Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why Do GOP Governors Fear UNL Students?

by Kyle Michaelis
In an eerie repeat of 2002, Gov. Dave Heineman is proving that he's cut from the same cowardly and calculating cloth as his predecessor, Mike Johanns, by refusing to step foot on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus for a gubernatorial debate. Proving just how little he cares about reaching out to students and young voters in general, Heineman is using a silly technicality to try to get out of a March 26th debate in Lincoln that has already been agreed to by his opponents, Tom Osborne and Dave Nabity.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Gov. Dave Heineman could find himself in a debate of one if a squabble among the Republican gubernatorial candidates isn't ironed out within two weeks.

U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne and Omaha businessman Dave Nabity have agreed to participate in a March 26 debate in Lincoln, sponsored by a student group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Heineman refuses to take part because the proposed sponsor violates an agreement signed by all three campaigns, which said only accredited media groups would be allowed to sponsor any of the six governor debates, said Carlos Castillo, Heineman's campaign manager.

Instead, Heineman has agreed to participate in a debate that same night sponsored by KLIN radio in Lincoln....

Nabity and Osborne said they agreed that the original arrangement among the candidates should be modified to accommodate the request from the Association of Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to sponsor the debate.

"We felt that a modification or some flexibiliy in the agreement in this particular debate was in order," said David Buchholz, an Osborne spokesman.

"What is the harm of having a student organization support the debates?" asked Nabity.

Castillo said neither he nor Heineman has anything against students but believe the original agreement should be honored.

"The major concern is that we said it's in the best interest that all debates be handled by independent media organizations. Everyone agreed. Everyone signed off on that. Now they want to change the rules," Castillo said.

The AP describes the format of the debate in question as follows:
The debate will include a panel consisting of representatives of Nebraska Educational Telecommunications and the Daily Nebraskan student newspaper at UNL. Questions were also being solicited from students, to be given to the panelists and a moderator from Lincoln television station KOLN/KGIN-TV, who could decide whether to pose them during the debate.

Oh, the horror. The horror! What must Heineman be thinking to fabricate this excuse about accredited media when both local and statewide news sources are intimately involved in the current debate plans? Talk about pulling a Stenberg - if voters have any sense whatsoever, this will be little dictator Heineman's Waterloo.

There is a very simple solution here. ASUN should hand over responsibility for the debate to the Daily Nebraskan, the independent campus newspaper, putting to rest Heineman's fearful and obnoxious complaint. ASUN could still take a lead role in getting word of the debate out to students but concerns about impartiality in the format and questions would be alleviated.

Of course, it's likely that even under these guidelines, Heineman would try to wiggle his way out of this debate. He's simply following in the footsteps of Johanns, who pulled the exact same stunt in 2002 so he wouldn't have to take questions from UNL students. What a pathetic display of weakness and disdain for the youth who are the future of this state.

Shame on Gov. Heineman. He is a discredit to the office that he holds - to which he was never elected and to which I increasingly hope the people of Nebraska have the good sense to see that Heineman never be elected in his own right.

So petty a man - who, at every opportunity, has put his own political interests before the interests of the state - deserves such a trivial finish to an ignominious career.


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