Wednesday, September 26, 2007
She proved this again Wednesday night, striking gold with a brilliant late MSNBC-New Hampshire debate soundbite as the evening took on something of the quality of that famous California Stanford game. You take notes for a few hours, building a narrative, in this case, that former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., is truly making a move here as the audacious one, the candidate willing to take risks to position himself as the Hillary alternative.
Then presto, just like that with the remarkable touchdown return in which Cal navigated the prematurely marching band in the game, the story changes in an instant.
Debates are all about impressions and memorable lines. When MSNBC moderator Tim Russert pointed out that HRC had an apparent difference with her former president husband on a torture question, she responded, “Well, he’s not standing here right now.”
Having shown that she is now standing in front of her man, not beside him, Hillary softened it with the perfect follow up, “Well, I’ll talk to him later.”
It is spontaneity so good it just couldn’t be scripted. And it is the moment many will take away from the debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton had strong moments before that and some subtle moves that will play well, such as her dropping in a mention of opposition to Yucca Mountain as the site for a federal nuclear waste repository. Showing early-in-the-calendar voters in Nevada that she’ll use a national stage on this long-running and highly controversial issue in that state surely earned her points.
Over the two-hour debate the candidates who performed the best in the race for getting their name on the pre-movie credits as Hillary’s co-star were Edwards and U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, Del.
If Edwards had campaigned with this much fight, and with the substance of the plans he has now, he may be running for re-election to the White House, not sharing beauty pageant time with the likes of lunatic Mike Gravel.
Edwards, again apologizing for voting to authorize military action in Iraq, said he had learned his lesson, but he strongly implied that Clinton had not and challenged her vote on a non-binding measure sponsored by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, a move some senators, like Virginia's Jim Webb, see as setting a pretext for another war.
“I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step toward a war with Iran,” Edwards said.
He added, “You can’t even give him the first step.”
Edwards’ answer to a question on the cap on Social Security taxes was the most in touch with middle America. He called for imposing it on income above $97,500 – but not lifting the ceiling until the $200,000 mark so as not to hit two-income families who are somewhere over $100,000, but not functioning by a long shot as wealthy.
His big swing of the evening connected, too. Edwards said he would kill funding for the health insurance plans of Members of Congress if they failed to enact health-care reform by July of 2009, six months after his theoretical inauguration. That sort of basic people-against-the-fat-cat-pols posturing really, really works here in Iowa as anyone who followed the congressional check-bouncing scandal two decades ago will remember.
For his part, Biden, who made a major move to put more staff on the ground in Iowa today, seemed the statesman, as well more affable than at previous debates where I think he came across as a bit put off by the nature of these political carnivals. The Senate had just voted in favor his plan for federalizing Iraq, a power-sharing arrangement with a weak central government, which gave him some heft on stage. He also was the first candidate of the night to call for lifting the cap on Social Security taxes so the government could collect from people making more than $97,500. Stylistically, Biden seemed less angry and more at ease than in previous debates. And that's big.
As far as U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is concerned, he’s playing a different game than everyone else. He's never fully engaged in the debates. In fact, he's like the smartest kid in the class who for whatever reasons doesn't participate much. Trailing Clinton in the polls nationally he’s not looking to use the debates to exact any flesh – at least not yet. He didn’t say anything tonight that stands out from his stump speaking, but if he can make it out of the primary process he will be exceptionally well positioned (perhaps unprecedentedly so) to appeal to Republicans and Independents. Obama is the anti-polarizer and his lyricism about hope seems all the more genuine when he refrains from the rhetorical bomb-throwing in the debates – something cable TV commentators were goading him to do for hours before MSNBC went live to the Dartmouth stage.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has showed some signs in recent debates, was back to earlier form. He’s one of the best campaigners I’ve seen in person in a quarter century of going to Iowa political events. But he’s uncomfortable on stage and his answer about Social Security – grow the economy – sounded Republican, which is perhaps why so many Republicans I know say they like him.
U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., fired off a good line about George W. Bush’s prediction that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee: “If I were Hillary Clinton I’d be worred,” Dodd said. “This was the same guy who said, ‘Way to go, Brownie.’”
Dodd didn’t take the chance to make the case that Republicans like Bush and Rove are hip to Hillary for cynical – and knowing – reasons. Remember Bush & Company can’t run the nation, but they did win two national elections.
Near the end of the debate one started to wonder if someone from a high school year book staff had jumped the Dartmouth fence into the college debate. Candidates were posed questions about public smoking, an issue now being handled by the states and local governments based on the varying cultures of the nation – and a matter that surely shouldn’t earn a spot with discussion of war and torture and Social Security. (Clinton and Obama got this one right, saying it is a local matter and not one for the Oval Office.)
And let’s not even get into the question about lowering the drinking age. Will somebody throw a Republican on stage to remind us that not every matter is for the federal government. Yes, local folks did segregate schools, but we got a lot of things right at the city and state levels without federal intervention.
For his part, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska, should have been asked to leave the stage when he essentially admitted to grand theft, Robin Hood style. When questioned about his own bankruptcy, Gravel said the matter wasn’t about personal failings. It was sticking it to the man.
“I stuck the credit card companies with $90,000 worth of bills and they deserved it,” Gravel said.
That’s the same argument the 20-year-old bartender who served me a Miller Lite the other night made about her credit-card debt. She had a nose ring. Gravel wants his hands on the U.S. Treasury. I''l take my odds with the bartender.
And finally, Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman who somehow seems to get a seat at the adult’s table for Thanksgiving with these debates, shows both spunk and arrogance, but not enough of the former to make up for the latter.
(Commentary) The reason many Republicans are turning to Fred Thompson (for now) is the same explanation for why Americans watch "Law & Order" re-runs on USA and TNT. Nothing else (no other GOP candidate) can hold their attention and they are too hungover to get off the couch and do anything but remote-control to the comfort food of "Law & Order," which is the false sale of Freddie's bid.
There is no doubting that Thompson is one of the more estimable character actors in modern American movies and TV. His role as Rear Admiral Joshua Painter in “The Hunt for Red October” is so super cat-daddy cool that you could make a case for supporting his presidential bid just on the basis of his ability to deliver lines like: “Russians don’t take a dump, son, without a plan.”
Then again, Thompson's Arthur Branch isn't even the best district attorney in the "Law & Order" series. That distinction (hands down) would go to Adam Schiff, played by Steven Hill from 1990 to 2000. Schiff comes across as a real New Yorker with show-stealing lines -- and seems like he actually could be district attorney, perhaps because his character may be based on long-serving, real-life DA Robert Morgenthau.
What Thompson has shown so far on the campaign trail is underwhelming both substantively and stylistically. Thompson may want to hire some "Law & Order" writers to give him some better material. If you watch the nearly 30-minute speech (posted below) of Thompson in his hometown of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., recently, you won't be offended or inspired. But perhaps that's all he needs to be. He does have that folksiness that George W. Bush so desparately tries to affect. In his speech we learn that a local diner would throw two burgers on the grill whenever they spotted a younger Thompson coming and that he likes trucks. Some of his supporters are to be commended for clearly having seen the movie "All The King's Men" -- the new one -- and getting some camera angles for the video that make Thompson look exceptionally tall. And he does get off a few decent lines for the base like, "Our rights don't come from government, they come from God."
One issue with which the late-arriving Thompson has to deal is the swirl of speculation and complaining about his reported laziness -- something I asked both U.S. John McCain and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin about recently.
He may also have a regional disconnect in Iowa.
As a rural Iowan I can tell you something about what we think of rural Southerners (Iowa had the highest per-capita service in the Union Army during the Civil War for starters). Here in the Midwest we are into what one might call age-appropriate relationships, and we find it disturbing when we see the children of Dixie entangled in marriages with the eye-popping age disparity in Thompson's. It is simply unsettling to watch Fred geezer around with a wife who upon first glance 99 percent of people would guess is his daughter (as he does in the beginning of this video).
In rural Iowa, back in the day, you would meet at a dance, perhaps stray once for a kiss before you hit 20, and then get married. As someone who has edited and worked on every section of a small-town Iowa newspaper I can tell you that we just don't see too many wedding announcements for our "Today's Living" section with Thompsonesque canyon-sized age diffences.
Think I'm going too far with that? If our last two Iowa governors, a Democrat and Republican, can criticize Rudy Giuliani for being married three times surely it is fair game to raise the age issue in Thompson's second government-recognized love connection.
Thompson may be doing well in some polls, but as one Republican-leaning Independent told me of his interest in Thompson: "To be honest, I just like him because I know nothing about him."
Some well-respected political observers are seeing right through Thompson as well.
Former Chicago Tribune national correspondent Jon Margolis, a reporter I read closely during my salad days in the business and a writer who understands Iowa, dissects Thompson brilliantly in a recent article for The American Prospect.
In a perceptive and hilarious post on her Web log journalist and Iowa Independent contributor Garance Franke-Ruta debunks the notion that Thompson will somehow have women swooning in his wake. She pretty much sums up Thompson's case as this: he's tall.
This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.com, where it originally appeared.
Monday, September 24, 2007
If you’re one of those people who thinks government wire-tapping is no big thing, that “they can listen to all my calls or read all my emails because I don’t have anything to hide,” you should watch the Academy Award-winning movie “The Lives Of Others.” In societies with rampant snooping and government monitoring of personal lives and views, it is easy to plant incriminating evidence on anyone for any reason, as this movie shows in frightening fashion.
The German movie is set in East Germany during the gray years of Communism in the 1980s and the Secret Police, known as the Stasi. As a member of the Stasi watches the home of an artist the government is seeking to frame, the bureaucrat undergoes and enormously fascinating evolution. “The Lives Of Others” shows what happens when debate and art and literature are largely absent, even banned, from a society. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in some time -- and the 2006 movie is now out on DVD.
In an interview with Iowa Independent, Fischer said the decision is one he agonized over, but that in the end it came down to one word: electibility.
"To me the most electable is Obama," Fischer said of the Illinois Democrat. "He is the person to me that seems to reach across party lines."
Fischer noted that Obama finished third in a recent University of Iowa poll among Republicans.
"Independents and Republicans are very intrigued by Senator Obama," Fischer said.
A Des Moines employment lawyer who chaired the IDP from 2002 to 2004, Fischer said he senses that many Americans are seeking a generational change in the presidency.
While Obama, 46, is technically a Baby Boomer, his world view is often more in line with younger generations.
"I think there's a lot to that," Fischer said. "I would frankly compare it to John F. Kennedy and the torch being passed."
Added Fischer, "I've never seen young people react to a candidate the way they react to Obama. He really, really connects with young people."
Fischer said Obama has a remarkable ability to transcend race, that's he's something of a political Oprah Winfrey or Tiger Woods in that regard, people larger than the question of race.
"He seems to be above and beyond race," Fischer said.
As has been well-chronicled, Obama is the son of a white Kansas mother and Kenyan father.
When asked about the question of experience, one that Obama has being dealing with more directly in campaign appearances and on the airwaves, Fischer echoed the Obama camp's pitch.
"Nobody in the world had more experience for their jobs than Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld," Fischer said. "It's not experience. It's judgment that counts."
You can read more of Fischer's thoughts on the endorsement on his blog, Iowa True Blue.
This story is crossposted at Iowa Independent, where it orginally appeared.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Now it African-American commentator Tavis Smiley's "All American Forum" on Public Television this Thursday.
Leading Republican presidential candidates are declining to participate in the debate with heavy Hispanic and decidedly black influences.
THe Washington Post reports:
The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the "All American Presidential Forum" organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., all cited scheduling conflicts in their decisions to forgo the debate. All of the top Democratic contenders attended a similar event in June.
The message seems to be drawn straight from the playbook of the old membership policy at Augusta National Golf Course: Keep it white.
"Well it would be appear that way and that's unfortunate that any party would just write off or ignore huge section of our electorate," U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in response to Iowa Independent questions on the matter during a conference call this week. "I think we're seeing the same thing in the Hispanic sector."
Harkin said the GOP as a whole seems intent on ignoring African-American and Hispanic voters.
"It's like they just are writing off huge segments of the electorate," Harkin said.
There are two obvious questions. What are the Republicans thinking? And maybe even more perplexing is why aren't the Democrats pouncing all over this with the same furor the GOP showed in reaction to the admittedly childish and poorly timed moveon.org ad on General David Petraeus -- or manufactured outrage over Hillary Clinton's slow-footedness to appear on FOX (which she did Sunday)? Why aren't the Democrats pointing out in ad after ad in the American Southwest (where the presidential election will be decided) that the GOP won't even appear on Univision, the biggest media medium in the Hispanic community?
Here's an idea for a powerful image ad: have two water fountains, side by side, one that says Democrats and one that says Republicans. Have black and Hispanic families, one by one, take sips from the fountain, and then have leading Democrats follow them. Then show a stream of all white suburban-looking folk, carrying bags from prominent stores the mall like Bed Bath & Beyond, go to the Republican water fountain. It is a fair metaphor to use here.
Writing in the American Prospect, Ezra Klein quotes one Democratic staffer as saying politics in many ways is shaping up as a battle between "normal" people and racists. It sure seems that way at times.
Some Republicans understand the damage being done here.
Here is the Washington Post again:
"We sound like we don't want immigration, we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former New York Rep. Jack Kemp. "What are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."
This story is crossposted at Iowa Independent.com.
Friday, September 21, 2007
TEMPLETON — The Templeton Area Development Corp. (TADC) has inked a deal for an option of 114 acres outside of the community that it hopes to market for value-added, industrial or other business use.
The land, which the Carroll Area Development Corp., and Western Iowa Advantage will help promote, is located ½ mile west of U.S. 71 on the Templeton blacktop with access to the Burlington Northern Railroad line that runs between Coon Rapids and Manning.
Templeton is a town of about 350 people in southern Carroll County.
The TADC and Harriet Miller family signed an exclusive option agreement for the land. The paperwork on the arrangement was filed Wednesday with the Carroll County Recorder’s Office.
Any development likely would involve another 6 acres of railroad right of way.
“This site will allow us to be more competitive when looking for locations this large,” said Jim Gossett, executive director of the Carroll Area Development Corp.
Larry “Doc” Sporrer, treasurer of the TADC, said the land likely will be marketed at $10,000 an acre to potential developers.
Sporrer said Templeton hopes to lure a “value-added” company, possibly in the biofuels industry, but that the door is open to any number of possibilities.
He said the TADC doesn’t have any desire to subdivide the land.
For his part, Gossett said the CADC has had four requests in the last 18 months for availability of sites at more than 100 acres.
The option deal will allow Carroll County development officials to show businesses that the area is ready for new sitings with much of the location and legal work already complete.
“You can’t just point to a farm field and say I know a guy who knows a guy who might sell you that land,” Gossett said.
Specifically, Gossett said the Templeton site would be marketed at www.carrollareadev.com, and www.westerniowaadvantage.com.
Gossett said he regularly receives requests for available sites from the business development arms of utilities, the Iowa Department of Economic Development and individual companies.
The CADC’s industrial site locations committee is now eyeing other potential spots in the area for similar option deals with the intent of marketing them to business and industry as well.
Meanwhile, Sporrer said, the TADC is planning another 10-acre expansion to the business park on the eastern side of Templeton, where Templeton Rye Spirits is located.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Speaking during a television interview last night, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Hillary Clinton's campaign co-chairman in Iowa, raised Giuliani's three marriages. But Vilsack went further, getting into speculation about the relationship the former New York mayor has with his children.
"I can't even get into the number of marriages and the fact that his children - the relationship he has with his children - and what kind of circumstances New York was in before Sept. 11," Vilsack said during an interview on NY1 last night.
"There are lot of issues involving Mayor Giuliani . . . He's got a very interesting past."
Vilsack's comment comes months after another one-time resident of Terrace Hill, the Iowa governor's mansion, told the Carroll Daily Times Herald that Giuliani faced some challenges where his personal life interesects with politics.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Today's New York Times has a revealing piece about the influence of ultra-individualist Ayn Rand, and in particular her book "Atlas Shrugged," on CEOs and business leaders, including former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.
Some Republicans may want to read the book to get pointers on what likely will have to be a future more faithful to its libertarian roots -- the "Me and I" over Hillary's "village" if you will.
In its recent cheap chase for votes, the social conservative, in-your-face Sunday gasbag tactics of Karl Rove's GOP, have worked, as Iowa Independent has reported in great detail with, for example, the exploitation of the gay marriage issue in 2004.
It is no great revelation that some of the more accurate predictors of whether an American will vote Republican are church attendance and family status (married and with children), which in turn lead one to see what people think about gays.
A stunning new study from the Pew Research Center shows that adult Americans (those people who can vote, Mr. Rove) are starting to think more like individuals than parents. According to this study, just 41% of Americans now say that children are "very important" to a successful marriage, down sharply from the 65% who said this in a 1990 survey.
Here is one excerpt from the study:
Indeed, children have fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of items that people associate with successful marriages – well behind "sharing household chores," "good housing," "adequate income," "happy sexual relationship," and "faithfulness." Back in 1990, when the American public was given this same list on a World Values Survey, children ranked third in importance.
What's at work here is something called "Generational Replacement," with older, more conservative Americans, those born before 1960, eventually being replaced, day by day, death by death, by younger more tolerant folk who are less family friendly in the way the Republicans think of "family friendly."
A great irony for the Republicans, which has largely sought to demonize the growing Hispanic community for short-term PR diversion from the failed policy in Iraq and divide-and-conquer politics in some regions of the nation (western Iowa included, is that Hispanic households would more naturally fit into the GOP's social conservative thinking. Consider this: 69 percent of Hispanics view having children as vital to a happy marriage, compared with 35 percent of white in the Pew survey.
What can the future GOP to attact the single, the childless and the Hispanic community -- all groups that it is alienating, for generations perhaps, with this family values business? We know George W. Bush isn't much for reading and book learning stuff but is someone in his party catching these numbers, spotting this trend?
As a native Iowan who has covered politics for nearly two decades (from school boards to presidential candidates) I would have to say that a key factor I've seen in the shaping of people's politics is parenthood, the value placed on it. Author and Esquire magazine columnist Chuck Klosterman, a Generation Xer, got off the best line I've heard about covering school boards: "There's nothing more annoying than a mother who actually cares about her kids."
But you can't be a "security mom" or a "soccer mom" if you don't have those drooling, bed-wetting little creatures in your house.
-- This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.
And it's one of the reasons Jenn Vasquez, one of Carroll County's eight full-time paramedics, spoke to the Carroll Rotary Club recenty.
The ambulance service is looking to add to its inventory of Stryker Power Pro Cots, devices that make it easier to lift increasingly heavier victims.
"Every one of us is bearing more weight than is safe," Vasquez said. "In all seriousness our work is becoming heavier."
In recent days local emergency-response officials have told both the Rotary Club and the Carroll Daily Times Herald that the weight of victims has shot up dramatically, that it is not unusual to be transporting people over 300 pounds, or even more than 500 pounds.
Nationally the obesity rate tops 20 percent and 31 states saw an increase last year.
The Carroll County Ambulance Service recently bought two of the Stryker Power Pro cots and plans to add four over the next two years.
"The former nonmechanized cots were rated to hold no more than 500 pounds, and it would take muscle from paramedics and first responders on all sides to get a large patient moved," the Carroll Daily Times Herald reports. "Powered by a rechargeable 24-volt battery, the new cot can easily lift a patient weighing as much as 700 pounds."
The service says they have come close to seeing if that threshold, well, holds.
Besides being a topic among emergency officials obesity is a topic on the presidential campaign trail.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's dramatic weight loss of more than 100 pounds is well chronicled. And tomorrow, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is expected to speak to a national conference on obesity.
As for the war on the front lines, the one waged by folks like Vasquez, it is not getting any easier. In fact, if people keeping eating themselves into Jabba The Hut figures, it is likely some family, some day will have to do what the children in the fictional book "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" did with their overweight mother. They burned the house down when she died so the ambulance personnel or coronor's office wouldn't have to use a crane to get her body from its deathbed inside.
This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.
Monday, September 17, 2007
As Iowa Independent reported this morning, State Sen. Jeff Angelo, the Creston Republican who represents the largest senate district in the Hawkeye State, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2008.
Angelo, a three-term senator, says the role of father and soon-to-be new husband to Tara van Brederode of Ames -- not to mention the couple's time-share arrangement between Ames and Creston for the benefit of the kids involved who are rooted in schools -- make legislative service beyond 2008 too much.
The senator says he plans to be active in the coming legislative session, however.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
INDIANOLA – Hillary pulled out the best line of the day.
Obama’s team orchestrated some powerhouse optics.
Edwards did that lawyer-leaping-from-the-John-Grisham-novel-to-face-the-forces-of capitalism’s-excesses-for-those-Americans-bogged-in-the-backwater thing,
The candidates had their moments, some big ones at that.
But the win at U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry, the trophy on this day of the Emmys, goes to the State of Iowa. A record number of Iowans for this event, more than 12,000 by Harkin staffers’ official count, poured into the balloon fields in this Warren County town south of Des Moines, just weeks before harvest and four months until candidates learn if their own toils and tending yield a bump for New Hampshire or South Carolina or Nevada in the chase for the White House.
“Whoever comes out of Iowa is going to get one heck of a boost,” Harkin told members of the media before the formal speeches.
Six Democratic presidential candidates appeared before a boisterous crowd on a hay-bail lined stage with a serene countryside, the solitude of a Sunday sun tea on the porch only a light breeze away and stretching as far as the eye could strain.
As Edward R. Murrow may have said: This is Iowa.
Yes it is. And love him or hate him, you have to give it to Harkin for showcasing the state in a genuine manner like this.
At Sunday’s steak fry – the event Harkin used to launch his own presidential candidacy in 1991 with clever attacks on Bush – the activists came to eat the read meat and digest it by getting an ear full of some. Like in 1991, it was a Bush, this one hemorrhaging like a piñata with only a few Tootsie rolls left and little stomach for the whip of the stick anymore, as the rhetorical target.
“In words that even George Bush can understand we are ready to kick some elephant,” Harkin said, referring the Bush’s now-famous barroom posturing with the Aussies about Iraq.
It wasn’t as good as Harkin’s best right verbal hook at Daddy Bush in 1991, “the feet of clay” line, but Harkin isn’t looking to follow this Bush to the Oval Office, either.
“The era of cowboy diplomacy is over,” said Hillary Clinton. “America is back.”
Bush bashing, committed activists and sign wars are all staples of Harkin steak frys.
But this year brought some more Republicans – and a fair number of undecideds.
Jim and Peggy Mikulanec, long time Indianolans, worked the Obama rally – just as they had worked for the George Bush the elder in his presidential bid.
Peg, a retired science and math teacher, said she’s backing Obama because “he’s the only one of all the candidates” (at least those in Indianola today) who took an early anti-war position.
Her husband, who is in the concrete business, sees chief executive material in Obama.
“I think we’re crying for true leadership, classic leadership,” he said. “I think Obama provides it.”
Karin Hill, 45, of Marshalltown, a supervisor with JC Penney, had stickers on her shirt for six Democratic candidates. She’s not going to make up her mind a minute too soon.
“I might wait actually until the caucus,” Hill said.
In fact, she may caucus for a candidate who needs an extra nudge in Marshalltown to stay viable and make it out of Iowa to fight another day, she said, noting what she believed to be the strength of the full field.
And Lon Diers of Carroll, retired from the can redemption business, said he’s backing Hillary and thinks that if she makes it out of the nominating process, many frustrated Republicans will give her something of a fresh look – or as much of one as the most famous woman in the world can get.
As some of the first waves of steak eaters made their way through food lines, the Clinton and Edwards people had a strong run of the balloon grounds.
Obama’s campaign, in a masterful stroke in terms of revving up their faithful, and providing unforgettable images for the media, gathered 3,000 strong (according to Obama Iowa press secretary Tommy Vietor) in at a rally south of the balloon fields, across from two-lane U.S. Highway 92. With Obama in front and band members close behind the ethnically and age diverse crowd marched down a gravel lane banked by corn fields, wildflowers, Golden Rod and prairie grasses, to the steak fry.
“We have to bring an end to game-playing,” Obama said in his speech. “The times are too serious. The stakes are too high.”
Harkin’s organizers selected the seating and speaking order for the candidates at random, but it fell in an interesting way. On the left side of the stage you had Obama, the Illinois senator and an African-American, sitting next to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the first serious Hispanic candidate, who was flanked by Hillary Clinton, a woman with a realistic shot at being the most powerful person in a world of 7 billion people and growing. All of these candidates represent change before they even open their mouths.
On the other side of the podium, speaking in the final three spots was what one might call the White Boy’s Club of The Senate with current senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Delaware’s Joseph Biden sitting with former U.S. Sen. John Edwards in between.
(For what it’s worth, Edwards and Biden seemed to have some running small talk and did Obama and Richardson.)
If the leading candidates in Iowa (Edwards, Obama and Clinton) were auditioning potential running mates, Bill Richardson sure made a case to be at the front of the line – if he doesn’t somehow jump the field.
As he took stock of the candidate on the stage Richardson said, “In my judgment, all of them could serve in the White House – as my VP.”
In less than 15 minutes, Richardson covered the most policy territory with the most specifics -- $40,000 minimum salaries for teachers, 50 mpg fuel standards, 1 year of community service for young people to kill much of their college student loans.
U.S. Sen. John Edwards sounded the most like Harkin, striking populist chords and serving up his lines with the sort of barely controlled-rage-against-the-system energy that very well may fuel Harkin for another five Senate terms into his 90s.
“I don’t want to see us replace corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats,” Edwards said (without looking at Hillary Clinton.)
Edwards then called for the M word with health care, saying it should be mandated for all Americans. Any candidate refusing to use the M word will be leaving someone uninsured (perhaps the guy in Appalachia he always talks about) and should have to answer this question: “What man, what woman, what child in America, is not worthy of health care?”
Edwards also said the minimum wage should be $9.50 – not $7.25. This plays big with just-folks here in Iowa – many of whom who may see Hillary and Obama as more the candidates of the elite, the educated. You see, people who wear name tags and uniforms to work (some with two jobs) relate to those burdened, screwed-over and beat-down characters in the aforementioned Grisham novels. Edwards reaches them in a way Obama and Clinton just have not to this point.
Edwards, Clinton and Obama all had strong showings with signs. Others surely have opinions on this but from my vantage point on a press riser just to the left of the stage I had a decent view out over the crowd of 12,000 people. I’d say Obama and Hillary had Edwards beat on signs – but I’m not calling it for HRC or Obama. In terms of the roads in to the event, the Hillary Machine dominated – but one Obama volunteer told that’s because his people followed the rules with placement (at least for a while) while Hillary’s workers put up signs with the same abandon shown by teen-agers teepeeing a teacher’s house on a Friday night.
For his part, Biden, who spoke last, wisely recognized the weariness in the crowd, and gave remarks that fell short of his allotted 15 minutes.
“This election is as serious as a heart attack,” Biden said.
Biden’s case – and it’s a good one but probably not enough to compete with celebrity (you know who) and familiarity (Edwards) is this: George W. Bush has just told the nation that the War in Iraq will not end during his administration. This means the next president will have to deal with the war. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden thinks he’s best suited for the role of clean-up man in Iraq, that he’s the guy you want going to the plate in the ninth inning with runners on.
“What we say and do the remainder of this campaign will affect our ability to do that,” Biden said.
Dodd spent a good deal of time talking about Senator Harkin’s merits – something most of the people at the steak fry have been sold on since before the Reagan Administration.
And then he got off this hokey line about the Iowa State Fair: “I had no idea what you could put on a stick in this state,” Dodd joked.
Not too many Iowans know you can put a sign with Dodd’s name on a stick, though.
This story is cross-posted on Iowa Independent.com.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, says he plans to use his third trip to Iraq to talk with American troops and local citizenry in areas that “are not stabilized” to better understand the “progress” of the American mission there.
“The reason I’m in-country is to make that evaluation,” Latham told Iowa Independent and other media during a conference call today.
Latham, speaking from Baghdad just after 10 p.m. there, said reports indicate progres in some communities with stemming terrorist or insurgent attacsk but that he wants a more complete picture before meeting with Iowans to present his findings.
The Iowa congressman characterized some calls for complete combat withdrawal as “retreat and defeat” maneuvers that he believes could be dangerous for troops.
Latham said he supports reducing the troops at perhaps even a faster pace than what General David Petraeus has called for in recent congressional testimony.
“But we need to do it from a position of winning and strength and not retreating in defeat,” Latham said.
Specifically, Latham said public proposals, such as the high-profile one presented by Democratic presidential candidate Baracak Obama today calling for immediate drawdown, can have a negative impact on servicepeople.
“It cetainly does with the people that I have talked to, the Iowans on the ground over here, especially when they realize the progress and have seen first-hand the progress that’s being made,” Latham said. “But having said that I want to get a larger evaluation of the picture over here tomorrow and when talking to troops who are not in a more stabilized area.”
Latham told reporters he could not release specifics on locations in Iraq he planned to visit to get a better sense of life on the ground.
The congressman said he would visit Pakistan as well and Afghanistan before returning home.
Just hours before a scheduled major foreign policy address in eastern Iowa Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told the Iowa Independent and Carroll Daily Times Herald the United States needs to begin an immediate phased redeployment of combat troops out of Iraq.
Obama’s plan calls for troops to be removed from Iraq — one or two brigades a month — starting now from secure areas followed by more volatile ones with the intent of having all U.S. combat troops out by the end of 2008.
“What I’m focused on is how do we not only bring that war to a close but also put our foreign policy on a firm footing for the future,” Obama said in a phone interview with a writer for the newspaper and Web site as he traveled to Clinton, Iowa, for the speech this afternoon.
With the plan Obama is attempting to position himself as the Democratic presidential aspirant with the most aggressive strategy for disengaging militarily from the beleaguered nation and a war the Illinois senator believes has been a costly and tragic distraction from the broader battle against terrorism.
In the 15-minute, one-on-one interview just before 10 this morning, Obama previewed key elements of his Iraq speech before answering several questions on agriculture and rural affairs for a separate story that will be published as part of an uncoming package.
With Iraq Obama said the United States must redouble diplomacy in the region.
“That’s not just inside Iraq,” Obama said. “We also have to generate much more effective diplomacy outside of Iraq and that means talking to everyone, including the Iranians and Syrians.”
Third, Obama is calling for more humanitarian assistance in Iraq.
“We’ve got to unify the country and get beyond the politics when it comes to Iraq,” Obama said. “I was frustrated yesterday by the degree to which the administration continues to attempt to present this failed strategy in Iraq as part of the broader war on terrorism when in fact it has been an enormous distraction from us going after al-Qaeda in places like Afghanistan.”
On Tuesday, Obama, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined other senators in questioning General David etraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador in Baghdad, about the state of affairs in that nation.
In the hearing, Obama asked angrily, “At what point do we say, enough?”
“My sense is after listening to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker that they were given their marching orders by the president and they will do what they can to try to move forward on what is a fundamentally failed strategy,” Obama said in the Daily Times Herald interview. “The problem right now is not with our military which is performing brilliantly. The problem is with the civilian leadership which continues to insist that somehow there is a military solution to what is essentially a political problem.”
Obama said the United States long-term presence is not only a hardship on the troops, and drain on the U.S. treasury, but that it serves as a recruitment tool for terrorists.
The following are excerpts of Obama's speech:
“Conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. The pundits judged the political winds to be blowing in the direction of the President. Despite – or perhaps because of how much experience they had in Washington, too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war. Our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.”
“There is something unreal about the debate that’s taking place in Washington… The bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand. The American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We’ve had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet. We’ve had enough of mounting costs in Iraq and missed opportunities around the world. We’ve had enough of a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged.”
"I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. I introduced a plan in January to remove all of our combat brigades by next March. And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now.”
“Let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year – now. We should enter into talks with the Iraqi government to discuss the process of our drawdown. We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first, and keeping troops in more volatile areas until later. But our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year.”
“Some argue that we should just replace Prime Minister Maliki. But that wouldn’t solve the problem…The problems in Iraq are bigger than one man. Iraq needs a new Constitutional convention that would include representatives from all levels of Iraqi society – in and out of government. The United Nations should play a central role in convening and participating in this convention, which should not adjourn until a new accord on national reconciliation is reached.”
“The President would have us believe there are two choices: keep all of our troops in Iraq or abandon these Iraqis. I reject this choice... It’s time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations…. We should up our share to at least $2 billion to support this effort; to expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries; and to ensure that Iraqis displaced inside their own country can find safe-haven. …. Iraqis must know that those who engage in mass violence will be brought to justice. We should lead in forming a commission at the U.N. to monitor and hold accountable perpetrators of war crimes within Iraq.”
“I’m here today because it’s not too late to come together as Americans. Because we’re not going to be able to deal with the challenges that confront us until we end this war. What we can do is say that we will not be prisoners of uncertainty. That we reject the conventional thinking that led us into Iraq and that didn’t ask hard questions until it was too late. What we can say is that we are ready for something new and something bold and something principled."
Sunday, September 09, 2007
The editor of an influential newspaper in western Iowa's Latino community tells us she thinks Hillary Clinton and John Edwards had the strongest perfomances in the Univision debate in Miami.
La Presna's Lorena Lopez, who says she is leaning toward an endorsement of Barack Obama, says Clinton appeared to command issues and seemed "calm" in her approach to the questions on issues of concern to the Latin community. In an interview with Iowa Independent tonight Lopez said she thinks Edwards may have made some inroads with his debate performance as well.
The western Iowa Spanish-language paper, La Prensa (The Press), is a family operation, the product of an ambitious mother-son team originally from Nicaragua but with deepening roots in Carroll.
Published twice a month, La Prensa, a free tabloid, is distributed at several locations in western Iowa including Carroll, Storm Lake, Denison, Spencer, Humboldt and Fort Dodge. Distribution stands at about 6,800.
In terms of specific issues, Lopez said she was disappointed with the candidates' answers to a question about why many in the U.S. support the erection of a wall with Mexico -- but not with Canada.
Here is The New York Times on the issue:
Mr. Obama did not address the distinction between Mexico and Canada, talking instead about his support for an immigration overhaul and border security. Mrs. Clinton said she supported “much more border patrolling and much more technology” on both borders, and a barrier “in certain areas.” Mr. Dodd echoed Mrs. Clinton, then focused on making trade and economic agreements that benefited Central American countries.
The blog VivirLatino noted the fence question as well.
You had to love watching Dodd, Clinton, and Obama dance around why they supported the border wall between Mexico and the US. They all cited security, but as made clear in the question, that answer doesn't fly for Latino voters after all none of the 9-11-01 attackers came in through Mexico.
Like Lopez, the Huffington Post had some high marks tonight for Clinton.
"Hilary has the best closing statement, more feeling and warmth and the most applause. And she got the last word!" writes HuffPost in a live blog of the event.
I watched the debate on Univision but had trouble picking up much of the dialogue because of the simultaneous Spanish translation of the English answers.
Richardson, the first serious Latino candidate for the Oval Office seemed to perform well in what was clearly a home game -- but the Univision format remarkably didn't allow the New Mexico governor the true homefield advantage: the rules forbid Spanish on the stage. (Only he and Dodd speak fluent Spanish in the Democratic field so that probably was necessary to even get the other candidates in the debate.)
A blogger named La bloguera has some witty observations on the translation issues as well as the debate in general.
In response to the fence question Richardson get off a great one-liner (one he uses here in Iowa) about the 12-foot border fence launching a great 13-foot ladder business.
The Univision debate -- which may have frustrated some Progressives who didn't pay attention in Spanish class -- provided some fodder to the political right on the language issue.
Michael Kraft who blogs for Charlotte Conservative News said the Univision debate is nothing more than an hour-long "commercial for amnesty." He does, however, promise to post a transcript of the debate.
This story is crossposted at Iowa Independent.com.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
It's the biggest venue possible for candidates seeking to reach the Latin community.
The network reaches an estimated 99 percent of homes in America in which Spanish is a primary language.
The Democratic candidates will debate on Univision Sunday starting at 6 p.m. CST. The debate is being held in Miami and will be in English with real-time translation into Spanish -- as only Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson are fluent in Spanish. It will be interesting to see how this fact alone plays in the debate. For those of you who don't get Univision (you are missing some super cool soap operas that are a great way to learn Spanish) the debate can be viewed at univision.com.
In a remarkable move that could prove dedidedly costly, the Republican candidates (save John McCain) declined to participate in a Univision debate, perhaps pushing the burgeoing Latin population to turn toward Democrats in 2008.
This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.
By Donald Kaul
The generally accepted definition of the Yiddish word “chutzpah” (pronounced as though you’re clearing your throat) is the quality exhibited by a man who murders his father and mother, then asks for clemency because he’s an orphan. In other words, brazen arrogance.
President George W. Bush, however, is threatening to supplant that self-made orphan in the Yiddish lexicon.
The other day he said that we couldn’t pull out of Iraq because it would result in a bloodbath and political catastrophe, (begin ital) just like our pulling out of Vietnam did! (end ital)
Speaking to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, always a receptive audience for saber-rattling presidents, he said:
“One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘reeducation camps’ and killing fields’.”
Can you believe the gall of the man? Not only is he arguing for the wisdom of having continued a war that he and his right-wing cohort, for the most part, didn’t choose to participate in, he is blaming the people who opposed the war for its consequences.
No, no, no Mr. President. No. As your father (whom you make look better every minute) might have said:
“This will not stand.”
Getting out of Vietnam was not what caused the area-wide tragedy that Southeast Asia became; getting into it did.
Our conduct of that miserable war, which saw us drop more bombs on that relatively small country than we did everywhere during all of World War II, atomized the societies of the region, leaving them vulnerable to their most vicious, lunatic elements.
Perhaps if we’d stayed there forever---bombing, bombing, bombing---we could have held off those elements, but you can’t stay there forever. Sooner or later, you have to leave.
The president is right about one thing, when we leave Iraq we shall leave behind a chaotic situation that could resemble post-war Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos. But staying there won’t prevent that either. (The other day dozens died in Karbala when a fight broke out between two Shiite factions, never mind the Sunnis.)
Like a substitute teacher in an unruly classroom, as soon as we turn our backs, the children start lobbing grenades at each other.
Our intelligence agencies, in a report issued the day after the president’s speech, basically agree with that, predicting that quickly pulling out of Iraq would be disastrous but that staying there in support of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government is all but futile. That is the corner into which Mr. Bush and his gang have painted us.
But still the man, armed with nothing but chutzpah, continues to talk nonsense about resisting “the allure of retreat,” to quote another fanciful phrase from the VFW speech.
Right-wing chicken hawks have done a wonderful job of rejiggering the history of the Vietnam War. They seem to have convinced many Americans that the war was lost because the war protesters at home undermined the effort.
You saw that play out in the 2004 presidential election, when John Kerry---who was both a decorated war veteran and later a prominent war protester---chose to emphasize his combat record rather than his anti-war history. All he got in return for his efforts was a Swift-boating.
Believe me on this, kids, the protesters did not lose the Vietnam War; it was lost because we were on the wrong side of history, fighting a colonial war in a post-colonial period. We had no chance.
There is a variation of chutzpah that fits Mr. Bush, as well as the rest of the “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” The word is chutzpahnik, defined (by Leo Rosten in “The Joys of Yiddish”) as “the man who shouts ‘Help! Help!’ while beating you up.”
When we finally do abandon the war in Iraq, as we most certainly shall, the Bush people will blame not their own incompetence but those who opposed it. Count on it.
Don Kaul is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-losing Washington correspondent who, by his own account, is right more than he's wrong. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org -- A photo of Donald Kaul is available CLICK HERE
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Friday, September 07, 2007
Highly popular HBO satirist and commentator Bill Maher this week sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin urging the Democratic chairman of the Agriculture Committee to support increasing Farm Bill funding for fruits and vegetable programs for kids. Maher also advocated a gutting of subsidies for what the Los Angeles-based comedian called "unhealthy foods."
In the letter, dated Sept. 5 and obtained by Iowa Independent, Maher stresses his strong support of the federal Fruits and Vegetables program for schools -- one that Harkin helped start and recently promoted with a visit to schools in Carroll and other places in Iowa.
Maher also takes on the long-standing regime of farm subsidies.
"About 75 percent of food production subsidies are for feed crops or for the direct production of meat and dairy products," Maher writes. "And by heavily subsidizing feed crop farmers, Congress is ultimately financing burgers, bacon, butter and cheese -- high fat, cholesterol-laden foods that clog our school lunch lines."
Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher," refers to the farm bill as "America's National Food Bill."
While Harkin is unlikely to side with Maher in his attacks on grain farmers (the senator's base for 30 years), the committee chairman, who recently criticized movie studios for promoting junk food in films aimed at kids, has indicated his desire to use the farm bill to get healthier foods in schools.
-- Cross posted at Iowa Independent.com
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Are gay recruiting squads going to sprout up and turn people? Will America devolve into ancient Sparta, where male homosexuality was compulsory?
Hardly. "Real" men will still watch re-runs of Baywatch, and the Miss Makita tool girl will be the biggest draw for men in Carroll, Iowa, if one visits General Rental here again.
In an episode of the wildly popular HBO show “Entourage,” one of the 20-something straight white guys, someone who dates interracially and is even represented professionally by an Asian homosexual, sums up the view of many heterosexual guys I know:
“Bring your gay friends to the party. I just don’t want to see any touching or kissing.”
Taking the “Entourage” view I’m proposing a compromise: Gay marriages should be legalized — as long as the couples aren’t allowed to kiss publicly at the end of the ceremony.
I’m all for civil rights and even civil unions. But I just don’t want to see two guys kissing. There was enough of that in the movie “The Crying Game” for a lifetime.
Read the rest of this column at Iowa Independent.com.