I first met Ben Nelson in 1996 when I interviewed him for an article I was writing. He was then serving as governor of the state of Nebraska, and was mere months away from a humiliating defeat at the hands of Republican Chuck Hagel, an investment banker making his first run for public office, for the United States Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. J.J. Exon.
Nelson would go on to win Nebraska's other U.S. Senate seat in 2000, but on that day back in 1996, I asked him why he had chosen a decidedly pro-choice lieutenant governor when he had always claimed to be pro-life himself. His response startled me, because Lt. Gov. Kim Robak was a well known pro-abortion feminist.
"I think that if you talk to her," he said, "you will find that she is not really as pro-choice as you think she is."
Nelson was handily re-elected to the senate in 2006, despite the deep pockets of his Republican opponent, Pete Ricketts, who spent $12 million of his own money in an attempt to unseat him. Nelson has always been a tough Democrat to beat because of his moderate-to-conservative stand on almost every issue. During that 2006 campaign, Ricketts ran a series of commercials wherein he said, "Ben Nelson is no Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, but he is a Democrat who will vote for Democrats."
I thought of that commercial and that conversation I had with Nelson back in 1996 when I read last week that he had endorsed Barack Obama for president.
Ben Nelson's rationale for endorsing the most radically left-wing candidate ever to seek the presidency is that Obama can "unite the country" and "end the poisonous partisan atmosphere" in Washington. Well. I almost don't know how to respond to that.
Yes, I do.
A few years ago, having failed to pass a partial birth abortion ban that would not be struck down by the courts, state and federal government was wrestling with the issue of at least protecting babies who were born alive during an abortion. In 2002, the United States Senate passed legislation providing such protection. The vote was 98-0.
Barack Obama was serving in the Illinois State Senate at the time. When similar legislation came before that body, Obama opposed it. This great uniter of the country, this paragon of virtue who Ben Nelson believes will end the poisonous partisan atmosphere in Washington, could not even find it in his hardened heart to offer protection to a baby who somehow manages to survive an abortionist's attempt to end his or her life.
Do you realize the ramifications of such a position? Barack Obama, candidate for president of the United States, favors allowing abortionists to kill babies after they have been born alive!
In addition to his disregard for life, Obama supports a cut-and-run, retreat-and-defeat policy in the main front of our war on terror. Like most Democrats, he advocates a universal health care scheme that threatens to destroy the finest system in the world. His casual attitude toward the sanctity of marriage could jeopardize the future of the institution itself. He would leave our southern border wide open to millions of illegal aliens to cross and provide amnesty to those who have already entered. And his hostility toward the Second Amendment makes him the enemy of every freedom-loving gun owner in the country.
In short, based on what Ben Nelson has told Nebraskans for the last twenty years, there is not an issue on which he and Barack Obama agree. And yet Nebraska's soon-to-be senior senator thinks this is the man to "unite the country" and "end partisanship in Washington."
Well, here's a thought: I don't want my country united around such a set of beliefs. And if partisanship means opposing a radical such as Barack Obama, then I'm all for it. Partisanship is good. Partisanship works. Partisans of conscience will always oppose such thinking. And if Ben Nelson can endorse a candidate who holds such beliefs, then he has sold out every principle he ever had.