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Are last week's Mueller hearings to be judged on performance rather than content?

Optics rather than substance. 

It seems that a big swath, and maybe even most, of the media along with half of the Congress have chosen that path in assessing the appearance of Robert Mueller before two House committees.

During the portions I watched, it seemed clear that Mueller, reticent by nature, was having a hard time hearing some of the questions directed at him and then keeping up as more questions followed and topics changed in rapid-fire order.

The questioners were reading from carefully prepared written notes. Mueller was expected to process and respond quickly and succinctly, changing gears without a text as members of the House rushed through their five-minute moments of fame.

And then much of the ensuing media coverage and congressional critique centered on Mueller's performance as if the content of his report was secondary or inconsequential.

Hey, it's the report, guys. This ain't an audition or casting call.

Add to the report what Mueller told the congressmen and women last week:

* "They're doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign."

* "Many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians had done."

Can't we just look at this threat as Americans instead of as Republicans or Democrats?

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And looking ahead:

How can we have confidence in the results of the 2020 presidential election if we don't take action now to assure the integrity of that approaching vote, which will be closing out what is certain to be a volatile election year?

Paper ballots are an option if we can't, or won't, secure our electronic voting systems.

Disputed presidential election results next year would be a dream come true for our adversaries and our ultimate nightmare.

On this one, members of Congress really ought to check their partisan jerseys at the door. 

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Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald stirred a little blowback when he criticized the growing tendency of young people to spend hours every day attached to, and isolated by, a cellphone rather than living in the moment and interacting and communicating directly with people who might be right there with them.

Of course, he's right, but it isn't just young people.  The occasional tally of how much time I have been on the iPhone during a day is always a startling reminder. 

Declining attendance at some football stadiums was the trigger for Fitzgerald as he decried the tendency of young people to be content to watch the image of games on TV rather than experience the real thing at the stadium with all the surrounding pageantry, emotions, sensations and human connections.

But one of the reasons for that choice of image over real life is they can't get seats in the stadium when they're kids and they grow up accustomed to watching games on TV, I would suggest. And that becomes their established football experience.

So, might it be a good thing to consider blocking off seats for a kids section once again at Memorial Stadium, or even adding a new kids section, with the future fan base in mind?

Businesses and donors could purchase the tickets and give them to kids and even turn that good deed into a marketing or advertising promotion.  

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Each year, more kids would get hooked on Husker football live along with the accompanying stadium experience and become the future pool of season ticket-buyers.

And that would be the loudest section in the stadium. 

Kids' Corner? Herbie's House?

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Finishing up:

* Does one more new full-service hotel, this one strategically hugging the Haymarket, bring Lincoln to the point of qualifying as an early-round NCAA post-season basketball tournament site? 

* Looks like there may be a 2020 Senate Republican primary contest in Nebraska and we might find out this week.  

* Omaha's $290 million riverfront development project provides another example of Omaha's unique civic advantage: An unusually large collection of mega-wealthy citizens who also are philanthropic are paying for about 80 percent of that project. 

* Yankees-Twins have something going after last week's shootout in Minneapolis. Three games; 57 runs.  Not my definition of great baseball, but if they meet again this year, it'll be postseason drama.

* Sometimes it looks like the biggest drug dealers in the country are the TV networks.    

* Hey, August arrives this week. Would somebody please slow this train down.  

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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