March 20, 2023

Listen: Ricketts talks politics and family on Axelrod podcast | Regional Government

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Pete Ricketts and David Axelrod engaged in a revealing and wide-ranging discussion while the governor was in Chicago a week ago for an appearance at the University of Chicago and you can listen in on their conversation on the latest Axe Files podcast online.

Axelrod, a guiding figure in President Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election as the first Black president, his successful reelection bid in 2012 and as senior advisor to the Democratic president for eight years, and Ricketts, Nebraska’s two-term conservative Republican governor.

Nebraska GOP strains to unite after Trump's candidate loses

Gov. Pete Ricketts and political analyst David Axelrod had a wide-ranging discussion last week that included the Ricketts family, the family-owned Chicago Cubs, the governor’s unsuccessful bid for a 2006 Senate seat, his sister’s same-sex marriage and his pro-life views opposing abortion.

They talked about topics ranging from the Ricketts family, the family-owned Chicago Cubs, the governor’s unsuccessful bid for a 2006 Senate seat, his sister’s same-sex marriage, his pro-life views opposing abortion.

And the governor’s support of the death penalty as a Catholic despite Pope Francis’ encyclical calling upon all Catholics to advocate for the abolition of capital punishment.

And his 2nd Amendment defense of gun rights in the wake of the latest massacre of 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Texas.

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“You can’t buy a bazooka or a cannon,” Axelrod said.  “Why semi-automatic guns?”

All those tough and sometimes uncomfortable questions were raised by Axelrod during their lively interchange.

Lots of interesting Ricketts family history emerged too along with the fact that it was former Sen. Chuck Hagel who suggested that he pursue the Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in 2006.

Ricketts did and lost big-time, hated losing, but said he “loved the experience.”

The discussion with Axelrod was friendly and respectful and often punctuated by the governor’s explosive laughter.

“You’re a super-smart guy,” Axelrod said at one point.  “And a data guy.”

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When Axelrod raised concerns about the dangerous divisions that led to the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol a year and a half ago and the lingering “terror of our politics,” the governor said “we’ll get though it.”

“Use your formidable voice,” Axelrod urged Ricketts. 


Sen. Ben Sasse called for creation of “a NATO for the Pacific” during his address at the Reagan Library in southern California last week.

And he suggested that the United States should “arm the Taiwanese military to the teeth” in the face of a growing threat by China to reclaim its former island territory. 

It’s time to “sound the alarm for Taiwan,” secure and protect an ally and friend as the United States does in Europe, Sasse said, and assure “free navigation of the seas” in the Pacific Ocean.

“I want us to be America again,” Sasse said. 


* House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy closed his luncheon appearance in Lincoln in support of GOP congressional nominee Mike Flood to coverage by the news media.  Afterwards, guests whom I asked said McCarthy said nothing that would have been damaging or uncomfortable in print. 

* McCarthy wouldn’t do a newspaper interview while he was in Lincoln, only a brief Lincoln TV appearance and a friendly interview with Omaha talk radio.

* Reminder: Flood and Democratic congressional nominee Patty Pansing Brooks will meet for a one-hour, live televised debate next Sunday on KETV, beginning at 6 p.m.

* Ugly reminder of what might lie ahead in Ukraine: When Russian troops invaded Afghanistan in late 1979 and encountered stubborn resistance that kept the war going on and on, Russia did not leave until early 1989, almost a decade later.

* Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon has signaled his intention to attempt to end selection of committee chairpersons in the non-partisan Legislature by secret ballot when the 2023 Legislature convenes, requiring each senator to make his or her choice public.

* Impossible to accurately predict what a new Legislature will be like, but signs point to a more conservative — and perhaps more partisan — edition next year with a huge turnover and the departure of a number of moderate, independent and essentially non-partisan Republicans, most of whom were legislative leaders.

* Nebraska’s new motor vehicle license plate design is artistic and attractive, but the Capitol mosaic artwork that adorns the new plates appears to be barely perceptible, at least in the modeling unveiled at a gubernatorial news conference. 

* “And what is so rare as a day in June?  Then, if ever, come perfect days.”  — James Russell Lowell.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSdon

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