Columnist’s Crystal Ball:
Hagel Approval? Yes. Immigration Reform? Maybe.
Nebraska State Income Tax Repeal? Very Unlikely

This week, a focus on four questions and my reaction to them.  As always, if you disagree with my conclusions, don’t hesitate to let me know.  (Favorable reactions will also be accepted, too, of course!)

Question No. 1:  What chance for success of the newly-launched—and long overdue—bipartisan Congressional effort to attack the problem of more than 10 million Hispanics living illegally in the United States?

You hope, of course, for a positive answer—at least to some significant degree.  There is an old saying that I hope won’t apply:  “The road to hell (failure, in this case) is paved with good intentions.”

The start seems favorable—an agreement among leading Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to tackle the immigration problem with these goals in mind, in the words of a New York Times story:

Eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants coupled with measures to secure our borders and assure that foreigners leave the country when their visas expire.

Further, the idea is to create conditions under which highly skilled workers could qualify for citizenship and unskilled workers whose services are needed in a variety of jobs could qualify to stay on to work in this country holding permanent resident-visas known as green cards.

Millions Of Immigrants Can’t Be Left In Legal Limbo

I’ve long felt, and written, that a way must be found to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants.  We cannot let them continue to live and work here in a sort of a never-never land and neither discharge the responsibilities of legal residence nor enjoy the benefits of legal residence.

I’m modestly optimistic for the prospects for this effort in which President Obama and the Congress could join.  But the road will be a difficult one—perhaps long and very difficult and ultimately fall short of the desired destination.

But to use another old but true saying, the longest journey begins with a single step, and it appears that this potentially long journey is already several important steps on its way.

Question No. 2:  Next, and certainly also important in terms of national interest:  Will former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel be confirmed as President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense?  My prediction:

Yes, despite a frequently irresponsible campaign of opposition, a good deal of it from American Jewish interests who place support of Israel at the top of America’s list of international priorities.

Totally unacceptable is the fact that the opposition to Hagel includes an advertising campaign funded by groups whose big-bucks supporters contribute anonymously.

In Entire Senate, Decision Most Important To Fischer, Johanns

Surprising to me is the fact that both of Nebraska’s U.S. Senators—freshman Deb Fischer and veteran Mike Johanns, both Republicans—are reserving their judgment as to voting on Republican Hagel, native Nebraskan and two-term United States senator from Nebraska.

Johanns has indicated he’s favorably inclined.  Fischer says she is keeping an open mind and is not influenced by the fact that Hagel supported her opponent, former Democrat Senator Bob Kerrey, in last year’s senatorial election, but is withholding her judgment until Hagel testifies before the Senate Arms Services Committee, of which she is a freshman member.

Prediction:  Both Fischer and Johanns will ultimately vote for Hagel’s confirmation, properly influenced to some extent by the fact that a former Nebraskan in the Defense Secretary’s office would assure a well-informed decision on the question of retaining the Strategic Command headquarters in Sarpy County south of Omaha.

Question No. 3:  What will become of Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s proposal to scrap the present state tax system, replacing the income tax with sales taxes on a wide variety of goods and services?

I feel even more strongly today that the odds are against such a fundamental change in the state’s tax system.  But the controversial proposal may very well be kept alive in an intensive study between legislative sessions and action in the 2014 Legislature.

Working against the proposal’s chances in 2014—in addition to what I see as an obvious bias toward upper-income taxpayers—is the fact that Heineman would be a lame duck, serving the final year of his record-breaking 10 years of service as governor.

Pine Ridge Drunkenness Can’t Be Blamed On White Clay, Neb.

Question No. 4:  When will the well-intentioned would-be reformers, including currently students from Nebraska universities and high schools, wake up to the realities of drunkenness among Indians living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota?

The problem isn’t the availability of beer in stores in the village of White Clay, Nebraska, just across the Nebraska-South Dakota line.  The problem starts on—and should be dealt with on—the Pine Ridge Reservation itself.

Until the Pine Ridge Sioux tribe follows the example of other tribes on other reservations in South Dakota and offers beer on the reservation under condition where the tribe itself is responsible for controlling drunkenness—or attempting to do so—the Pine Ridge Reservation Indians will find beer where they can.  In White Clay or if White Clay beer outlets are closed, in Rushville or Gordon to the south.

The latest effort to shut down the White Clay beer stores is a proposed nationwide boycott of Anheuser Busch beer, since that is the brand sold in largest quantity in White Clay.

Pressure on the Pine Ridge Sioux Tribe itself could be much more effective than an effort to boycott Anheuser Busch sales nationwide.

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Liberals Forget That Republicans Still Control House;
Congratulations To Heineman, Longest-Serving Governor

Moving on to some servings from my customary smorgasbord:

–E. J. Dionne, one of the columnists regularly appearing on The World-Herald’s Opinion Page, recently wrote a pro-Obama column which left a hole big enough to drive a rebuttal through.

Obama’s victory heralded the switch from moderate conservative to moderate liberal in the political leanings of the majority of American voters, Dionne wrote.

The rebuttal:

If America has gone from moderate-conservative to moderate-liberal, how come Republicans retained control of “the people’s House,” the House of Representatives, traditionally regarded as the best barometer of the nation’s political leanings.

(Remember, the president is elected over an opponent who, in too many instances, is not a strong candidate.  Think John McCain and Mitt Romney.)

–I mentioned earlier Governor Heineman’s remarkable record of having served longer than any other governor in Nebraska history.

My congratulations to the governor for that record, achieved by victories at the polls in two elections (he defeated Nebraska football icon Tom Osborne in a Republican primary)—and the good fortune of being Lieutenant Governor and moving into the governor’s office early when Mike Johanns accepted the position of Secretary of Agriculture.

–A recent World-Herald story reported that a panel of what I assume to be steak-lovers had selected the restaurant which cooks the best steak in our city—a city properly known for the quality of its steaks.

I hope my friends at The World-Herald won’t be offended if I say I didn’t read the story, although it may well have been read by others as eagerly as Omaha steaks are consumed.

Truth is, I don’t need help in deciding where to dine out when I want a very good steak.  My choice doesn’t happen to be among those seven steakhouses listed at the start of The World-Herald article, although I’ve dined at some of them, heard of all of them and am confident they all serve very good steaks.

* * *

Political Puzzlers Plentiful, But Biggest Might Be
Palin’s Involvement In Hagel Confirmation Debate

Ending on a lighter note:  It might be called Sarah Palin’s involvement in the debate over Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense:

In The World-Herald’s story reporting the current positions of Nebraska senators Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer, Joseph Morton of The World-Herald Washington Bureau offered this observation (without quoting any of the “many Republicans” whose views he indicated he was reflecting):

“Hagel upset many Republicans with his criticisms of President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, his decision not to support Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential run and his stinging comments questioning vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.”

If Hagel’s positions in these matters upset “many Republicans,” I think that at least as many or more Republicans agreed with Hagel on Bush’s handling of the Iraq War and the presidential candidacy of 72-year-old  John McCain and even more emphatically agreed with Hagel’s views on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate.

As I see it, a good many Americans, including a good many Republicans, considered the Alaska governor more a liability than an asset—a pretty face with a nice figure but a political lightweight, an embarrassment to the Republican ticket.

Those pretty legs could carry Sarah Palin only so far—not far enough to be a serious candidate for vice president.

Can you imagine Sarah Palin in the White House if something had happened to John McCain had he been elected?  It’s an image to make even Joe Biden look good in the White House, and I can’t think of a much more critical appraisal than that.

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