It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
Is that a football?
No, but it is brown.
And it is oblong.
Hey, it’s smoking!
It’s a hot potato!
It’s America’s new national past time and no, sorry, Husker fans, it is not football.
It’s called Pipeline Hot Potato.
So, let’s play!
Let’s meet our contestants, shall we?
First, straight from the Governor’s Mansion in Lincoln, we have Dave Heineman.
Welcome Governor Dave. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself, your role in the pipeline project and where you stand right now.
Gov. Dave: Hello, Nebraska! I’m Governor Dave and I’m here because apparently the people of Nebraska are still talking about the important subject of the pipeline. Nebraskans want to protect the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer. (grin)
Gov. Dave, why did you call a special legislative session about the pipeline? And why didn’t you prepare a bill for the session?
Gov. Dave: As I said, the people of Nebraska are concerned, so I thought I should call our legislators together to address the subject. I’ve always been concerned about this, but I didn’t realize Nebraska could do anything about it. I thought pipelines were federal issues! (Big grin) It turns out, there is a new era in states rights we’re learning about. It’s historic! (chuckle)
(Cue laugh tracks)
(Gov. Dave continues to grin.)
Gov. Dave, why didn’t you introduce a proposal?
(Gov. Dave blinks.)
Gov. Dave: Well, I thought I should give the Senators in our Legislature the chance to represent their constituents; we need to have a conversation about the pipeline and I thought the Senators should start that conversation. (Grin )
We think we understand you, Governor, ok. How have you prepared for today’s game?
Gov. Dave: I asked Coach Tom to help me with my throw, so I think I’m well prepared.
Well, we shall see.
It’ll be an exciting game. Let’s meet some of your competitors.
Next we have State Senator Mike Flood, Speaker of the Nebraska Unicameral. Senator Flood!
Flood: (Strides in purposefully, adjusts glasses, nods)
Speaker Flood, would you please say hello to the audience?
Flood: (Clears throat – waves awkwardly) Hello. (Nods)
Speaker Flood, could you tell our audience a little about your position on the pipeline project?
Mike: (Clears throat again – shifts ) I’m here because apparently I need more practice at this game. I really thought I had this issue completely handled – because it was too late to do anything. (Clears throat again) I thought I made that fairly clear in that Friday statement I made a few weeks ago. (Glares again at Gov. Dave) But, uh, apparently, some people misunderstood – they didn’t realize – my plan handled the problem. (Shifts his glance to Gov. Dave)
(Gov. Dave’s grin slips…just for a second.)
So, we’ll see if you can take care of business this time, Speaker Flood.
Speaker Flood: (Glaring at Gov. Dave) Oh, I intend to.
(Gov. Dave’s grin slips…again…just for a second.)
And now, another member of the Nebraska Legislature, Senator Annette Dubas. Senator Dubas is also a member of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee. Welcome, Senator.
(Dubas, looking lost, wanders out from the side of the stage, looks around)
Senator Dubas, over here. Can you tell the audience about your involvement with the pipeline project?
Dubas: Huh? What?
Senator Dubas, you’re here to discuss the pipeline project and to participate as a contestant. Can you tell our audience why?
Dubas: (Eyes darting around) Um. Hmm. Uh. (Looks to her left, sees Flood, mouths “help me”)
(Flood rolls his eyes, shifts, looks away)
(Gov. Dave chuckles, grins bigger)
(Cue laugh track)
Senator Dubas, it says in my notes that you’re here today because you’ve been very involved in this whole issue all along. Is that correct?
Dubas: Uh? Huh? Um. Yes. Oh, yes, that’s right.
Senator, why didn’t you take action on this issue much earlier?
Dubas: (Looks confused, looks at Gov. Dave and Flood. Flood is brushing lint off of his sleeve. Gov. Dave grins bigger) Um, well, I’m not sure. I’m confused.
Well, then, ok, Senator Dubas. Our information says that you were one of two Senators who put together the report in your Natural Resources Committee about the pipeline project back in 2010, that you accepted a payment for potential use of a portion of your family’s land from the TransCanada company, you participated in the State Department hearings, and then you wrote up a bill and pushed for a special session. After it was discovered that you’d accepted the payment, you introduced a bill at the special session. And, finally, it says, when presenting your pipeline siting bill to your committee, you said Nebraska Senators were lobbied so much that you all were confused about the “state’s rights? the state’s authority”? Is that correct?
Dubas: (Light of recognition cross Dubas’ face.) Yes! Oh yes, they confused me, they confused all of us. Confused, definitely. (Wrings hands nervously – displaying several burn marks.)
Ok…thank you Senator…you might want to get some ointment for those burns. Remember, the object of this game is to throw the hot potato AWAY, as far as possible AWAY, don’t GRAB IT.
Let’s call up our next contestant, State Senator Deb Fischer. Please join us Senator Fischer.
I apologize folks, we seem to be having some difficulties backstage.
Again, folks, apologies.
Let’s try for another contestant. Attorney General Jon Bruning. Mr. Bruning?
(Bruning jogs onto stage waving, smiling)
Bruning: Hey, there, folks! We all know the people of Nebraska have one thing in mind, and that’s getting rid of Mr. Cornhusker Kickback himself, Ben Nelson. As your next representative in the United States Senate, I will vote to repeal Obamacare! And of course—
Attorney General, this is not a campaign event. What is your role in the pipeline project so far and what is your position on the subject?
Bruning: Pipeline? Oh, is that what this is about? I have had no involvement whatsoever, and I can’t now. Unfortunately, I can’t speak at all about the pipeline. Nope. I might be involved in some future litigation, so, if I comment on the issue, I compromise my ability to properly litigate a case. We wouldn’t want to compromise the interests of the Nebraska people, now would we? (Big grin)
What happens if the Legislature actually passes some legislation about siting? Doesn’t that require your involvement? You know, the paperwork you’d have to file with the Federal government?
Bruning: (Looks panic stricken) Look, I can’t comment, I can’t speculate.
Attorney General, couldn’t it already be said that you’ve compromised your neutrality on the subject? Although the Federal Election Commission didn’t penalize you for the acceptance of a donation from the company who proposed the project, don’t the circumstances of the donation create the appearance of impropriety?
Bruning: (Turns red again, raises hand to start shaking his finger) Now, wait just a minute! I– (Gov. Dave steps over, puts his hand on Bruning’s shoulder, whispers something in Bruning’s ear, grins, and then steps back to his spot. Bruning takes a deep breath.) I have no comment about the pipeline.
Well, Mr. Bruning, we recommend, when we commence play, you better throw hard.
(Tony Fulton walks onto the stage, smoothing his mussed hair, straightens the collar on his polo shirt, which has “Tony Fulton for State Treasurer” embroidered on the front – moves into a spot at the end of the row of contestants – smiles and waves.)
Fulton: Sorry, I’m late guys.
Senator Fulton? Can we help you? What are you doing here?
Fulton: What am I doing here? I’m here to speak about excessive government regulation.
(Looks confused, pulls out Blackberry)
Fulton: Oh, hmm, excuse me. This isn’t the AFP event?
No, Senator Fulton, we’re here about the pipeline. We didn’t invite you to this because we didn’t think your involvement was an important factor. But since you stopped in, why don’t you just join the game?
Fulton: (Blushing) The pipeline? Oh, the pipeline, sure, well, as I understand it, there’s been a bill sent to the Legislature floor, my staff and I are taking a look at it to see what it’s impact might be, so while I can’t comment specifically—
Senator Fulton, thank you. We need to move on to our other contestants.
Do we have Senator Fischer yet?
Senator Deb Fischer?
(Gov. Dave chuckles again, starts to whistle)
(Deb Fischer emerges from the side of the stage with a pasted on smile, darts her eyes about.)
Senator Fischer, thank you for joining us.
Deb: You’re welcome. (Nods, steps into place, stares ahead)
Senator Fischer, what has been your involvement in the pipeline project and what is your current position on that issue?
(Cue crickets sound effect)
Deb: (Looks around, glares at Heineman who grins deeper back at her, blinks) I haven’t had any involvement. I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near here.
Senator Fischer, aren’t you the Chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee?
Deb: (Sighs, closes eyes, says between clinched teeth) Yes.
Senator Fischer, isn’t that the Legislative Committee that is supposed to have jurisdiction over pipelines?
Deb: (Glares, sighs again) Yes. Fine. Look – I’m running for the United States Senate, ok? And I’m a property owner from Valentine. Would you please give me a break?
Fine, Senator Fischer. Perhaps you need to take few practice lobs while we move onto other contestants? You don’t seem to have much experience at this game.
(A stagehand tosses a styrofoam potato to Fischer, who catches it, looking dumbfounded)
Natural Resources Committee Chair Chris Langemeier, would you please join us?
(All of the contestants seem to brighten up at the sound of this name, except for Flood, who rolls his eyes)
(As Langemeier moves across the stage, he’s warmly greeted with handshakes by each of the participants, except Flood, who nods at him.)
Langemeier: Hello, Nebraska! Shall we get the game started?
In a moment, Senator. Sir, why did you introduce a pipeline bill that gives the Governor the authority to site pipeline projects?
Langemeier: Excuse me? I’m not sure what “authority” means. That’s unclear. Can I use a lifeline or something?
Senator, please step back, you should probably practice, too.
(The stagehand lobs a styrofoam potato toward Langemeier. Langemeier misses the throw. It hits his knee, falls to the floor. Langemeier stares at it.)
Before we move on to our final two contestants, we need to make a couple of announcements. 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry did not respond to our invitation to be here today.
(Cue audience chatter.)
It’s our understanding that Rep. Terry is still in Washington, trying to re-re-introduce his bill in the U.S. House to expedite the pipeline.
(Cue audience laugh track.)
And 3rd District Congressman Adrian Smith is still missing. The FBI has actually issued a flyer, which we’re showing on the screen now. Since the Congressman has been missing for so long, the FBI is now asking for the public’s assistance in the search. Please take some flyers home with you when you leave today and distribute them, tack them to sign posts, leave some in the local cafes, and so on.
Moving on to our last two contestants; next, we have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton: Hello Nebraskans! I’m so pleased to be here today to participate in this event. I’ve always said it’s important to work directly with the people. I’m confident that despite any potential difficulties, with the work of all of the stakeholders; the Governor, the members of the Legislature, the representatives of the TransCanada pipeline company, the National Energy Board of Canada, the diplomats from the Canadian government, the landowners, the Environmental Protection Agency, the other states where the pipeline is to be built, the workers who will build the line, and the officials at various levels within all of the agencies, we will be able to go through all of the issues and come to—-
I’m sorry Secretary Clinton, but we’re on a schedule. And speaking of that, we notice you were a last minute addition to the contestant list. Why is that?
Secretary Clinton: Thank you. Upon further consideration, the President and I have decided that this project requires further review. The President personally requested the State Department get involved once again. (Pastes on crooked smile)
Thank you, Secretary Clinton.
Now we’d like to introduce our final contestant.
Please welcome the President of the United States.
(Cue “Hail to the Chief”)
(Senators Fulton and Langemeier look surprised, then recover and begin to clap, Speaker Flood smirks politely clapping, Annette Dubas examines a snag in her sweater jacket, Governor Dave grins bigger than ever, stepping forward, clapping enthusiastically, Secretary Clinton smoothly glides past Governor Dave clapping and smiling the whole time)
(An entourage of Secret Service agents enter, examining the scene. The agent out front nods and talks into his wrist. Two men appear from behind the agents, rolling out a red carpet. Behind them is a workman carrying a teleprompter. The agents and workmen disperse, and in strides President Barack Obama, waving at the audience.)
President Obama: Good afternoon, Nebraska. As I’ve always said, I value domestic energy independence, and it’s no secret that I’m for creating and saving jobs. But let me be clear – I listen to the voice of the American people. We need to take our time and make sure we’re doing this pipeline project right. We want to protect our environment and have safe drinking water for the children. I’ve asked Secretary Clinton to oversee an additional review process. So, when that process has concluded, we will come to a decision and let everyone know. But, Michelle is waiting back at the White House, we have a State Dinner this evening with a delegation from Djibouti, so I need to get going. Let’s play this game! Jane?
(Cue audience “ooooohs”, “aaaaaahs”)
(Several people on stage join the audience in their marveling. Gov. Dave stops grinning. Flood’s eyes narrow.)
(Kleeb stands up straight; her “Stand With Randy” t-shirt tucked into black jeans, which are, in turn, tucked into a pair of cowboy boots. She gives President Obama a nod and a wink, then walks toward him, pulling a remote control from her pocket, and places it in his hand. He smiles, nods and pockets the remote. Jane takes a place beside the President with a satisfied smile.)
Contestants! It’s time to compete!
Your hot potatoes will be tossed in 10 seconds.
(Gov. Dave steps forward)
Gov. Dave: Now hold on just a second, this isn’t a fair deal—
Governor, you need to step back in position, 8 seconds!
(President Obama and Secretary Clinton calmly hold their hands up while two Secret Service agents place teflon-coated gloves over their hands.)
(As a hail of hot potatoes is launched toward the contestants, mayhem ensues. Annette Dubas looks dumbfoundedly at the object in her hand as Gov. Dave steps backward to do a quarterback throw while wincing, not seeing that Deb Fischer, Mike Flood, and Tony Fulton have just lobbed their potatoes at his head…)
(Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton calmly walk over to the cart, placing their potatoes in their designated positions. Each steps back as Obama aims the remote at the cart. Sounds of an engine flaring are heard. )
(As flames shoot from the missile tail and it begins to launch, Hillary Clinton notices Annette Dubas is screaming, so she calmly walks over and removes the potato from her hand, dropping it to the floor, motions to someone off stage)
Well, that’s all we have time for this game, Nebraska.
Looks like President Obama and Secretary Clinton have won this round.
Looks like it might be kind of a mess for the rest of these contestants, though.
And not sure where that leaves things for the people of Nebraska, the future of property rights, and the 15 other Midwest states, and the American oil industry…
Written by Shelli, lampoon image concepts by Linda (except “Where’s Adrian?” and “Hot Potato Missile”)
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Images of Nebraska officials taken from the Nebraska Legislature and Update site, as well as the Governor’s official website
Wile E. Coyote card – As of May 2012, the link to the specific page for this image is no longer available on the original site.