problem—a “feel good” ordinance which was passed without any evidence that there is currently any pattern of discrimination.
Pass the ordinance quickly and get on about other matters which, based on the evidence, are problems deserving attention.
–Instead of debating whether Nebraska has the right to import a lethal drug to carry out a death sentence for a murder committed 27 years ago, why doesn’t the next session of the Nebraska Legislature simply repeal the death penalty?
‘Death Row’ Or ‘Longevity Row’?
As a practical matter, so-called “Death Row” could more properly be called “Longevity Row.”
But the fundamental flaw in death penalty laws is the fact that there is no way to assure that the death penalty can be uniformly applied. Two crimes in which all the circumstances are closely comparable may well result in different verdicts—death sentence in one case, not guilty in another. Possible differing results are inevitable when you consider that the cases involve different judges, different prosecuting attorneys, different defense attorneys and different jurors.
Since uniformity of execution and fairness across the board simply cannot be assured, better not to apply the ultimate penalty, especially when the supposed ultimate penalty is routinely delayed to the point of absurdity.
A recent World-Herald editorial made the case that the penalty should be reserved for especially brutal killings. Offered as one example of the 25-year-old man was tortured to death for seven days on a Nebraska farm in 1985, 27 years ago.
The killer, Michael Ryan, was sentenced to death with the verdict upheld in 1989 by the Nebraska Supreme Court—23 years ago.
I still believe that the penalty should be abolished, and I use the Ryan case as an example. Justice delayed is justice denied, an adage that still rings true.
Death Penalty Advocates Should Push For Reform
At the very minimum, I would think that those who advocate retaining the death penalty for such heinous crimes should campaign—and campaign hard—for reform that assures that those guilty of extreme cruelty are put to death within some reasonable period of time—and 23 years cannot by any definition be considered a reasonable period in which the penalty has still not been applied.
–On and on they go, the stories of college graduates spending long years working their way to pay student loans. Let me recall the good old days. Student loans weren’t available. And there was only very modest scholarship help when I attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I worked during the school year during my four years in school, worked summer jobs every year and had modest help from my parents.
I left school without ownership of a car but without any debts incurred by any member of the family.
Okay, so times change. But it’s not uncommon to read of students spending five years or even six years dallying their way through college. (Compliments to University of Nebraska officials for attempting to move the normal pattern back to 120 credit hours in four years in school.)
Perhaps this is already being done by a good many parents, but if not it should be: Start building a college education fund very shortly after the child is born. Make sure your child takes advantage of part-time work opportunities and doesn’t dawdle his or her way through five or six years of college. Loans may still be necessary, but they shouldn’t be backbreaking or a cause for all the wailing that we now hear.
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Marian Adds To Her ‘Tumble’ Tally
I don’t believe I have shared with you an account of Marian’s latest tumble.
Regular readers of my column know that Marian for years has fallen frequently, inside and outside our Prairie Avenue home as well as “on the road.”
(She once fell twice in one day on an international newspaper association trip to Belgium.)
She ignores my warnings to be more careful, saying things like, “I’m a quick healer.”
Her latest tumble, resulting in a cracked rib, came as she entered a tavern/restaurant to attend an annual reunion luncheon of tennis playing friends. She stumbled over a bar stool.
She later observed that she is probably one of the few people who have stumbled over a bar stool entering rather than leaving a tavern.
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