Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Don Stenberg: The Great Pretender

by Kyle Michaelis
In one of the most petty insults I can possibly imagine, desperate Republican hack Don Stenberg - making his third and final attempt at the U.S. Senate - declared Ben Nelson "a pretend Republican" earlier this week.

Nebraska State Paper reports:
Republican Senate hopeful Don Stenberg says he is accustomed to being underestimated in political campaigns, and that he is confident of victory in the primary.

The former three-term attorney general said Monday that Nebraska’s general election could determine which party controls the Senate.

A longtime GOP regular, Stenberg was previously defeated by incumbent Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat, in the state’s closest-ever Senate race.

During a news conference in Grand Island, Stenberg called Nelson “a pretend Republican.”

Nelson ranks first among congressional Democrats in supporting Bush. The president has praised Nelson on several occasions for what both men have called bipartisanship.

Stenberg has thus far refused to debate with the other primary candidates, Pete Ricketts and Dave Kramer, both of Omaha.

The two have refused Stenberg’s demand for an agreement that would bar each of them from using the name of any other opponent in television ads. Stenberg says his demand is based on his desire for a positive campaign.

Stenberg is surely one of the worst snakes in Nebraska's political history. That he even has the audacity to demand a positive campaign in the primary when he is already gearing up his attacks on Ben Nelson is a sad comment on the man's devious nature.

Ben Nelson has never claimed to be a Republican (thank God). Ben Nelson has never claimed to be anything but exactly what his record proves him to be - the rare politician who can look past party labels and who actually puts the interests of the voters he represents first. Such leadership is impossible for the jealousy-consumed Stenberg to even comprehend, so it's not surprising when he engages in such venomous assaults on a man of superior character.

Ben Nelson is a conservative and independent Democrat. But, more importantly to this state, he is a true Nebraskan who understands its needs and has been fighting for its citizens - poor and rich, urban and rural - for more than 15 years.

If anything must be said of Ben Nelson, it is that he does not play games. He has never pretended to be anyone but Ben Nelson - the man whom Nebraska voters have come to respect and embrace as one of their own without needing some stupid label to tell them so.

The same could never be said of Stenberg, who wears whatever political face is convenient at the time. In 1996, he was the "inside the beltway"/establishment Republican who denounced Chuck Hagel as an outsider. In 2000, he tried to pass himself off as Chuck Hagel Jr. Now, in 2006, he is the super-partisan whose one and only goal seems to be doing President Bush and the Republican Party's bidding rather than doing what's best for and by Nebraska.

For Stenberg to call Nelson "a pretend Republican" just because he is willing to work across party lines - while doing what the voters ask, not what the President tells him - has to be one of the lamest political attacks in recent memory. It is so juvenile and so antithetical to the principles on which a sound democratic government operates - building coalitions and uniting people rather than dividing them - that I feel justified and compelled to declare Stenberg a pretend American.

All those years hungering for power, blind to everything but self-serving political allegiance, have entirely perverted Stenberg's understanding of what it means to be a citizen in a democracy and a servant to the public. He has lost his way. He has lost touch with everything good and decent about our country.

America is a place where Democrats and Republicans should work together to do what's right for the country they love. Ben Nelson lives that ideal and does as much as anyone else to help make it a reality.

Stenberg's vision for America is a far darker and more divided place, hardly a democracy at all except maybe in name. We, as a nation, are better than Stenberg's pretend America, his false democracy. His is not the America our forefathers built. It is not the America our children deserve.

Don Stenberg is unfit to be a U.S. Senator, and he always has been. Voters have proven their wisdom on this point twice before. I trust they will do so one last time this election year.


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