Tuesday, January 24, 2006

World-Herald Looks to North Carolina for Nelson's "Weakness"

by Kyle Michaelis

I don't know about you, but when I want to know the concerns of the average Nebraska citizen, I don't usually think of North Carolina Senator and former would-be first lady Elizabeth Dole as the person to ask.

Seems from this article, however, that the Omaha World-Herald might have a different opinion on the matter:
What is Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson's greatest re-election vulnerability?

It's the court-ordered $145 million payment Nebraska made stemming from Nelson's tenure as the state's governor, says the head of the GOP political committee hoping to help defeat Nelson this fall.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, singled out that payment Monday as she gave an overview of this fall's U.S. Senate contests.

"That $145 million is something that folks back home will not be very happy with," Dole predicted. The payment settled a legal dispute with the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission. In 1998, when Nelson was governor, a license for the disposal facility was denied by the state.

Besides that, Dole cited Nebraska as a "very red" state that strongly backed President Bush in 2004 and a recent Senate vote where Nelson opposed drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Responding, Nelson spokesman David DiMartino said: "If they plan to highlight Senator Nelson's record of putting Nebraska first, like when he chose ethanol and Nebraska farmers over oil company profits and Nebraska's health and natural resources over nuclear waste generators, we won't stop them."

Glad to hear Liddy is so in-touch with the "folks back home." Now if only her handlers would have provided her an actual issue with which to level an attack rather than falling back on a convoluted, 20 year bureaucratic nightmare from which Nelson - in the eyes of many constituents - comes across as perhaps the only "good guy" in the whole damn mess.

Let me assure you this....Liddy Dole has never been to Boyd County, where this nuclear waste dump was to have been forced upon the state. She's never talked to the families of Butte and Spencer nor heard the fearful concerns for their children's health and safety. In fact, by doing the Republican Party's bidding and focusing solely on the legal wranglings and the politically-suspect court proceedings that finally brought this ordeal to a close, I'm not so sure the World-Herald even remembers what was truly at stake (nor the paper's own role in creating the lose-lose situation Nelson inherited).

But heck - Dole's right - Nebraska is a "very red state"....right up to the point where our families' well-being and our childrens' futures are threatened. At that point, we look for more than polished politicians and demand actual leadership - the sort of which Republicans have failed to provide from the statehouse since Kay Orr was governor. The people of Nebraska were bullied and bilked under Orr and, later, Mike Johanns. The only time they had a champion who was actually willing to stand up for them was with Nelson in office - and now the Republicans want to turn THAT into a liability.

Yeah, you'd have to have lived in Washington D.C.'s partisan bubble for decades like Dole to think that's going to work. Still, it's worth noting that even she might know better. National reporting on Dole's predictions for 2006 (couresy of the AP) makes no mention of Nelson's as a top-tier race...in a year when the national mood is leaving Republicans increasingly desperate for a bright spot or two on which to rest their hopes.


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