The Miseducation of Jon Bruning

The old story of Attorney General Jon Bruning’s path from Daily Nebraskan liberal to hardcore conservative has been around for years. I remember back during my second stint at the DN in grad school, a few politically minded students discovered that Bruning’s liberal columns had been removed from the bound volumes in the DN archives. A few years later, when Bruning announced he would challenge Chuck Hagel, a scan of one (or maybe more?) of Bruning’s columns appeared on the Leavenworth Street blog. Recently, they’ve surfaced once again now that Bruning is planning on challenging Ben Nelson. Bold Nebraska wrote about Bruning’s liberal youth a few weeks ago, and yesterday it showed up on Politico.

In case it needs to be said, I am no fan of Jon Bruning’s politics. I’ve heard he’s a nice guy in person, and I once invited him to an informal Daily Nebraskan alumni reunion before P.O. Pears closed down, but I doubt I could disagree with him more on policy views. But I just don’t think this should be an issue. People’s opinions change over time! When I was a teenager, I loved Rush Limbaugh! I listened to his radio show and read his books! My persuasive speech in freshman year speech class was on the myth of global warming! And look at me now — I’m practically a commie pinko!

I don’t know why I wandered into the abyss of Politico comments, as that’s usually a hellhole of Drudge-directed morons, but commenter “Matlock” made what I think is a very good point:

Sometimes politicians who legitimately change their minds have more depth than those who were precinct walking while still in utero because they have actually thought through the issues.

I realize the rules of the Republican tribe are different than those that govern the rest of reality, but personally I think it’s kind of meaningful when somebody leaves the other team for yours. It’s like how my mom, the Lutheran convert, is the most gung-ho Catholic in our family. If not for her, I dare say there would’ve been a lot more sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

There are plenty of things to pick on Jon Bruning for — things he’s doing now and things he wants to do in the future. I find those things much more relevant and persuasive than things he wrote 20 years ago.

UPDATE: Deena Winter is on the case now too.

2 Responses to The Miseducation of Jon Bruning

  1. jd says:

    I guess I’d agree with you normally, though I’d also point out that there’s a huge difference between a high school freshman and a law school student. The articles I’ve seen date from 1993 to 1994, when he graduated from UNL Law. He began his political career almost immediately upon graduating from law school. He was elected to the legislature in 1996, as a conservative Republican. That’s a big shift in a short time period.

    And while he’s been a conservative for most of his public life, the fact that it so quickly followed a time where he was a passionate liberal certainly makes you question whether he sincerely believes any of this, or if he’s just using it to get elected. I know, stupid naive liberal that I am, I actually think politicians should believe in the messages they’re delivering.

  2. Anon says:

    If it’s no big deal, then why were the original columns removed form the archives?

    I know the person who found the articles and passed them on to Leavenworth and a couple other places. Turns out that Bruning’s henchmen forgot to remove the microfiche copies :-)

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