U.S. Senator Earl Ben Nelson is no doubt pulling out all the stops to ensure his victory in the fall. He has married himself to the Dave Heineman position regarding immigration – ironically to the right of Pete Ricketts. (Ricketts has instead decided to go lock step with Chuck Hagel, and we’ll see where that gets him. This could be the overriding issue in November, and could be trouble for Petey.)
Now Earl has nailed down another issue: protectionism! The U.S. had been exporting around a billion dollars worth of beef to Japan. Japan finds some bones in a shipment, and immediately calls a halt to all U.S. beef imports — a pretty big deal to Nebraska cattle men and all the related industries. So what does Earl propose?
A ban on Japanese Kobe beef.
And how much Kobe beef does the U.S. import? Around a million dollars worth (or less) a year. So let’s see, a million divided by a billion, (carry the one) and that comes out to about 0.1% of what the U.S. exports to Japan.
The Japanese haven’t quaked so much since the invasion by Mothra.
Earl B. admits it’s a “pittance”. He says it’s the “principle”. (Nelson aims to halt beef from Japan – OWH – 6/1/06). What’s that principle again? Beef for beef? Because if we’re really talking about principle, Earl should go after something that is questionable (slightly) on the Japanese import side – DVD players or ginsu knives maybe. Heck how about sake? Something that could raise just a little ire in Japan. It’s like when you put your hand on your little brother’s head as he swings away a few times. I suppose it makes little Earl feel good. Because it certainly won’t affect the Japanese.
It will be interesting to see if anyone (any voters) see through this meaningless grandstanding by Earl. He proposed this before in the Senate, and even Chuck Hagel voted against the bill. And yesterday, referring to China, but very likely a jab at his Jr. Senator, Hagel warned against a “sophisticated, dangerous protectionism streak” in Congress. He went on to say, “Things can always be resolved through dialogue and discussion” (Experts talk trade during China forum – OWH- 6/2/06).
Hagel pointed out that the embargo would likely end at the end of June, but Nelson insisted on the end of May (Beef trade set to resume, Hagel says – OWH – 5/26/06). Why? So Earl could grandstand on it for a month, then make it seem like Godzilla himself caved to his pressure. He’s also going to demand that the sun rise tomorrow or he’ll propose an anti-sun bill in the Senate immediately.
It will be interesting to see how many more bald-faced pandering moves Earl B. Nelson can make before people start calling him on them. Politically shrewd or doing anything to win?