Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Items of Interest

by Kyle Michaelis
Although it breaks with my general purpose for this site - taking a wider view than the tight Nebraska focus that I usually try to maintain - I want to turn readers' attention to the larger world for a moment to some recent events worth noting even if they aren't all that particularly relevant to a "New Nebraska".

For starters, let's turn our attention to our neighbors to the east - Iowa, that wonderful land of milk, honey, and second-rate football whose marvelous system of public education is practically subsidized by river-crossing Nebraskans with a weakness for slot machines. Iowa had it's primary on Tuesday, with the most high-profile race being that for the Democratic nomination to replace two-term Governor and likely Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack. Though I offer my warmest congratulations to the winner of that contest, Chet Culver, I'm far more interested in the Iowa Democrats' Fifth Congressional District race to challenge the dangerous and downright loopy Rep. Steve King.

King, an insult to the author whose name he shares - not to mention an embarrassment to the voters he represents - is so far out there on the Right's lunatic fringe that he makes unthinking, unquestioning Republicans like Nebraska/Louisiana's own Jeff Fortenberry seem downright statesman-like by comparison. As the Representative of Western and Southern Iowa, including Council Bluffs, I would place this nut-job's defeat as one of any Nebraska progressives' highest priorities just because his corrupting influence finds its way across our border and makes our own Republican Congressmen's unforgiveable voting records seem almost acceptable.

Remember that King is the man who declared American disgrace Sen. Joseph McCarthy a personal hero. He's also been one of the most outspoken proponents of the harshest and least human aspects of the House's immigration bill. Most recently, this is the same jackass who defended the invasion of Iraq by declaring Baghdad a safer city than Washington D.C.- despite the fact that May was the deadliest month for Iraqi civilians since before America's invasion.

King must go. He's gone so far off the deep end that his very presence in the House of Representatives stands as an insult to democracy. My prayers go out to Democrat Joyce Schulte, challenging King for the 2nd time, who won Tuesday's primary with 61% of the vote. Although Nebraska politics are my primary concern, it is so important to the United States to be rid of Congressmen like Steve King that I can't help putting this next-door neighbor's race on par with any of those here in Nebraska. He's just that terrible and that deserving of defeat.

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Elsewhere, from Montana comes word that the ostensibly more progressive and Internet-backed U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester beat the heavily-favored John Morrison in that state's Democratic primary on Tuesday for the right to challenge the incredibly unpopular and corrupt Republican Conrad Burns in November.

This is worth noting primarily because Morrison is the grandson of Nebraska Democratic legend Frank Morrison, who served as Gov. in the 1960s and remained involved in progressive politics well into his 90s before passing away a few years ago. The younger Morrison, who's served as Montana's Sec. of State, was far better established in Montana politics than Tester, but his star quickly fell as news developed surrounding an instance of marital infidelity said to have possibly compromised his performance as Secretary of State.

Tester had received a lot of support from the progressive online community, and his victory no doubt stands as something of a testament to its emergence as a true force in Democratic Party politics. Still, it seems to have been Morrison's "Lewinsky-moment" that really broke the race in Tester's favor. Although I would have been personally inclined to support Tester myself, I nevertheless regret seeing a native son of Nebraska (native grandson, at any rate) get caught-up in this sort of rumor-driven scandal. Morrison has already rallied in support of Tester, emphasizing the importance of defeating Burns, showing a lot of class that would no doubt make his departed grandfather proud.

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Finally, Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga (aka Kos) - namesake of DailyKos and perhaps the most prominent blogger in the country - was quoted by a fellow blogger at his own site with some interesting comments about Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. Kos reportedly told the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco:
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the conservative thinker Markos most respects...."McCain wishes he was a really a straight shooter like Hagel is. [...] I respect him. He's unafraid to stand for what he believes in. But that doesn't mean I'd vote for him."

I'm going to with-hold any snide comment a)because Kos has been a great friend to the New Nebraska Network; and b)because my own feelings towards Hagel are quite complicated. To some degree, I agree with Kos' understanding of Hagel - part of me even wants to believe that he is such a straight-shooter.

But, for all my appreciation of Hagel's willingness to challenge the Bush Administration on foreign policy like no other Republican in Congress, there's no reconciling that fact with Hagel's actual voting record. Not to mention, one would be remiss by failing to recognize how Hagel's presidential ambitions have been well-served by the media spotlight his efforts have received.

Since Hagel has yet to back up any of his bold statements with any actual votes or legislation, it's just hard to put too much stock in the idea that they are much more than political posturing. As a Vietnam Vet, Hagel has often spoken about his duty to speak-out on behalf of those currently serving in the Armed Forces. The idea of that duty ending when he's standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate and actually casting a vote, however, is patently absurd.

That said, Hagel's actions on immigration and the Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage undoubtedly conform better to my own personal feelings than the actions of Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson. For all the leniency I grant Nelson for faithful(sometimes appalling) service to the people of Nebraska, how could I not give some credit to Hagel regardless of whether he follows his conscience, his ambitions, or the wisdom of his daily fortune cookie? Although I am a Democrat, that label can't reasonably justify a partisan double-standard if I'm going to uphold any notion of independence and trustworthiness.

So, Chuck Hagel: straight-shooter or political opportunist? Heck if I know, though - like so much in politics - the answer probably lies somewhere in between.

5 Comments:

Anonymous randy said...

I'm glad you brought up Montana. At least on the surface, Nebraska and Montana seem to have some similarities. Not the least of which is how "Red" the state has traditionally been. This is the second election where a true blue populist has won major office. It would seem that a similar message might be well received here. I haven't been watching the races in the second and third districts very closely (yet), do either of those candidates use similar language? It would seem that Kleeb might be a good candidate in that regard. As you pointed out last week, the democrats might be able to tighten things up in the congressional races, but mostly likely wouldn't get the win. It would seem that if that were the case, it might be a good idea to "experiment" a little bit. Talk about some new ideas. What could it hurt? It's becoming increasingly obvious that the same old line isn't going to play. I would really like to see all democratic challengers go hard and go right at them, but, also be bold.

I have always wanted to think the best of Hagel. But his votes are far more distressing than his Sunday morning bloviating is encouraging. Being outspoken is only impressive if it's backed up by a principled vote. I remember when General Myers said in a response to Senator Clinton that the reason National Guard Troops don't have health care is because of a lack of money. It would seem that Hagel should have led the charge to find some money. Perhaps he did, I don't remember it. I don't believe he did, because I don't think the policy has changed, so someone should be bitching about it until it gets done.
Personally, I have a hard time seeing him coming out of the madness which will be the republican primary season. That said, and while I disagree passionately with his politics, if he were to win, he might be able return our foreign policy to some form of sanity. Given how batshit insane it is now, anybody should be able to do that.

6/07/2006  
Blogger Dave said...

I agree with the above comment, with one small correction: Tester hasn't won yet. But he stands a very good chance of beating Burns in the general. We could learn a thing or two from Montana, and Scott Kleeb may be just that sort of candidate. Tester was the better candidate in that race, and he rose from unknown to runaway winner because of the support of the internet community. The entire Montana Democratic Party has risen up in the last few years, thanks to Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Hopefully with the partybuilding that we are finally seeing in Nebraska, we can move toward a better Democratic Party in this state. It is certainly possible.

6/07/2006  
Anonymous randy said...

lol...that was embarrassing. you're right, he hadn't won yet. it just felt like he had.
one thing that might help would be to get out with some ballot initiatives. it seems to turn out the other side. would it be possible to pick a particular group of citizens (children, national guardsmen) to provide health care for? in florida, they passed a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. perhaps uniform voting standards. i don't know, sort of grasping at ideas, but it would help our side seize the initiative (no pun intended) instead of us constantly having to respond to them.
it seems like a good idea especailly given the disadvantages we face in terms of numbers. but i have no practical experience with it and would love to hear what some other opinions are on the matter.

6/07/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ON Hagel...
Hage lhas liberals like Kos snowed. If Kos wants to learn the real Hagel he should listen to what Hagel says.

Hagel is unabashedly partisan. He routinely patronizes and ridicules Democrats. Liberals like Kos just line up for more.

Fo example, when Hagel offered his Social Security plan - he went on the talk shows and said "we need to work together" D's and R's to get this done. But when he was interviewed in NE his tune was different: "where is the Democrats plan?" he would ask, knowing full well the Democrats we for solvency first.
The list could go on. Iraq: before the vote authorizing force Hagel was out there bashing Bush for rushing to war. He issued caution after caution. When the Democrats offered an amendment to the war resolution that would have raised the bar of poof needed before Bush could bomb Iraq - Hagel voted NO. then he oted FOR the war resolution. And since then he hasn't stopped complaining about the war - even though he made it easy for Bush to go to war and he supported the war.

Beware Democrats - for HAgel is not what he seems. He would trade a million Deomocrats for one Republican. He's no moderate. He says one thing on Sunday and votes the other way on Monday.
Remember when Bush announced he would deploy the Guard to the border. On the Sunday show Hagel criticized Bush - made big headlines. Not more than 24 hours later Hagel announced "I agree with everything the President said". Its quite astounding. And it pains me to see so many Democrats fall for his act.

6/07/2006  
Anonymous BlueMonkey said...

Hagel is John McCain without the skin cancer. Nothing more. He and the majority of his Republican brethren in the Senate are "speaking out" to gain attention and lull the moderates into thinking that they're not falling in lock/goose-step with the rest of their damaged party. I used to think his talk was valuable because it should make Bush squirm a little. Then I realized that it's just part of the orchestrated dance.

Kos and the other blogs are just happy to see anyone other than a Dem speak out against Bush, even if it is empty talk. I guess if Hagel's blather convinces Republicans or undecided voters in other states to question the actions of Bush, then some good can come of it.

6/08/2006  

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