Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stenberg Will Not Show for First Debate

by Kyle Michaelis
The first debate between Nebraska's 2006 Republican Senate candidates is scheduled for Thursday at noon at the Omaha Press Club. This Omaha World-Herald article, the Nebraska Republican Party's website, and even this hilarious press release from Don Stenberg's campaign all make it abundantly clear that Stenberg has no honest intention of participating. What a little weasel.

The press release (and the awkward sound clip accompanying it on-line) certainly take the cake for being the surest testament to Stenberg's shameless duplicity:
Former Nebraska Attorney General and Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Don Stenberg, said today that he would participate in the Omaha Press Club Senate debate this coming Thursday, March 30, if his Republican opponents will agree to the Positive Campaign Pledge which he proposed in early January. "I look forward to debating my Republican challengers," Stenberg said.

Stenberg's proposed pledge urges his GOP opponents to refrain from engaging in personal attacks; distorting or misrepresenting positions on issues; and making any references to each other in paid advertising....Thus far, both of Stenberg's challengers have refused to sign the Pledge.

Stenberg has already accepted an invitation from NBC's Meet the Press to debate Senator Nelson on nationwide TV this fall.

"If Republicans want to defeat Ben Nelson (and we do), it is absolutely essential that the Republican Senate primary be a positive campaign on the issues," he said. "If the winner of the Republican primary wins by mudslinging and attacks on his fellow Republican candidates, Nebraska voters, including many Republicans, will choose Ben Nelson next fall."

"In order to promote a positive primary campaign and put the winner of the Republican primary in the best possible position to defeat Ben Nelson, I will not agree to a debate schedule with my Republican challengers until they agree to a Positive Campaign Pledge," Stenberg said.

For my thoughts on Stenberg's silly little pledge, see this post from January. All in all, I just find this a fairly perfect example of the pathetic childishness that dominates Republican Party politics. It's bad enough that, at the national level, we have the entire lot of GOP politicians running around with their hands pressed against their ears singing "La La La La" so they don't have to recognize what's really going on in the world, but now - here in Nebraska - we have to witness Stenberg's tortured explanation of why he won't just be a man and show up for a couple of debates.

I mean, what the hell, the guy claims to have already agreed to a national debate on NBC - in front of a national audience - and he's worried about what's going to be said at an Omaha Press Club luncheon? Who does Stenberg think he's kidding?

At the end of the day, Stenberg's positioning on this has a lot to do with money and a little to do with beating Ben Nelson, but it has absolutely nothing to do with positive campaigning. The Stenberg campaign doesn't have the resources to compete in a real primary campaign (certainly not with "Richie Ricketts" down below) - all he's got is his name recognition after 12 years of doing the right wing's bidding as Attorney General. And, playing his cards right, he hopes that's all he'll need, then counting on the "R" by his name to carry him the rest of the way.

Of course, we'll see what Mr. "Positive Campaign Pledge" has to say about Sen. Nelson if he makes it out of the primary. Hope Stenberg wears a good pair of dancing shoes because otherwise he might just hurt himself trying to pull off the total one-eighty (180-degrees) that is likely to require.


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