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11-11-2012, 06:17 PM #1
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Bob Kerrey: Political hatred a growing problem
Kerrey: Political hatred a growing problem
November 08, 2012 5:57 pm • Associated Press
OMAHA — Sitting in his midtown Omaha home a day after Tuesday's election, Bob Kerrey said a shout from outside made him reflect on what he believes is political hatred that has grown increasingly intense.
"Somebody in my neighborhood walking their dog ... was screaming at me, 'Why don't you go back to New York, you carpetbagger!'" Kerrey said Thursday. "There's a lot of anger in this state. The anti-Obama, anti-Obamacare, anti-Harry Reid anger washed over onto me. And some of it is decidedly unpleasant."
In a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Kerrey said he understands people disagreeing with his views, but the anger he's seen is unsettling.
"Hatred is a dangerous thing," he said.
Kerrey, a Democrat, lost by double-digits to Republican Deb Fischer, a two-term state senator who will replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson.
Fischer said she hasn't seen the political hatred Kerrey referenced.
"I probably had a couple of people (who) didn't like me," she said. "It wasn't any yelling or anything. But a couple of people, when I'd try to shake their hand, they said, 'Nope. Nope. Not going to vote for you.' And I'd say, 'Well, I hope you have a good day.' And I moved on.
"It was very rare. I have found always that Nebraskans are respectful," she said.
She wouldn't call it hatred, but she acknowledged plenty of anger.
"Of course, there's frustration out there. And it is because they see the gridlock. They see nothing's happening. They understand that (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid controls the agenda, and that's why nothing is happening in the Senate."
Kerrey insists the anger is not hard to find — one need only look as far as his campaign.
"There was a supporter of mine in Scotts Bluff County that had a swastika put on his car. And this was a guy who fought the Nazis in the Second World War. There was a guy earlier in the campaign who wanted to shoot me," Kerrey said.
In that case, a 68-year-old Omaha man faces a federal charge of using interstate communication to threaten another person. Prosecutors said the man sent an email in August to a political action committee suggesting putting "bullets in Democrat heads," including Kerrey's.
Kerrey said he does not consider the man a threat, and even told the man's attorney as much, "But it came from an ugly, ugly place," he said.
"It's not political disagreements here now. It's not: Here's your view on abortion; here's my view on abortion. Here's your view on taxes; here's my view on taxes. It's flipping off a candidate with his son standing right next to him in a parade. That's the experience that I'm having. Fortunately, I don't have to experience it anymore."
He thinks the contempt and vitriol is hurting the state.
"I think there's a significant difference between what I could have done for Nebraska and what Sen. Fischer will be able to do," Kerrey said. "I think it's measurable. That's why I was campaigning, but Nebraskans chose something else. And they will get it."
Kerrey blames his loss on millions of dollars spent by outside groups on political ads painting him as liberal New Yorker. Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and two-term U.S. senator who grew up in Lincoln, moved to New York at the end of his second Senate term to become president of The New School.
"I think if I had not gone to New York — if I had left the Senate and stayed in Nebraska — I think it's a different campaign," he said. "It was not seen as a positive. Very few people regarded it as something that might help me understand the cost of higher education or national security because of 9-11. It was seen almost entirely as a negative."
Kerrey said he's not bitter about the loss, but acknowledged that questions of whether Democrats have a place in Nebraska evoke his passionate response.
"As a Nebraskan who has paid lots more taxes than Deb Fischer and probably more than all five of the Republican statewide officeholders combined, I want this to be an inclusive place," he said. "Gay, straight, men, women, Republican, Democrat — I want this to be an inclusive place," he said.
The state has benefited enormously from the influx of Latinos in recent years, even those here illegally, he said. They are paying customers who contribute to the local economy, said Kerrey, who owns five health clubs and eight restaurants in Omaha and Lincoln.
Those businesses and his family and friends in Nebraska will keep him tied to the state, Kerrey said. He also plans to keep the Omaha house he bought in May. But he doesn't know whether he'll stay in Nebraska. Much will depend on where he finds his next job; retirement, the 69-year-old Kerrey said, isn't an option.
"Whatever it is, it will be private," he said. "I'll be back in the private sector."
Kerrey: Political hatred a growing problem : Politics
11-13-2012, 11:45 AM #2
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