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Don Walton: Congressional delegation meets elephant in the room

August 6, 2018

Nebraska’s congressional delegation meets on Thursday with members of the Lincoln and Omaha business communities along with a variety of heavy-hitters who help determine or influence public policy.

The annual session at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum along Interstate 80 near Ashland is sponsored by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

It will be particularly interesting to see what members of the delegation choose to talk about in their series of opening remarks this year.

Tax cuts, probably. Increased defense spending, probably. The economy, probably. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, probably.

Trade and tariffs, maybe.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether Mueller should be allowed to complete his investigation unimpeded despite President Donald Trump’s accelerated pressure to end it “right now.”

Uh, well, perhaps, we’ll see.

That’s the big elephant that will be hanging up there in the cavernous room along with the historic military aircraft.

The Chamber-sponsored gathering always is a lively event, sometimes on the stage, but always in the networking activity that occurs among business leaders, legislators, lobbyists and others who engage in both the public and private sector.

It’s always a good thing to have Omaha and Lincoln get together, each coming down the interstate to meet up with each other halfway between the two cities.

* * *

Richard Lowitt, a major political historian whose work was closely tied to Nebraska history, died in June at the age of 96.

Lowitt focused on the American West.

His works include a three-volume biography of George W. Norris and “The Standing Bear Controversy: Prelude to Indian Reform.”

The titles of his Norris books celebrated “The Making of a Progressive” followed by “The Persistence of a Progressive” and then “The Triumph of a Progressive.”

Lowitt taught history at a number of universities, including the University of Oklahoma.

Interestingly, it would be hard to find two more consequential political figures in Nebraska history in terms of achievements than Norris and Norbert Tiemann and neither is celebrated by either political party today.

And that tells you something.

* * *

Finishing up:

* President Richard Nixon in remarks during his State of the Union address to Congress, Jan. 30, 1974: “I believe the time has come to bring that (Watergate) investigation and the other investigations of the matter to an end.”

* Credit to Lee Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who answered every question posed to him during an interview in Lincoln when it would have been easy to say that part of immigration policy does not fall directly within my purview. The takeaway is that Lady Liberty no longer accurately speaks for us.

* When the Nebraska Legislature repealed the death penalty in 2015, the event was celebrated with a lighted Roman Colosseum. Now, Pope Francis and the Vatican announce the Catholic Church has changed its Catachism to oppose any use of the death penalty 12 days before Nebraska’s first scheduled execution in two decades.

* J.B. Milliken moves from one big challenge to another at the top of his profession.

* As the University of Nebraska prepares to battle for a constricted two-year state budget request that Regent Howard Hawks describes as “less money than we need,” it becomes more clear that Sen. John Stinner of Gering will be a huge and consequential figure in the 2019 Legislature. He’s chairman of the Appropriations Committee and will be entering his second and final legislative term.

* Both political parties have their eyes set on non-partisan legislative races with the sharpest focus on Omaha.

* Only indirectly related — with current policy considerations at the top of the list — is the fact that state senators who are elected in November will participate in congressional and legislative redistricting decisions following the 2020 census. New population figures will require state senators to move more power in the Legislature from rural Nebraska to the two big cities.

* Lots of guessing now on how many games this year’s Huskers will win as the Scott Frost era begins; more important at this point, I think, is in how many games will the Huskers be competitive with a chance to win.

* Let’s skip baseball this time.

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