Items of Interestby Kyle Michaelis
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.
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.
Finally, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (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.