Today’s Game Plan:

I’ll start with a few quick comments on Tuesday evening’s second presidential debate, comments dictated before my Wednesday noon pre-publication deadline.

I’ll follow with some Monday-dictated comments on last week’s vice presidential debate, in which the man a heartbeat away from the White House, Vice President Joe Biden, mugged and grimaced and snorted his way through what New York Times columnist David Brooks described as an “offensive performance.”

Then I’ll move on to a variety of other comments.

* * *

Second Debate Leaves Aggressive (Nasty?) Obama
With Libya, Truthfulness Questions Still To Answer

Skimming through 50 or so one or two-line notes jotted down during the Obama/Romney debate Tuesday evening, I decided my strongest impression was that the President of the United States came across as something of an attack dog, frequently making his point and at the same time insulting his Republican challenger.

But aside from the belligerent, insulting tone of Obama’s responses to many of Romney’s remarks, what impressed me about the debate?

First, I don’t agree that Obama was a clear victor as some TV commentators immediately concluded.  I would call it more like a draw, so for Obama a considerable improvement over his lackluster showing in the first presidential debate.

Obama Still Must Answer Libya Embassy Question

Obama dodged the issue of whether the attack on our embassy in Libya, which resulted in the death of four people including our ambassador was the result of (1) a spontaneous popular protest against broadcast in the United States of a film offensive to some Muslims, or (2) a carefully-planned act of terrorism for which Obama’s administration should have been prepared.

This issue will continue to plaque Obama, who said again during the debate that his administration was still studying whether the four deaths were the result of a spontaneous popular uprising or the result of a planned terrorist attack for which his administration should have had advance warning in time to provide more security personnel for the embassy.

Obama continued to claim credit for a $3,600 average tax reduction for a large number of middleclass families, when the truth is that the reduction resulted from President George W. Bush’s 10 year tax reduction program.

And he had no good answer for the fact that since he took office, the price of a gallon of gasoline has gone from $1.85 to more than $4.00.

I think Romney was guilty in allowing himself to be engaged in what was an angry exchange of charges on several occasions.  He should have left the angry, abusive rhetoric to the president.

Romney Should Better Explain His Tax Plan

Romney made a mistake, too, as I see it, in explaining his proposed tax program in some isolated bits and pieces.  He has previously referred to a plan to lower taxes across the board, meeting part of the cost by a reduction in tax exemptions and credits.

He offered some of the details, but in a disjointed way.

I think Romney should devote a press conference to the subject, and release a comprehensive explanation of the important facets of his tax reduction plan so that voters can have an opportunity for a close, comprehensive examination before the election, which is now only three weeks away.

On the subject of taxes, Romney had an effective answer when Obama charged—he had one more time—that Republicans’ tax policy was to give tax breaks to the wealthiest two percent of Americans.  Romney replied that his tax program would concentrate on breaks for middle-income Americans and small businesses, with no special treatment for upper-income Americans.

My bottom line reaction to Tuesday’s performance:  Political debates produce more heat than light and are certainly no substitute for an even tempered exchange of political views and proposals instead of insults.

With the totally unrealistic hope for a modicum of civility when two politicians exchange views with an election close at hand, I’m going to bed.  I hope at least some of you feel it was worth my watching a political debate instead of the third game of the Detroit/New York Yankees/American League championship series.  (Truth is, Marian reports to me that it wasn’t a particularly exciting game.)

* * *

Biden-Ryan Debate
‘Offensive’ Joe Biden (Unintentionally?) Corrects
Two Major Obama-Repeated Untruths

Turning now to last week’s vice presidential debate featuring that “offensive performance” by the vice president of the United States:

Biden did, very likely unintentionally, correct two untruths which President Barack Obama has emphasized on the campaign trail.

Obama has said that he bailed out “the auto industry” and that he gave middleclass taxpayers a tax break which saved them (apparently on average) some $3,600 a year.

Biden at least had the facts straight.  He properly credited President George W. Bush’s 10-year tax reduction program with giving an average $3,600 break to middleclass families with children.  He also credited the Obama administration with “saving General Motors,” not saving the entire auto industry as President Obama has claimed.

Among the vice president’s assorted rantings was this description of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan:  “I’ve never met two guys less interested in the welfare of others.”

Ryan Made Major Mistake On Abortion Policy

It was difficult for Ryan to articulate Republican positions as Biden raved on, but Biden’s interruptions could not be blamed for a serious Ryan mistake.

When the moderator turned the debate towards the subject of abortion, Biden said, as a Catholic, he was personally opposed but approved the president’s position that abortions should remain legal.

Ryan blundered when he said “our” position will be “pro-life,” making abortions illegal except in extreme situations like a threat to the life of the pregnant woman.

Mitt Romney has also stated his personal opposition to abortion but has made clear that his administration would not attempt to make this national policy.  It’s hard to understand how Romney’s running mate could not have been aware of Romney’s position.

Terry Downplaying His GOP Affiliation?

Elsewhere on the political scene:  Is Second Congressional District Lee Terry of Omaha running a sort of “stealth” campaign, at least in his mailings?

Rather than being impressed, I laughed when I received a supposedly impressive card—it must have measured about eight inches wide with a campaign pitch for Terry and his picture on both sides—but without a single word identifying Terry as a Republican.

Turning to the sad story—at least I believe it is sad—of State Senator Brenda Council’s continuing campaign for re-election.

I know and like Brenda Council and am aware of the good service she has performed as a City Council member and her efforts to be a significant force in the Legislature.

But the multiple offenses—at least one which resulted in criminal charges and a fine—including spending campaign contributions to feed her gambling obsession, can hardly constitute “just one incident,” as Council recently claimed.

Brenda Council needs to concentrate not on continuing her political career but on getting her personal life in order.  In that, I wish her only the best.

* * *

It’s October, Let’s Talk Some Football
And Also Consider “A-Rod’s” Obscene Salary

Some football comment seems inevitable in Nebraska in October.

Is there possible bad news for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in last Saturday’s 52-49 victory by the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes over the Indiana Hoosiers?

This was an Indiana team which had a two wins, three losses record going into the Ohio State game.  One of the Indiana losses was to Ball State.

The Huskers, need I remind you, were thrashed, 63-38 by those same Ohio State Buckeyes a week earlier.

I’m Fighting Back Tears Over Longhorns Defeat

What happened in Norman, Oklahoma last Saturday is no consolation for the Huskers, I’m sure, because they are definitely not looking for company in the misery in which they left Columbus, Ohio two Saturdays ago.  But there must be misery in Austin, Texas after what happened to the Texas Longhorns last Saturday—a 63-21 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.

Still dealing with the autumnal sports scene including the major league divisional baseball playoffs, I am reminded of a baseball obscenity.  I refer to the contract which the New York Yankees signed with Alex Rodriquez five years ago.

Rodriquez was 32 years old when the Yankees gave him a 10-year contract, to pay him $275 million in total, which figures out to $27,500,000 a year until 2017, when Rodriquez will be 42 years old.

Simply dumb and damaging to any hope of a sensible salary scale for professional athletes.

“A-Rods” current pathetic performance would be poetic justice if the money to pay Rodriquez had to come out of the owners’ pockets.  But it is the fans, of course, whose loyalty is being repaid by Rodriquez hitting so poorly that he has been benched for at least one divisional playoff game (there may have been more, I haven’t kept count) and was actually lifted for a pinch hitter in another game.

I focus on Rodriquez since his case is such an outrageous example of professional athletes’ salaries gone wild.

On The Brighter Side:  Lady Huskers Volleyball Team

Let’s turn to the brighter side of the autumnal sports news of intense interest to Nebraska fans—collegiate volleyball.

Another capacity crowd on the Lincoln campus and a good many other Nebraskans were watching on television until the broadcast was cut off at 4:00 p.m. with the outcome still in doubt.  John Cook and his remarkable Nebraska volleyball team won a four set victory over No. 10 Minnesota on Sunday.

The Lady Huskers started slowly but finished strong against a solid challenger which, like everybody who plays the No. 3 nationally-ranked Huskers, makes the Nebraska volleyball team a special target at home or on the road or in Lincoln, where the Lady Huskers have a remarkable unbroken string of victories.

Elsewhere on the sporting scene:  World-Herald headline read:  “Nighthawks playing under the radar.”

Bye, Bye Omaha Nighthawks?

The story told of 601 people showing up for the Omaha Nighthawks game in Las Vegas.  (Inexplicably, the story didn’t report the outcome of that game.)

In their home game Saturday night in Omaha, the Nighthawks were still flying considerably below the radar.  They attracted an attendance of 3,563 for a 38-10 victory over Virginia in TD Ameritrade Park, which has a capacity in the neighborhood of 25,000.

Prediction:  The United Football League will disappear from the radar screens entirely, possibly before season’s end.

* * *

Today’s Smorgasbord Has A Royal Flavor,
A Salute To King Robert, Queen Afton

This week’s smorgasbord starts with a tip of my journalist’s cap to the King and Queen chosen by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben to rule for a year over the mythical kingdom of Quivira.

Ak-Sar-Ben is a 117-year-old organization which has grown steadily in its influence for bettering the lives of people in the Midlands.

Newly-crowned King Robert Duncan is chairman emeritus of Duncan Aviation in Lincoln.  Queen Afton Robertson, a senior at Indiana University, is the granddaughter of Clarence “C.L.” Werner, founder and chairman emeritus of Werner Enterprises, a world-wide trucking headquartered in Omaha, and the daughter of Scott and Gail Werner-Robertson.  Gail has carried on the family tradition of contributions to Omaha and beyond.

I was especially impressed by King Robert’s emphasis, in his remarks at a luncheon which he hosted Sunday, on continuing efforts to build stronger bonds between Omaha and Lincoln and the rest of Nebraska and Western Iowa—bonds which can benefit people in the entire area of particular interest to the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben.

Right on, King Robert!

–I wrote recently about a father whose death in an accident when his motorcycle went out of control was described in a news story headline as “devoted to family.”

I wrote that fathers devoted to their families should stop priding motorcycles.

A loyal reader and longtime valued friend writes to say that as a long-time biker, from 1959 to 2004, my advice to fathers was most appropriate.  My friend recalled the old saying that “there are two types of bikers:  those who have had an accident and those who will.”

My friend said he was lucky to survive several accidents, including the last big crash which led to getting a hip replacement 12 years after the fact.  His bride, he says, refers to aggressive bike riders as “organ donors.”

–A good many people will enjoy the new Ralston municipal arena—a project of which Ralston residents can properly be proud.

There was some question as to the capacity of the crowd capacity of the arena.  This was quickly cleared up this week with a phone call to a Ralston official.

There are 3,500 seats in the arena.  Standing room space could boost the capacity to about 4,000 for a variety of events, including basketball.

The 4,000 figure is of interest to those in charge of the University of Nebraska at Omaha basketball program, since the relatively small Ralston arena could continue as home to the UNO basketball Mavericks unless big-money plans turn into reality and a large multi-purpose facility is built adjacent to the UNO campus.

Wherever the UNO basketball team winds up, the entire metropolitan area will benefit from Ralston’s splendid new multi-purpose facility.

* * *

Quayle Had Chance To Top Bentsen
In That Famous VP Candidate Debate

Today’s column-ender deals with a still-famous vice presidential candidate’s debate in Omaha—a quicker-witted Republican candidate might have turned the tables on his Democratic opponent.

World-Herald columnist Mike Kelly, who consistently comes up with a variety of interesting and sometimes very moving offerings, wrote recently of the famous vice presidential debate that was held in Omaha in 1988.

The participants were the Democratic Party vice presidential nominee, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, and Republican vice presidential nominee Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana.

Quayle was on the ticket with Republican presidential nominee George H. W. Bush.  Bentsen was on the Democratic ticket with presidential nominee Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

The still-remembered punch line which Democrat Bentsen fired at Republican Quayle came after Quayle had, as he had in previous public appearances, quite honestly compared his congressional experience with that of John Kennedy when he campaigned for the presidency.

It was Quayle’s effort to respond to criticism that he didn’t have enough Washington experience to be a credible vice presidential candidate.

Bentsen’s Zinger Was Carefully Planned

Bentsen’s campaign team had prepared carefully for Bentsen’s classic putdown—or at least supposed putdown:  “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  It was supposed to be sort of a knockout punch.

An estimated 50 million Americans were watching the debate on television.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale said the Omaha debate might be remembered as a turning point in the presidential campaign.  It wasn’t, as Mike Kelly pointed out.  The Bush-Quayle team carried 40 states, including Nebraska.

I told friends at the time, and I still believe, that if Quayle had had quicker political wit he could have promptly replied to the “you’re no Jack Kennedy” with something like this:  “That’s right, Senator Benson.  My wife wouldn’t stand for it.”

This obvious reference to Kennedy’s widely-known sexual philandering—including sexual liaisons in the White House—would have, I believe, promptly and effectively turned the tables on Senator Lloyd Bentsen, who would have looked like an outwitted political trickster.

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