So Many Subjects, So Little to Sayby Kyle Michaelis
-Admiral James Stockdale in 1992 Vice-Presidential Debate
"When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed."
-"Psycho Killer", Talking Heads (1977)
There's plenty going on in Nebraska politics but - you know what - I don't have a whole lot to say about any of it, at least nothing I'd consider particularly insightful or which I haven't already said before.
Last week, I helped draw some online attention to Sen. Chuck Hagel's most recent flurry of criticism of the Iraq War. What he said was important and could easily have both national and international implications, both politically and in terms of human lives.
In the little corner of Northeast Nebraska I call home, it was announced last week that one boy had been killed in action in Iraq, while another was severely wounded - losing one or both of his legs. Neither boy was actually from my hometown, but both lived within 15 miles and attended schools we played in sports - could just as well have been my younger brother, his classmates, or his friends.
For them, their families, and all those who remain in harm's way, I have to thank Hagel for his outspokeness and the opportunity it helps create to set a new course this November.
I can harp about hypocrisy and hidden agendas all I want, but sometimes saying what needs to be said is the most important thing, particularly in this age of the soundbyte. Though I wrote skeptical commentaries last week accompanying Hagel's interviews with the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star (both of which were picked up by DailyKos), I'm glad my spin was extricated.
When young Americans are dying - not to mention, thousands of innocent Iraqis - I really shouldn't allow my local, partisan concerns to undermine Hagel's instantly-credible voice of dissent. As far as these comments are concerned, there's something to be said for not looking a gift-horse in the mouth.
On a separate issue, Gov. Dave Heineman came out AGAINST the Spending Lid Amendment. Sure, it took two months for him to make up his mind. Sure, the end of this most notorious demonstration of Heineman's wait-and-see approach to government has already been met by a new example in the area of Nebraska's water policy. There's plenty of angles from which one could turn Heineman's finally doing the right thing against him, but is that really productive or does that just further the same hyperpartisanship I so frequently bemoan for threatening to destroy our state and our nation?
Again, I see this as a reminder to leave it to political campaigns to spin their opposition's statements and actions. If my concern is good government in Nebraska, today - at least - I should be thanking Heineman for making the common sense choice to do what's best for the state by rejecting this insanely restrictive proposal.
Of course, I'm not so terribly naive that I fail to recognize Nebraska's long-term interests are not served by the extension of the status quo for which Heineman stands. But, if I can contribute to a more respectful and civil political climate where Democrats and Republicans do more than just criticize and condemn one another, that's what I intend to do - even during an election year.
Which brings us to the on-going battle between Sen. Ben Nelson and challenger Pete Ricketts. It's hard to overstate the foolishness of the Nebraska Democratic Party's ever having made such an issue of Ricketts' property taxes when Nelson's record has not fared well under the added scrutiny such an attack invited. The latest bit about Nelson's taking an agricultural exemption on the basis of his raising wild turkeys only adds to the silliness - giving Ricketts and the Republican Party exactly what they needed in their wild goose chase for a message.
Lucky for Nelson, there are too many issues of actual importance this year for voters to become consumed by this sort of faux-scandal. It would take a lot more than wild turkeys and the repayment of some back taxes to break the decade-and-a-half relationship of trust between Nelson and Nebraska voters.
It also can't hurt that voters have such a hard time separating this issue from the endless stream of negativity they have already come to expect from Ricketts and company. Whether the attacks have been disingenuous (Ben Nelson=Teddy Kennedy) or just downright deceitful (Boyd County nuclear waste dump), Nebraskans aren't fooled, and they aren't going to be.
That doesn't mean I expect either campaign to stop trying. If you like what you've seen this summer, it looks like you should be in for quite the treat as the countdown to November really begins in earnest.
Me? I'm sick of the back-and-forth....and barring some truly shocking revelation, I would be quite happy not writing another word about either candidate that doesn't directly relate to his ideas, his record, or his vision for the future.
Unfortunately, such a high standard would leave nothing to be said of Ricketts, so please forgive me if I occasionally stoop for material in the coming months (and, to think, I was doing so well).