Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pete Ricketts' Offensive Abortion Offensive

by Kyle Michaelis
Sen. Ben Nelson's pro-life/anti-abortion/anti-choice voting record is hardly something this site is inclined to celebrate, but Republican challenger Pete Ricketts' attempt to undermine so consistent a record deserves immediate rebuke for twisting Nelson's votes as Ricketts has pledged himself to a ridiculously extremist position pandering to the very worst instincts of single-issue voters.

Those who don't make a regular habit of reading the Daily Nebraskan's Opinion page have missed a three day exchange between Ricketts, Nelson, and the Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life, spurred by Ricketts' original challenge to Nelson's pro-life credentials last week:
I was surprised to read the comments of Pete Ricketts in a recent edition of the Daily Nebraskan. He is quoted as saying that I "(go) out and tell everybody (I'm) pro-choice." I hope this is a misstatement on his part because nothing could be further from the truth.

I am anti-abortion. And my opponent knows this because I have been endorsed by Nebraskans United for Life and received the sole endorsement of Nebraska Right to Life.

Ben Nelson
U.S. senator

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To set the record straight regarding your Thursday article on Pete Ricketts's visit with Catholic student leaders ("Ricketts has quiet visit to campus"): Sen. Ben Nelson met the criteria to receive the sole endorsement of Nebraska Right to Life PAC for the General Election....

Julie Schmit-Albin
Executive Director, Nebraska Right to Life

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In a Sept. 14 Daily Nebraskan article, I was quoted as saying that my opponent calls himself "pro-choice." This is a misprint or a misstatement.

I am fully aware that Ben Nelson claims to be anti-abortion, but his record tells a different story.

Ben Nelson's Political Action Committee has given more than $85,000 to abortion-rights candidates this year alone. After pledging in a survey for Nebraskans United for Life to support anti-abortion candidates, Ben Nelson turned around and gave $12,500 to abortion-rights, Democrat candidate Maxine Moul who is running against anti-abortion, Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry....

Nelson has voted with Sens. Barbara Boxer, Barak Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton to overturn President Reagan's Mexico City Policy and to send our federal tax dollars to foreign organizations that provide abortion. He claims this to be a "pro-life" vote. Yet, National Right to Life rated these votes of Nelson's as "negative."

I believe that life is precious and that we, as a nation, must act to preserve the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death. Ben Nelson refuses to state that life begins at conception. I am more than just "anti-abortion." I am pro-life, and I will work to promote a culture of life.

Pete Ricketts
Republican Nominee for U.S. Senate

The Ricketts campaign and the Nebraska Republican Party pulled every string they could this summer hoping to pressure one of the state's most powerful special-interest groups, Nebraska Right to Life, not to give Nelson its sole endorsement in the general election. Ricketts was sent reeling when that effort failed, and his campaign has never recovered.

Obviously, Ricketts has recognized his weak base of support, even amongst conservatives, and this newest attack is something of a desperate, last-ditch attempt to chip-away at the support Nelson has earned from this constituency, whom Ricketts confuses for unthinking Republican rubberstamps like himself. Unfortunately for him, all he's probably managed to do is highlight Nelson's "Right to Life" endorsement.

It's the outrageous spin Ricketts puts on Nelson's record, though, that is most troubling and reveals the true extent of his desperation and deception. For starters, Ricketts has lied about the amount Nelson has contributed to "abortion-rights" candidates. Ricketts' claim that Nelson has contributed "more than $85,000" through his Nebraska Leadership PAC is a gross exaggeration, failing to acknowledge that many of the candidates to whom Nelson contributed - including Scott Kleeb, Jim Esch, and Pennsylvania's Bob Casey - are all opposed to abortion. But, at this point in the campaign, why would Ricketts care about being honest and performing some actual fact-checking?

If Ricketts is going to use Nelson's contributions to pro-choice candidates to undermine his pro-life credentials, it would seem to follow that the money Ricketts himself has taken from "abortion-rights" Republicans would likewise jeopardize his own pro-life claims. It certainly follows, however, that if Ricketts wants to hold Nelson to such a standard, he ought also hold Sen. Chuck Hagel to the same. Through his Sandhills PAC, Hagel has given at least $40,000 to pro-choice candidates, including $10,000 a piece for Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI), Washington challenger Mike McGavick, and New Jersey challenger Tom Kean Jr. Hagel also gave $5,000 to both Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) and Rep. Chris Shays (CT).

Moreover, using Ricketts' extremist idea of what qualifies as pro-life, Hagel's given tens of thousands of dollars more to candidates who would not meet such ridiculous criteria. One wonders when we can expect Ricketts to call Hagel out for not being "consistently pro-life."

As for those votes Ricketts questions, he makes a complete mockery of the "pro-life" label by spinning Nelson-supported provisions in foreign funding that would save lives, having nothing at all to do with abortion, as somehow contradictory to Nelson's proven record on this issue.

It's utterly absurd, yet judging from a Ricketts meeting with the Lincoln Independent Business Association on Wednesday, Ricketts shows every sign of escalating these misguided attacks. As reported by the Lincoln Journal-Star, Ricketts not only repeated much of the above but even staked out the most reactionary position he could on embryonic stem cell research, declaring it akin to "destroy[ing] people."

That's pretty far out there and pretty far out-of-touch with the voters of Nebraska. While our entire Congressional delegation, including Nelson, voted against expanding the scope and funding of this government-sanctioned research, Ricketts is all by himself in going to this particular rhetorical extreme.

Clearly, Ricketts is grasping at straws here. The fact that this late in the campaign he'd rather squabble over who's the most pro-lifiest rather than drawing honest distinctions with Nelson that would give voters an actual choice shows just how misguided and lacking in a message the Ricketts campaign has been from the start.


Blogger Dave said...

Pete Ricketts was on KFAB the other day, talking about Ben Nelson's "ineffectiveness." A caller posed a question to him about why he isn't criticizing Lee Terry, who, in his four terms, has done absolutely nothing. Ricketts' response:

“Well I’m not running against Lee Terry right now, and I haven’t studied Lee Terry’s record. Though, again, I’d say, you know, look, if you think things in Washington are broken, if you think things have to change and we can’t continue to have business as usual, you can’t keep sending back the same old career politicians and expect to get change. You’ve gotta send somebody new.”

Esch's campaign jumped on it, and I don't imagine that Lee Terry was too happy about the vote of confidence from Ricketts today. In the end, though, it's more evidence of the hypocrisy coming from Pete Ricketts' campaign.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

You read my mind.


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