In his younger days, before he was Nebraska’s Attorney General, Jon Bruning was nicknamed “Wrong Way Jon” after a disastrous move in a basketball game.  It is a moniker that’s grown to apply to more than Bruning’s skills on the court.  It also reflects a drastic change in his political beliefs from his college years.  That’s right, Jon Bruning used to be a liberal.

If you only know the Jon Bruning of 2010, we’d like to introduce you to the Jon Bruning of 1992 — an eager young law student with his own column in the Daily Nebraskan.  Bruning used this pulpit to argue his beliefs and challenge conservative ideology of the day.

We managed to dig up 11 pieces written by Bruning for the DN in the fall of 1992 — when the Cold War was comfortably over, and Bill Clinton ousted the first Bush.  Bruning’s articles ring of an eager idealism that we feel he has lost in the New Millennium.

Most telling is Bruning’s article from Nov. 13.  “Conservatives, come out of the closet” is a laundry list of the young Bruning’s political positions.  He believes women should have control of their own bodies, the NRA goes too far defending guns, social safety nets are worthy investments, gays should have rights — specifically serving in the military, affirmative action engenders diversity and Ronald Reagan was “incapable of understanding complex policy arguments.”  Profane the name of Reagan?  Conservative blasphemy!

Throughout the semester, Bruning shows his ideology.  He supports a “government-sponsored basic health care plan for all Americans” (Oct. 30), protecting all forms of free speech (Sept. 9), increasing the gas tax to reduce emissions (Oct. 9) and First Lady Hillary Clinton (Nov. 6).  He even goes to a U2 concert in Ames, IA (Sept. 18).

Where does Bruning stand now?  Well, we can just look at his exploratory committee’s website for that info.  He thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned, touts his lifelong membership in the NRA, criticizes the health reform law and praises his Medicaid Fraud Unit.  (We’re all for reducing fraud, but this seems to be symptomatic of Bruning’s new distaste for social programs.)

What happened to the happy-go-lucky law student who concluded that women have a right to control their own bodies, condemned the NRA for defending hand guns in the name of hunters, suggested a basic government-sponsored health care plan and supported social programs that lifted the poor out of poverty?  What could have driven such a vocal progressive to swing so far to the right on the political spectrum?

We wish we had the answers.  Bruning himself has never spoken openly on the topic.  That’s what disturbs us most — we have no concrete cause for Bruning’s dramatic change.  We are left to speculate, and our suppositions unnerve us.

Do people change their ideology over time?  Absolutely.  But it’s only been 18 years since Bruning wrote for the DN.  He’s not some former flower child who’s integrated into the corporate ladder for the last 30 years.  He was an intelligent and ambitious law student who eventually chose to run for elected office.

Perhaps a tragedy caused Bruning to abandon his progressive ideology and run to the extremes of conservatism.  Or worse, Bruning’s an opportunist who changed his public face to win elected office.  It’s possible that he saw no future in the Left, so he abandoned his political principles for power.

Bruning’s ‘92 nickname “Wrong Way Jon” no longer refers to his basketball skills but, rather, his political career.  He has not been candid about his personal narrative which we find disturbing.  If he’s serious about running for Senate in 2012 (c’mon, you know he is), Bruning’s got some ‘splainin to do.  And we’ll keep bringing up his personal record until he does.

Bruning’s 11 DN Articles:

(Items in Bold are cited within this post)
Aug. 28
 “Voters Face Congressional Choice”
Sept. 9 “Fighting Words Must be Protected”
Sept. 18 “Pilgrimmage to Ames Beats Politics”
Oct. 9 “National Debt Forces Hard Choices”
Oct. 23 “Finnegan has Tools for Congress”
Oct. 30 “Health Care System not Immune”
Nov. 6 “Women Make Strides in Election”
Nov. 13 “Conservatives, Come out of the Closet” — Bruning’s most revealing political piece
Nov. 20 “Handgun Law Lacks Effectiveness”
Dec. 4 “Finals Place Law Nerds in Crisis” — The first appearance of “Wrong Way” Jon Bruning
Dec. 11 “Courts to Change under Clinton”