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Damned if they do, damned if they don't

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

LINCOLN -- If it ain't one thing ...

U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson decided to retire in the face of what would have been the toughest and undoubtedly the ugliest campaign of his political career.

The two-term Democrat was already the subject of vilification for his votes on revising federal healthcare policy, and anything else he'd ever done that was even vaguely in line with the Obama administration.

And there are times when there is no pleasing a ridiculously fickle electorate, no matter what.

The feds are proceeding with plans for the StratCom headquarters complex at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha. It's a billion-dollar deal that will mean billions of dollars annually for Nebraska's economy.

Think about that. "Billions" is a commonly used word these days, but we shouldn't regard it so casually. Billions of dollars running through the Nebraska economy; that's a lot.

There is more honor among thieves than among members of the House and Senate when it comes to stealing such juicy federal projects from each other. Many a congressional eye, hungry for the jobs and long-term economic benefits of such a project, were cast upon the new StratCom project.

Nelson has thus far succeeded in winning hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations for the complex.

And where did Nelson's successful effort begin?

It began with his farsighted earmarking of money for the project years ago.

You remember the great national bugaboo about congressional earmarks, right?

Nelson was among a comparative few in Washington who, in the face of a national mob reaction against earmarks, tried to point out that it wasn't the evil thing it was portrayed to be -- especially for states like Nebraska.

But, business is business and politics is a particularly crazy business.

The election-year scenario is easy to imagine. If Nelson hadn't locked down StratCom's future in Nebraska, he would have been labeled as ineffectual and without the leadership ability the state needs in Washington.

Since he did succeed in keeping this national defense gold mine for the state, he would have been criticized indirectly as a big spender who added to the national deficit -- and for participating in the use of those damnable earmarks.

If it ain't one thing, it's always something else.

Nelson's situation is/was anything but unique. "Damn them if they do and damn them if they don't" is the standard approach every political party takes toward its opponents. And it's true: If an American president successfully negotiated world peace, opponents would complain that the defense industry was bound to suffer as a result.

Fischer signs with Norquist

Republican Senate hopeful Deb Fischer has signed the controversial pledge, pushed by national anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, not to vote for any tax increase of any kind.

The state senator from Valentine said Nebraskans favor such a position. Critics, including a growing number of Republicans in Congress, have said the pledge goes too far because Norquist contends that closing tax loopholes counts as increasing taxes.

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This was Ed Howard's last column. He passed away Sunday.

-- Posted by bcrosby on Thu, Jun 7, 2012, at 3:19 PM

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J.L. Schmidt
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Nebraska Press Association