I have these strange fears. I'm afraid it's not going to be a very
exciting gubernatorial campaign this fall. I'm afraid it's going to be
downright dull. A real snorer. Dozeville. Chloroform City.
Run this through your snoozometer and you'll see what I mean:
Gene Spence is an SOB and he knows it. Gene Spence is a "Smircher
of Ben." (The quotation marks are a nudge in the ribs to make sure you
Let's see. Is that funny? Well, maybe a little bit. Not a
thigh-slapper for sure. Certainly nothing to make your Dr. Pepper come
out your nose. But yes, I believe it is a tiny bit funny.
You recognize the formula. Mr. Spence used it last month when he
said that "Ben Nelson is an SOB and he knows it. Ben Nelson is a
'Supporter of Bill.'"
Now had Democrats been on their toes they might have exploited that
little pleasantry. They might have asked if we really want four years
of jokes like that emanating from our Governor's Mansion. They might
have pointed out that levity isn't the GOP's strong suit, that since
Terry Carpenter died, the wittiest ranking Republican in the general
vicinity of the Nebraska statehouse has been the statue of Abraham
Instead, Democrats went sanctimonious on us. They began imitating
Sen. Orrin Hatch having his Republican sensibilities offended at the
confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas three years ago.
"Calling someone an abusive name is not cute," Democrat State
Chairman Joe Battaillon sniffed, sounding a lot like my Sunday School
teacher back home. "I thought Gene Spence was a gentleman."
O cruel disappointment.
For his "gutter politics," his "intemperate language," and his
"particular brand of sleaze," Democrat letters to the editor declared
Mr. Spence winner of the "Political Sewage Award."
Rather than telling his supporters to lighten up, that it was just
a bad joke, The Guv Himself encouraged further hyperpiety by pursing his
lips, plucking a few harp chords, and speaking in the following manner:
"My opponents can take any road they choose. I intend to stay on
the high road. If they want to use crude language, that's their choice."
Isn't that special?
When The Guv talks like that, don't you just want to slip a whoopee
cushion into his chair? Not while he's sitting in it, of course, but
when he steps out of the office a moment to freshen up his gubernatorial
virtue and consult with Mr. Stenberg about how soon we might get an
A jumbo whoopee cushion that sounds like a flatulent moose.
But Mr. Spence did not call attention to the Democrats' New
Puritanism or New Unctuousness or New Mealy-Mouthism or whatever it is.
Nor did Mr. Spence suggest that The Guv might best be treated for his
terminal high-mindedness by a jumbo whoopee cushion that sounds like a
The Truth, Mainly
Instead, Mr. Spence became the very model of Republican decorum,
making you want to put a whoopee cushion in his chair too.
We had him all wrong, he said. He didn't mean, God knows, to say
anything derogatory or profane. His SOB comment "was meant to show that
Ben Nelson supports Bill Clinton and I don't."
Holy Political Insight! Stop the presses!
A Democrat governor who supports a Democrat president? A
Republican challenger who doesn't? How's the body politic supposed to
contain its excitement? Won't there be rioting in the streets?
It's enough to make you want to move to Texas.
There, Molly Ivins tells us, a few years ago Democrat challenger A.
Don Crowder called Governor Mark White "one of the first nerds in Texas"
for having pushed through rules that said you can't play high school
football unless you pass your classes. Indisputable evidence of White's
early nerdishness, Crowder said, was that his high school yearbook
showed he took part in no extracurricular activities. That, Crowder
concluded, explained "the psychological reasoning behind White's dislike
Why don't we get to have candidates like that in Nebraska?
I imagine that we've seen the high-water mark of this campaign,
that it'll be all lobbed marshmallows from here on in. Having been
alarmed by the SOB joke, The Guv and Mr. Spence will simply exchange
pieties and avoid saying anything that matters.
My inner Pollyanna says maybe that's not all bad. We'll just zonk
out when they speak. The naps will be good for our digestion.
And besides, if we find out what they think about real
questionsfor example, why "socialized medicine" is good for our
congressional delegation but bad for the rest of Nebraskanswe might
have trouble sleeping at night.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.