Ugh, indeed

In the you-gotta-be-kidding-me category, the Sasse for Senate campaign sent out a fundraising email Sunday saying it needed help to counter the money blitz that pro-Obamacare forces will be heaping on rival Shane Osborn.

Really? There’s a group somewhere in America running pro-Obamacare ads?  On behalf of Republican candidates? You must need X-ray specs or Google glasses to see them because they don’t exist in this world. The only Obamacare ads has seen in 2014 are those attacking Democrats. Ask Alex Sink, who was bombarded with waves anti-Obamacare ads in a recent Florida House race.

We’ll post Sasse campaign manager Tyler Grassmeyer’s email so you can read it for yourself. Interestingly, the subject line reads simply “Ugh.” is wondering if the “Ugh” is shorthand for “Ugh. I can’t believe my boss is making me send this stupid email.”

By the way, Sasse has released his own plan for health care, Sassecare. hasn’t read it yet, but if we were a drinking blog we’d be hoisting a cup at every mention of “free market solutions.”


The good news and the other news

This lucky little girl will  grow up with the story that she was born during her grandpa's run for U.S. Senate. How many kids can say that? Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Sid Dinsdale on the birth of a new granddaughter, Violet Grace.

This lucky little girl will grow up with the story that she was born during her grandpa’s run for U.S. Senate. How many kids can say that? Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Sid Dinsdale on the birth of a new granddaughter, Violet Grace.


U.S. Rep. and Mrs. Jeff Fortenberry recently spent eight days in sunny, oceanside Cartagena, Colombia, courtesy of the Aspen Institute. Roll Call’s Political Money Line column reports that the Fortenberrys were among of a contingent of 19 members of Congress (most with spouses) who went to Colombia for an “educational workshop.” The value of the Fortenberrys’ free trip was reported at $5,775.


If you missed the dust-up between Republican Senate candidates Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse, you didn’t miss anything unless you are on the far-right fringe of Nebraska Republicans.

It all started when Poltico posted a story linking Sasse to a Washington firm’s early jump on the let’s-make-money-from-Obamacare bandwagon. The Weekly Standard then came to Sasse’s defense, saying that it wasn’t true and that the Osborn campaign was peddling oppo research to Politico. Some third party jumped in with old stories about Osborn’s nasty divorce and, well, the fight was still making headlines on Sunday.

Basically, the Politico story suggests that Sasse took the expertise he gained working for former Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to the consulting firm Leavitt started after leaving President George W. Bush’s administration.

Sasse says he never made a dime from Leavitt’s firm — and that he never even really worked there — despite his name turning up on some documents and PowerPoint presentations, and former co-workers remembering him at events where Leavitt’s company wooed potential clients looking for help with Obamacare.

So what are Osborn and Sasse fighting about? Which one of them hates Obamacare most, who started hating it first, and how could Sasse even think of making money from the Affordable Care Act if he hated it so much? rates this fight as a backseat squabble that needs to end before somebody’s dad stops this car.


The May primary is still seven weeks away,  but the Sasse campaign has started distributing 14,000 pounds of yard signs. We haven’t seen any signs yet, but already misses the Lincoln city ordinance that limited campaign signs to the two weeks before the election.

By the way, you have the Legacy Foundation Action Fund to thank for Sasse’s new campaign ads. According to Federal Election Commission filings, the conservative group is spending $25,000 on internet ads and $286,160 on television time.


There’s a fascinating piece by Dan Balz in Sunday’s Washington Post about how new media consumption habits are changing campaign ad strategy. Less than half of voters (48 percent) say that live TV is their primary source of video content, so politicians are having to diversify their ad mix for those who mostly use steaming video or video on demand.

For those 52 percenters, like, who don’t watch live television, you can see Sasse’s new spot here.

Senate race roundup

Omaha banker and Republican Senate candidate launches first commerical

Omaha banker and Republican Senate candidate launches first commercial

If you missed Sid Dindale‘s first commercial during Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News Wednesday night, you can catch it here on The Omaha World-Herald says it’s a small, $15,000 buy, but we’ll undoubtedly see more from the Omaha banker’s campaign to succeed Mike Johanns in the Senate. All of the major GOP candidates for Senate have now launched commercials.

If a 16-day government shutdown didn't kill Obamacare, how do Nebraska's Senate candidates expect to do it?

If a 16-day government shutdown didn’t kill Obamacare, how do Nebraska’s Senate candidates expect to do it?

All of the Republican candidates are on the Obamacare-must-be-abolished bandwagon, but none has explained how it will be any more possible in 2015 than it was in 2013, when the House voted more than 50 times to abolish the Affordable Care Act.

The reality is that these things will have to happen first: A Republican takeover of the Senate (highly unlikely this year) AND the untimely, unfortunate deaths of both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. It is only with Republican control of the Senate and a President John Boehner (there’s a thought!) that the Affordable Care Act could be killed.

So major league kudos to Chris Schukei, assistant news director at KHAS/TV5 in Hastings, for trying to press Senate candidate Shane Osborn on how he would be any more successful in killing Obamacare than the man he hopes to replace, Sen. Mike Johanns.

Schukei’s question: “When all of you are talking about being able to repeal it and make the changes, isn’t it the reality that the equation is going to be the same? Mike Johanns has been voting no against this all the way. So, can any of you go to Washington and make any difference in this?”

Osborn’s answer: “I think you can make a difference. If you couldn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this. Right? You have to go there and build relationships and work together to get what’s best for the country done, and put the country first.” You can see the full interview at This exchange starts at about 1:38.

Osborn obviously misses the point, but you can’t really blame him. None of the Republican Senate candidates has addressed the real life obstacles that killing Obamacare would involve. And that includes prop candidate Ben Sasse, who traveled the state with a 12-foot stack of paper to represent all of the federal regulations related to Obamacare. (It’s the nation’s health care system. Of course it’s complicated. Medicare Part D was complicated, too)

* * *

Monday is the last day for aspiring members of Congress to file paperwork with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office for the May 13 primary. Candidates need to appear in person and bring $1,740 to cover the filing fee.


Finally, is soliciting questions you would like to see answered by House and Senate candidates before the primary election. How old is the Earth? is the first question on our list. It may seem silly, but the answer — 5,000 years or a whole lot older than that — tells you a lot about a person and their politics.

Add your questions through the comments box or send them to

The fizzle of the nuclear option

Deb Fischer reacts to changes in Senate filibuster rules

For some in Republicanland, there is no problem that cannot be connected to Obamacare. Sen. Fischer’s comment about a broken promise is an apparent reference to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement in July that he would not pursue the nuclear option. Since then, Senate Republicans have reneged on their  promise not to filibuster President Obama’s judicial nominees.

How upset were Senate Republicans when their Democratic colleagues voted Thursday to upend tradition and lower the threshold for  overcoming filibusters on presidential nominees?

Not very.

Thursday morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid spent 15 minutes laying out the case for dropping the number of votes needed for most executive branch and judicial nominees from 60 to 50.

  • Senate Republicans have filibustered 160 Obama appointees in less than five years.
  • There are now 75 executive branch nominees pending in the Senate. Ten percent of federal judgeships are vacant.
  • Republican filibusters have left important departments leaderless. It was 900 days before the Senate confirmed an EPA administrator. Former Neb. Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination was held up 34 days — three times longer than normal for a secretary of Defense nominee, and at a time when the U.S. was actively involved in a ground war. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was leaderless for two years — long enough for the woman largely responsible for its creation, Elizabeth Warren, to get herself elected to the Senate in time to vote for Obama’s pick.

“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken,” Reid said. “And  I believe the American people are right.”

Then his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke for another 15 minutes. Not about Senate tradition, or the importance of a minority voice, or even the filibuster rules. He talked about Obamacare.

“Over the past several weeks, the American people have been witness to one of the most breathtaking — breathtaking — indictments of big-government liberalism in memory, and I’m not just talking about a website,” McConnell started.

“I’m talking about the way in which Obamacare was forced on the public by an administration and a Democratic-led Congress that we now know is willing to do and say anything — anything — to pass the law.”

And that’s the way McConnell continued. Obamacare. Obamacare. Obamacare. Even the vote to change the filibuster rules was, he said, a means of distracting the public from Obamacare. It wasn’t until later — in many cases much later — that the rules change itself got any attention.

Why the lack of concern over the filibuster vote?

First, some Republican senators will be relieved that they don’t have to vote for presidential nominees, no matter how qualified. Scads of conservative groups that give money and other support to Senators also rank members of Congress on their votes — including votes of presidential appointees. In addition to possible concern about future fundraising, the rankings matter because voters use them when deciding which candidates to support.

Heritage Action, the political action arm of the Heritage Foundation, for example, has used six Obama nominations in its scoring of Senators this year. One of them was Hagel’s nomination, on which Nebraska’s Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer split. Johanns, who is retiring next year, voted for his fellow Nebraskan. Fischer did not.

(Overall, neither Nebraska senator ranks up to par with Heritage Action, which currently rates Johanns at  56 percent and Fischer at 64 percent. This year’s Republican average in the Senate was a 67 percent score on 31 votes.)

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss) is one member of Congress who might be relieved not to have to vote on presidential nominees. Far-right national fundraising groups are so unhappy with Cochran's moderate, traditionalist performance that they have already endorsed a different Republican in Mississippi's 2014 primary. Cochran has not said yet whether he will run for re-election.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss) is one member of Congress who might be relieved not to have to vote on presidential nominees. Far-right national fundraising groups are so unhappy with Cochran’s moderate, traditionalist performance that they have already endorsed a different Republican in Mississippi’s 2014 primary. Cochran has not said yet whether he will run for re-election.

Second,  blasting Obamacare is the only thing Republicans have going for them. Their approval rating is at rock-bottom, and they aren’t getting anything done. No Farm Bill, no budget, no agreement on immigration reform. By Republican design, it will be one of the least productive years in congressional history.

Anyone who missed the message about obstructionism from the inaugural-night meeting Republicans held in 2009 to plan anti-Obama strategy, got a reminder from  Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)  in July.

“We should not be judged on how many laws we create,” Boehner told CBS News. “We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

See Thursday morning’s conversation  between Reid and McConnell at C-Span,

Sasse campaign hits email snag

Ben Sasse's campaign to become Nebraska's next member of the U.S. Senate hit a snag Thursday when the wrong email was sent to supporters.

Ben Sasse’s campaign to become Nebraska’s next member of the U.S. Senate hit a snag Thursday when the wrong email was sent to supporters.

Political campaigns often send out various versions of the same basic email message. Depending on the sophistication of their database,  a campaign will send out emails to groups based on gender, age group or their stated position in a particular issue.  There might also be one version for big donors, a different one for smaller donors and a third for supporters but non-donors — the people the campaign wants to encourage to donate.

We don’t know which, if any, special group Ben Sasse’s campaign  was targeting when it set this glitchy email Friday, but it looks as if the declared anti-Obamacare candidate in the race for Mike Johanns’ Senate seat might have suffered from some of the same technical snags as the much-maligned roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. We just hope it wasn’t a $300 million snafu.

Sasse’s email was headlined: “RE: Generic Email sent to Online Signups”

Campaign manager Tyler Grassmeyer followed up  a couple of hours later with an agile, non-generic email apology for the earlier message:

“As you know, there is nothing generic about the problems our country faces or the constructive conservative solutions Ben Sasse can bring to the U.S. Senate to fix those problems.”

Don’t hate on Obamacare

Why is Obamacare so unpopular with Washington Republicans that they continue their obviously futile maneuvering to kill or delay the Affordable Care Act?

First, some members of Congress hate the President so much that they automatically hate everything he likes.

Second, there are members who oppose Obamacare because of the traditional Republican opposition to  “big government.” (Put it in quotes only because no one has ever defined “too big.” They can’t describe it, but they know it when they see it.)

But there is probably a third, even greater, reason why so many Americans are telling Republican members of  Congress that they don’t want Obamacare. It’s because people  hate insurance in general.

We buy it, but we don’t like buying it. In some cases, it’s money we spend to protect ourselves from catastrophes that aren’t likely to happen. We buy property insurance even though the statistical likelihood that our house will burn down or disappear down a sinkhole is very small.

We buy auto insurance to protect ourselves from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. Logically, we know we need it, but when we cruise down the street we don’t glory in the excellent coverage we have. If we glory it all, it’s because we have a hotter or faster car than the guy in the next lane. No one turns their head to stare when a well-insured driver goes by.

Are you going to wind up wrapped in your deliriously happy spouse’s arms if you beef up your life insurance? Would you get a better response if you brought home  that big-screen TV or a jewel-encrusted necklace?

Who even reads their insurance policies? Most Americans take those over-sized envelopes that comes in the mail and stuff them  into the same drawer where they keep all the other the information they may need someday, but in all likelihood will never again see. Like all those years’ worth of back income tax returns and the warranty for the washer and dryer.

But the much, much bigger reason that people hate insurance because it often sucks — no matter how much we pay for it.

The idea behind insurance is that the carrier pools our money with a lot of other peoples’ money. Not everyone’s house is going to burn down this year. Not everyone is going to be in a car accident or get sick. By pooling money from lots of people, the insurance company can pay claims and still make money.

The reason insurance sucks is that  it doesn’t work that way in reality.  When we turn in a claim on our car, we know that our rates are going to rise until we have paid  back every last nickel the insurance company paid to have our car fixed.  That’s not insurance in the classic sense  — it’s a short-term loan from the insurance company!

Who hasn’t had a bad experience with insurance?  Your rates go up when you do nothing wrong and somebody hits you! Your rate will likely go up if you move into  a zip code where the insurance company thinks the drivers are worse than in your old neighborhood. If your credit rating goes down, your insurance rates go up. You may not think your old bills have anything to do with your driving skills, but the insurance carriers don’t agree.

Even worse are the surprises that come with medical bills. Deductibles, co-pays, lifetime caps that are reached in the midst of cancer treatment. Coverage that is denied due to a pre-existing condition.  Who knew that stomachache you had in 2008 was actually the birth of a gallstone? A $5,000 cap on mental health services? What do you do when your kid needs $30,000 worth of drug rehab?

The problems with pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps will be ended by Obamacare.  The dependence on insurance being provided by your employer goes away too, which means that people who are 10 to 15 years away from Medicare won’t have to hang onto their jobs by their fingernails, just for the  insurance.

What’s wrong with Obamacare? Even most Republicans don’t want to repeal all of it. They want to keep the parts that people already know and like. In addition to the end of pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps, the Affordable Care Act also allows parents to continue paying for their children’s coverage until they are 25, and it eliminates the  “donut hole” in seniors’ prescription drug coverage.

So maybe it’s time for Americans — even Republicans — to ask themselves just what it is about Obamacare that they hate. Could it be that you really don’t hate the Affordable Care Act? Could it really be just the insurance industry that you hate? Isn’t it true that just thinking about insurance gives you a headache?

Everyone past 40 has  had at least one bad experience with the current insurance system, but who’s  had a bad experience with the Affordable Care Act? Why not give it a shot?

We may not like the individual mandate, but Americans deal with mandates all the time. Your mortgage company mandates full coverage on your house.  The state mandates a certain amount of auto insurance even for the safest of drivers.

And who doesn’t burn just a bit over the extra money we have to spend to protect ourselves  from un- and under-insured drivers? Why aren’t those people more responsible?

By making affordable health insurance available to everyone, and by requiring everyone to have it, it makes “those people” more responsible for themselves. How is that bad?

America was built on individual responsibility. Historians called it “rugged individualism.” Isn’t it time to give it a try with health insurance?