At some point, we get all of the statewide candidates running for Governor, Congress and the Senate through the York News-Times office. Why? Because it is free publicity, that’s why! And, despite all you may heave heard or read about newspapers being a dying business, these candidates still know newspapers are the primary source of local news, be it in print or digital formats.
So here they come, one at a time, some traveling with aides that drive them around like royalty, taking notes on every word the candidate says, presumably keeping them on a tight leash, and coaching them not to say anything that could come close to a campaign promise they might be held accountable for at a later time. (Which is why we shoot video of them when they are here, so we have a complete record of what they tell you though us.)
On a rare occasion a candidate comes into our office alone. Example: Sen. Deb Fischer did, but not any longer. In fact the last time Deb was in, her “keeper” refused to let us use video. In hindsight, we should have stopped the interview right then and there.
Not Tom Osborne. Tom always drove up to the office alone, came in and made sure he said hello to most of the News-Times staff. Can’t say we ever had any other candidate say hello to the staff before. Tells you a lot about the man, Tom Osborne, doesn’t it?
In our conference room, under the watchful eye of the candidates’ “handlers” the interview begins. Usually we ask, “Why are you doing this?” The normal response, “I think I can make a difference.” Then the actual issues are raised, and here is where most candidates drift off into that all too predictable “Party Line”. They tell us all the problems in Washington or Lincoln; can’t get along, spend too much, tax too much, need more bipartisanship, blah, blah, blah.
Well, here at the News-Times we are tired of hearing what the problems are. We know the dang problems. We have to live with them every day, and most of these problems were created by government in the first place.
We want answers. We want the candidates to tell us their solutions. We want to know exactly what they intend to do in exchange for your vote. But no… all we get are “positions”.
What is a position? Let’s play a little game. I’ll give you several positions, and then tell me if you would vote for this candidate.
“I am all for the middle class. The middle class will be high priority for me when I am elected.”
“We need to balance our budget, just like the voters have to balance theirs. I will not rest until we have a balanced budget.”
“We need to concentrate on creating jobs. I will work across party lines to create jobs and put Americans back to work again!”
“Taxes are too high and the amount of waste, fraud and abuse is unacceptable in Washington. We need to hold our government accountable and get back on solid fiscal policy.”
“Washington just doesn’t get it. We need to take Nebraska values like common sense and hard work to Washington.”
“We must take care of our seniors. We made promises to them and we need to do all we can to keep those promises.”
“We need to make education more affordable and accessible to all children. I’ll work hard on making college education more affordable.”
“Nothing is more important than our nation’s security and I’ll be there for our current military and our brave veterans.”
“Healthcare remains unaffordable despite the Affordable Care Act. We need to repeal Obamacare and offer a different solution.”
More blah, blah, blah. Did you see anywhere above where our make-believe candidate tells you exactly what they would do to change anything? Of course you didn’t. That’s the idea. Don’t say anything that means you actually may have to produce some measurable results.
I can just hear some of the handlers when they get back in the car. “Good job! You followed the two rules of politics perfectly! One, say what you must to get elected, and two, say what you must to get re-elected. You are good!”
So the next time you listen to a candidate, don’t pay any attention when they tell us all the problems in government unless they follow it up with their specific plan to remedy the problem. Don’t pay any attention when they tell you all their positions, unless they follow it up with exactly what they intend to do to make it happen.
Then and only then will you have a candidate worth listening to.
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