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February 8, 2011


Nelson going after Bruning’s college days as a Dem

by Deena Winter

Our first clue came in Sunday’s Journal Star story about comments U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson made to young Democrats over the weekend: He called Attorney General Jon Bruning (his opponent next year, if he runs again) a “political weather vane” and said the wild swings in Bruning’s political positions “will come out along the way.”
The reporter, Don Walton, didn’t explain what Nelson was referring to, but it’s clear Nelson was talking about Bruning’s past as a Democrat, way back in college. Politico picked up where Don left off, reporting Monday about Bruning’s swing from D to R:

But as a law student at the University of Nebraska almost two decades ago, a younger Bruning was critical of the NRA, supportive of gays to serve as Boy Scout leaders and unabashedly in favor of a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Politico is referring to column Bruning wrote for the Daily Nebraskan when he was a columnist there during his second year of law school. In it, he called Hillary Clinton an “amazing woman,” said women should have the “right to choose,” said he believed in gun control, affirmative action and that “homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else,” including to be Boy Scout leaders. Oh, and just for good measure, he said trickle-down economics were a farce and that Reagan was incapable of “understanding complex policy arguments.”

Clearly, if you read the column, Bruning was trying to get a reaction out of DN readers. But clearly he’s also had a big change of heart since then — and who says we all have to keep the same political position throughout life? A Bruning advisor acknowledged to Politico that Bruning did write the column, but said as Bruning matured, started a family and began his law career, he “embraced conservative principles.” Did he ever.

Several years ago, a reader sent me the same column Bruning wrote. I didn’t cover state politics, so it was of little interest to me. I probably passed it on to Don Walton. I never forgot it though — when you look at how conservative Bruning is today, it’s hard to believe he’s changed so much since college.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. CJ
    Feb 8 2011

    He hasn’t changed. It’s political expediency uber alles.

  2. Cindy
    Feb 8 2011

    Bruning is one sick man. He announced he was running for Senate, he hired Magellan Strategies to conduct some six-figure polling, then a couple weeks later he orders the Supreme Court to schedule an execution. Playing politics with lives is A-OK with Wrong Way John.

  3. Joe's Bro
    Feb 8 2011

    Senator Nelson. In Nebraska we call what happened 30 years ago as water under the bridge. I guess in Washington you call it news.

  4. ej
    Feb 9 2011

    I guess if this is all Ben’s got, then good luck to him. I know my political positions have changed a lot since when I was in college. It’s amazing how that happens when you have to start paying taxes.

  5. Jeffrey Poley
    Feb 9 2011

    It’s one thing to change (mature?) one’s politics, but it’s much more questionable to change one’s basic moral compass. After reading your column, I’d say the best way to describe Bruning’s moral position is shallow and opportunistic.


  6. Jane H Kinsey
    Feb 9 2011

    Who trusts politicians?

  7. Ivy Harper
    Feb 9 2011

    We are all Works in Progress. For me, learning this information about Attorney General Bruning makes him a far more interesting candidate.

    All manner of conservative Republicans began their political lives as liberal Democrats like Ronald Reagan; similarly, scores of devout Dems started college as Young Republicans just like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    We grow. We learn. We change. We evolve. It’s called “life.”

    Awesome article, Deena.


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  1. - cartoons by neal obermeyer » Blog Archive » The Miseducation of Jon Bruning

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