Democrats are fantasizing about their dream ticket for the 1992 presidential race -- New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and freshman Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey.
For charisma, the duo would be hard to beat -- Cuomo, the thinking person's candidate, and Kerrey, the handsome, heroic Vietnam vet who romances actress Debra Winger.
But looming over any White House aspirations Kerrey may have are mistakes in Nebraska that show his decidedly unheroic side.
The most recent involves Kerrey's support for development in Nebraska of a radioactive waste dump -- a political and ecological time bomb. Kerrey's brother-in-law and a political aide are helping to promote it through a company Kerrey helped start.
A five-state government agency, the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission, is pushing the proposal in Nebraska. To help raise support, it hired Bates Video Production to do a promotional video that is clearly designed to quell fears about radioactive waste dumping.
Kerrey and his brother-in-law, Dean Rasmussen, were original investors in Bates Video in 1987, along with Rodney Bates, who handled publicity for Kerrey's 1988 Senate campaign. When Kerrey decided to run for the Senate, Rasmussen bought him out of Bates Video, but that was after the deal for the waste dump video had already been signed.
Kerrey has recently decided that strong support of a nuclear waste dump in one's home state is not a smart idea. He had been firmly behind the compact's proposed dump site, but this month he backed off and said there are too many unanswered questions.
This isn't the first time Kerrey has mixed business and politics. He admits using poor judgment in some business ties made early in his career.
In the mid-1980s, a business he owned took a low-interest loan from a financing pool he helped create as governor.
In 1986, at Kerrey's urging, state lawmakers created the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority to give low-interest loans to homeowners, farmers and certain businesses. One of the businesses was Kerrey's, which got a low-cost loan to build a sports center in Lincoln. Nebraska Republicans raised a stink, but the state legislature declined to investigate.
Rasmussen handles the trust that manages Kerrey's business interests. He told us Kerrey knew the company was applying for the low-cost loan. But he said Kerrey trusts him to manage his money with business sense, not political motivations.
Meantime, the Republicans are looking for more Democrats to blame in the savings and loan scandal, and White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater recently put Kerrey in that company.
Fitzwater's reference was to a banking crisis when Kerrey was governor. Two state-chartered thrifts in Lincoln, Neb., failed. William Wright, an owner of one of them, State Security Savings, was one of Kerrey's financial and political advisers.
While the state S&L industry was on the downslide, Kerrey and Wright formed a partnership with others to use State Security Savings as a way to buy commercial property. A panel of state lawmakers studying S&L failures later concluded Wright and others "milked and drained" the thrifts.