Friday, July 22, 2005

Heineman Taunts Osborne, Sells Himself

by Kyle Michaelis
Gov. Dave Heineman goes out of his way to emphasize that he's not going to hand over the governorship to Tom Osborne without a fight in a North Platte Telegraph interview from earlier this week:
Governor Dave Heineman says he is not intimidated by Tom Osborne. In next year's primary election, Heineman will be challenged for the office by the popular football coach turned congressman.

"He is a better football coach than I am," Heineman said Wednesday in North Platte. "I am a better governor than he is."

Nebraskans reward good work, Heineman said. "I can feel and see momentum, and Nebraskans are getting more comfortable with me"...

"I don't hear anybody saying I am not doing a good job. He is running against me, I'm not running against him. By next May I will have been governor for a year and half and people will ask themselves, 'is Dave doing a good job?' I believe the answer will be yes. If I continue to be a good governor, he is going to be asked why he should replace me."

That's some tough words and likely more than a little bit of wishful thinking on the part of Heineman. This whole "he is running against me"-bit doesn't really sound like an angle that's going to help him much. A little bit more humility on the part of the unelected governor when he's facing a man of Osborne's stature would certainly seem to be in order.

Heineman doesn't have the charisma or presence to sell this idea that he's the man in charge. If he wants to hold onto his job, he should get used to the idea that he's the underdog here and try to make it work for him as best he can.

There is a possibility, no matter how slight, that the Republican primary voters will make Heineman their nominee just to keep the supposed "Johanns-machine" intact. If that happened, though, and Osborne still wanted the job, he could just as well run as an independent and still give Heineman a pretty ugly beating in the general election. Somewhere in there, there might even be room for a Democratic candidate to rise above the fray and capture the imaginations of Nebraskans disillusioned by these two self-appointed heirs to the throne.

Hey - a guy can dream, can't he?

Anyway, as further evidence that Heineman isn't messing around here, he's already hard at work appealing to the Republican base, even if it means speaking out of both sides of his mouth. In the same interview, Heineman admits to the spiraling cost of Medicaid set to bankrupt the state in the next decade but denounces cost-saving efforts to merge elementary-only Class I school districts with existing K-12 districts. Then, in expectedly irresponsible Republican fashion, he starts promising tax relief:
"Excess revenues need to be turned into tax relief," Heineman said. "Otherwise if we don't, it will be spent"....

"We have to keep a balance with sales, income and property taxes. We have an opportunity to reduce taxes in this state if we can get the economy growing. That is what we will look at next."

So, the state is on course for bankruptcy, while ranking 50th in the nation in economic development, and Heineman's talking about tax relief??? Meanwhile, moments earlier, he'd had the audacity to sell himself with, "I think Nebraskans appreciate straight talk and honesty."

Is that what this is? Doesn't seem like it to me, but I guess I have the unfortunate ability to work a calculator and recognize when a politician's promises imperil the entire state. Now, the question becomes just how far will Heineman go - just how irresponsible will he get - in his attempt to hold onto power?

Keep watching. It won't be long before we find out. But, I reckon the sky's the limit to Heineman's ambition, meaning there's no depth to which he won't sink.


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