Friday, November 30, 2007
Sept. 27 -- The Dual Art Dartmouth
Nov. 16 -- Las Vegas Debate
The New York Times has named "LITTLE HEATHENS
Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression" as one of the five best non-fiction books of the year.
I recall reading a review of the book earlier this year but I never followed up on that.
Cullen makes the case that Iowa -- facing an epic worker shortage -- desperately needs immigrants and should reject political hysteria and think about what is best for rural economies.
What we really need is to open up the immigration quotas to fill our low-skilled, medium-skilled and high-skilled job shortages. This is especially true in Iowa, which is aging rapidly and badly needs workers in the agri-industrial sector. It’s basically simple arithmetic: How many meatpackers and landscapers do we need? Let that many in. For those already here, pay a fine for entering illegally, get on a path to citizenship, learn English and keep your nose clean.
This is what most Americans want, according to the polling we have seen. They want a way for people to escape poverty, fill unfilled yet important jobs, and live safely and out of the shadows. Most American citizens do not think it practical to ship out 15 million illegal aliens, the great majority of whom have never been in trouble here and have no idea what a dirty bomb is. Most good Christians we know find it an offense to their values to separate families, consign people to a life of poverty under corrupt regimes, and to identify people as criminals based on their appearance or country of origin. As Christ said, “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.”
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes tells Iowa Independent he doesn't want to see a replay of some of the same stories emerging from Iraq about private contractors such as Blackwater.
“I would share that concern giving the experience of Iraq and we don’t have any concrete information whether contractors are going to be used or in what capacity,” Reyes said recently in Boone. “But I can tell you it is something that we will be very, very watchful for.”
Reyes said the Bush administration has had poor results with its efforts to use private contractors as “force multipliers.”
What's more, his committee has heard testimony from agencies that say they don’t even know the number of contractors who are in theater in Iraq.
“Right now, it’s a situation where contractors don’t, at least at this point, don’t have a good credibility on Capitol Hill,” Reyes said.
What’s more, U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, sees King’s strong rhetoric on immigration as contributing to a long-term national Democratic Party majority, something he believes will be buoyed by an Hispanic community outraged at King-like posturing.
“I think that some of the statements that are made by my colleagues (U.S. Rep. Tom) Tancredo and King are not only unrealistic but are certainly long-term very consequential to their party,” Reyes said.
King’s rhetoric about a fence on the southern border of the United States is particularly troubling for Reyes.
“I’m offended by the fact that they think that in the age of globalization they can build a 2,000-mile long wall or walls and isolate Latin America from the United States,” Reyes said. “It’s not good public policy. It betrays the legacy of immigration that we celebrate as a nation. And third, I don’t think it’s good politics.”
In an infamous PR stunt, King went to the House floor last year to display the model of a wall the Kiron Republican said he personally designed for the U.S. border with Mexico.
King said the same tactic employed to manage livestock could be used with his border plan — and he made two livestock references in talking about the wall.
“We need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top or put a ladder there.” King said in displaying his design. “We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.”
For his part, Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, has run a presidential campaign focusing almost exclusively on immigration issues.
In a recent interview with Iowa Independent in Boone following a presidential campaign event for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Reyes stopped short of referring to King and Tancredo as racist.
“I don’t know if in fact they’re racists so I’m not prepared to call them that,” Reyes said. “But I do think they’re pandering to that 20 percent or so of our population that would like to see our country have an isolationist policy.”
In recently discussing the worker shortage in Iowa, King told the Greater Des Moines Partnership that the birth of more Iowa babies, not immigration, is the solution, according to a story by longtime Des Moines Register D.C. reporter Jane Norman.
“What about the ‘grow your own’ plan,’” King said.
In the event with the Iowa group, the Kiron Republican added that the birthrate is so low in Europe that “western Europeans themselves are not having babies fast enough to keep their population up, and because they created ethnic enclaves, as opposed to assimilation, Europe isn’t going to be the same Europe we knew,” reports the Register.
While such rhetoric may play to the conservative base in safe congressional districts, Reyes, who rolled his eyes when a reporter first raised King’s name, said the western Iowa Republican’s high profile on this issue is severely damaging the national GOP, perhaps irreparably as the nation’s Hispanic population soars.
According to the U.S. Census, the projected Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2050, is more than 102 million. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 24 percent of the nation’s total population by that date.
“In the long term the Latino or Hispanic community, generally speaking, is very loyal,” Reyes said. “We as Democrats look at this community as an emerging political power base and those that would make the kinds of statements that are made by Representatives King and Tancredo are risking the alienation of the whole community politically.”
Reyes said the Republican Party would be wise to go with the instincts of the president, not the King crowd, on immigration. President Bush this year sought to shepherd through a controversial compromise immigration plan that included enforcement and path-to-citizenship measures.
“If there was one thing that President George W. Bush did that worked for the Republican Party, it was that in the last election he made the Republican Party more attractive in terms of the Latino community,” Reyes said. “Whatever gains he made in 2004 have not only been erased, but I think it also has seriously jeopardized any hope that any Republican would have to be attractive to the Hispanic or Latino community.”
He said there is great speculation about the influence Latinos will have in 2008.
“I think certainly the Southwest is an emerging power base when you talk about Texas, New Mexico, California, Colorado and Nevada, all heavily Latino-populated states,” Reyes said. “I think that’s going to be a very active battleground.”
Campaigning for Bill Richardson in the Southwest, Reyes senses a “groundswell” for Democrats there.
“We still have to wait and see how that influence plays out in 2008,” Reyes said. “What we don’t know is how motivated they are going to be and how many will actually register and vote. That’s the message we’re getting out there, that it’s not just enough to be angry at the Tancredos or the Kings or the Romneys or the Thompsons, all those that are making immigration a wedge issue.”
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Fred Thompson, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, are Republican candidates for president.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
A national crew from FOX News Channel today interviewed Iowa Independent fellow Douglas Burns in Carroll for a story on the Iowa caucuses and the dynamics at work in western Iowa, particularly in the Democrats’ close contest.
FOX interviewed several voters and leaders in Carroll for a segment tentatively scheduled to air at 5 p.m. CST Tuesday during the “Special Report With Brit Hume” on the national FOX News Channel.
FOX spent some of Monday morning in the Daily Times Herald interviewing reporter/columnist Douglas Burns — who is also an Iowa Independent fellow — about the culture of western Iowa and the political landscape with just a little over a month remaining until the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Burns (right) is pictured speaking with veteran FOX News Channel correspondent Steve Brown.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
SAC CITY -- Marjie Sands listened intently to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton portray her health-care plan as more inclusive than the New York senator's opponents this weekend in a campaign stop at the Sac City fire station in northwest Iowa.
For Sands, a nurse at Loring Hospital in Sac City, health-care is a defining issue, the one on which she is going to make the final call between Clinton and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama on caucus night.
"I need to hear a very great health-care plan, not universal but something where we can help the people who can't afford it -- and make it so that everybody has health-insurance," Sands said. "But the people who are working hard can't afford it right now and so I'm seeing the results of that in the hospital."
If she had to caucuses today Sands said she would lean toward Obama but is keeping the door open for Clinton.
"I was a Bill Clinton fan," Sands said.
Living in heavily Republican territory, Sands joked that she doesn't visit often about politics with her friends and colleagues. That said, when the matter does arise, she hears more negative comments from Republicans about Clinton than Obama.
"My husband's a very staunch Republican," Sands said.
And who does he dislike more?
"I think Clinton," she said.
For her part, Clinton drew a crowd of several hundred people in the fire hall in this county seat town of 2,200, about 30 miles northwest of Carroll. Clinton started her speech by recognizing the sacrifice of Sgt. Adrian Hike, a Carroll native who was killed earlier this month in combat in Afghanistan. Hike's funeral was just hours before te Clinton appearance.
"It's another reminder of the sacrifice our men and women in uniform make," Clinton said.
Clinton staffers said she had no contact with the family and based the remarks on reading local news reports.
In the Sac City speech, Clinton said U.S. efforts in Afghanistan are more important than ever given the turmoil in neighboring Pakistan.
"I'm very grateful to him and his family," Clinton said.
In policy comments on war, Clinton received her most sustained when she pledged to extricate the United States from Iraq if elected.
"When I'm president I'm going to do that as soon as I'm elected," Clinton said.
Should she capture the White House in November 2008, Clinton said, she would begin sending envoys to repair what she characterized as "damage" from President George W. Bush's "dangerous experiment in extremism."
"The era of cowboy diplomacy is over," Clinton said.
The former First Lady said she is strongly opposed to a "rush to war" with Iran and defended her vote to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a prudent move diplomatically, not a roll-out of the red carpet for the Bush war machine as some of her critics have suggested.
Switching from international issues to more localized matters, Clinton said that much of New York State is rural, that she understands small-town challenges.
She sees renewable energy as resurrecting the Iowa countryside. Sac County needs a shot in the arm as the popultion of about 10,700 has dropped some 7 percent from 2000 to 2006.
"How about creating millions of dollars in green-collar jobs," Clinton said.
Rural areas, she said, stand to profit the most from new energy sources.
Clinton touted a program developed in her Senate office to assist small businesses interested in getting on the Internet -- so that their customer base isn't geographically constricted.
"We need to create that kind of electronic commerce for rural America," Clinton said.
In her speech Clinton never referred directly to her chief rivals for the Democratic nomination but she did suggest that her health-care plan is superior to the one put forth by Obama.
"Some of them don't cover everyone," Clinton said.
She made the case that a Democrat can't run successfully for the White House without a universal health-care plan -- as she sees it as a separating issue with Republicans.
"We're going to join the rest of the rich, industrialized world," Clinton said of her health-care plan.
Clinton fielded several questions from the audience including one from an elderly woman who told her she looked "pretty." And in what is a signature move for the Clintons, she worked the rope line after her speech, signing autographs and speaking with dozens of people one-on-one.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
"What I am insistent on is that we can't have the same arguments we had in the 1990s," Obama said. "We've got to deal with climate change. We've to deal with energy independence. We've got to deal with war. We've got to deal with revamping our education system and our health-cate system."
In an interview with Iowa Independent, the Carroll Daily Times Herald and La Prensa, a western Iowa Spanish-language newspaper, Obama, an Illinois Democrat seeking the presidency, responded to a question about a recent Atlantic monthly story in which writer Andrew Sullivan suggests front-runners Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani would fill traditional roles in a divisive culture war that has raged since Vietnam.
Here is Sullivan:
She and Giuliani are conscripts in their generation’s war. To their respective sides, they are war heroes.
And here is Obama's response when asked specifically about that quote:
"I do think because I'm a new face on the scene that I have an easier time of getting people to work together and listen to each other in ways that I think some of these other folks don't," Obama said.
Obama added, "Washington has been caught up in gridlock for a long time," he said. "The country has moved past many of these arguments."
He said people aren't voting against him based on "whether I inhaled 30 years ago."
"They just want some straight answers," Obama said. In a speech in Audubon, Obama acknowledged that he had tried marijuana as a youth -- and that he did inhale.
In the interview, Obama reiterated his differneces with Clinton on the issue of whether to remove the $97,500 cap on income subject to the payroll tax that funds Social Security. Obama favors taxing earnings greater than that to shore up the system while Clinton said such a move amounts to a tax increase that could affect the middle class. The issue emerged in the last Democratic debate and when asked if one difference between himself and Hillary Clinton is that she thinks $97,000 is middle class money and he thinks it's a lot of money, Obama said, "apparently."
"Right now, 94 percent of Americans are paying payroll on 100 percent of their income," Obama said. "But you have very wealthy people, people in the top five, six percent, who aren't. And top 1 percent who aren't."
Thursday, November 15, 2007
(COMMENTARY) U.S. Sen. Barack Obama tonight turned in his strongest presidential debate performance and exposed a clear regional difference with front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Is $97,000 a lot of money? In most of Obama's Illinois and just about all of Iowa the answer to that is "yes," which makes Obama's position on the question of whether to raise or lift the cap on Social Security taxes more reasonable to Hawkeye State voters than the New York shape-shifting of Clinton.
As it stands, the first $97,500 of a person's annual income is subject to the Social Security tax. Obama supports lifting that to shore up the future of the system while Clinton went with the nostalgia card, suggesting that the she could resurrect the macroeconomic picture that prevailed under her husband and cause the Social Security problem to disappear without hard choices. She suggested that popping the cap would hurt middle-class Americans and argued that in some parts of the nation (namely high-priced New York City which she represents) $97,500 isn't a lot of money. It would be interesting to hear her make that argument in Audubon County, Iowa, where the average home is worth half that much, $49,000.
In the CNN Nevada debate on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus, Obama said only 6 percent of Americans make more than $97,500 and added that Clinton's use of numbers amounted to a Republican-style manipulation.
"This is the kind of thing I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani," Obama said in perhaps his sharpest frontal political assault on Clinton.
Obama joined U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, a longtime member of the Judiciary Committee, as having the most solid answers on a question related to appointments of judges. Biden showed a clear understanding of the process, and has the scars from decades of fighting the culture wars on center court -- Supreme Court justice hearings in the Senate.
But Obama's answer connected more. A former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, Obama said he wanted to look for candidates who aren't ivory towered academics but rather people who understand the vulnerable.
Obama also earned significant points with the Hispanic community for supporting drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants -- a controversial issue on which his chief rivals either disgree with him or have heavily nuanced positions.
After watching Obama, Clinton and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards dust each other up in top-tier skirmishing, Biden, the Delaware Democrat and venerable senator, appeared as the steady old hand, perhaps the man you'd give the ship's wheel to this instant.
"Who among us knows what they're doing?" Biden asked.
Well, you ...
Biden's answers had the usual thoroughness, touches of Senate-speak, to be sure. But he stopped himself short when the penchant for long-windedness seemed about to take hold. Obama had nearly double the amount of "talk time" as Biden so in a sense the comparison of the two senators in the debate format is fantastically unfair.
In the arena of international affairs, Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, exhibited his superior stature on the issues, noting that he had spoken recently with key figures in troubled Pakistan, even before President Bush. Biden also refused to pander on the issue of merit pay for teachers. Who decides whether a teacher is meriting? It makes more sense, said Biden, the husband of a teacher, to base increased pay on whether a teacher obtains advanced degrees.
North Carolinian Edwards barreled ahead with his populist message -- and people in Nevada, based on the crowd reaction, appeared to be in a buying mood. He ripped Clinton for being a defender of a "rigged" and "corrupt" system, and while acknowledging that he, too, has changed positions over time (such as on the aforementioned drivers' license question), he said Clinton seems to take seemingly two-faced positions in real time.
"There's a difference between that (changing one's mind) and saying two contrary things at the same time," Edwards said.
And thinking about key pockets of voters you have to give labor to Edwards tonight. Edwards noted that with Democrats controlling the White House and Congress in the 1990s, the working class saw health-care killed by big business but the passage of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Strong stuff from Edwards -- and we know labor is listening. You could almost call for the debate for him using this calculus alone.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson stylistically had a better-than-usual debate perfomance. But for Richardson this comes down to one answer. He said that in some siutations human rights are more important than American security interests -- perhaps a good turn of phrase for an ambassador to the United States but a major opening for Rudy or Republicans to run with in a general election -- and something Hillary Clinton may have to consider if she looks to Richardson as a running mate as is widely speculated. Even in the middle of western Iowa one could hear the wheels turning in the heads of conservative consultants on this one.
Richardson had a no-nonsense answer on drivers' licenses for immigration which came as he articulated a comprehensive immigration reform package. With federal policy failing, states have no choice to pick up the slack and attempt stopgap measures like the drivers' license proposal.
"My law enforcement people said it's a matter of public safety," Richardson said.
Clinton started the night with a misfire -- joking that her pantsuit was made of asbestos, presumably so she could handle the heat. Asbestos jokes aren't funny to Iowans over 30 who had to go to schools in run-down buildings.
Clinton's strongest moments came in explaining the role of gender in the campaign.
"People are not attacking me because I'm a woman," Clinton said. "They're attacking me because I'm ahead."
Clinton had a strong answer on how to handle tainted toys from China: have a third-party investigator go over there. But she was effectivley backed into a box on the question of potential war with Iran because of her vote to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Obama and Edwards continued to hammer her on that, and her nuanced explanation seemed lacking, giving rise to her opponents' strategy to postion her as the most hawkish of the leading candidates on the Democratic side. Clinton did offer a detailed answer on this in an interview a few weeks ago with Iowa Independent.
Where Chris Dodd is concerned my biggest thought on his performance is connected to something Dr. Steven Kraus of Carroll observed the other night at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner: Dodd, a U.S. senator from Connecticut, and Obama clearly have respect for each other.
Dodd is simply a classy senator who can answer questions with reliable competency. Conventional thinking is that the Southwest will determine the 2008 election and that a Richardson vice presidential nomination makes sense because of this. But Dodd is fluent in Spanish as I saw first hand when Lorena Lopez of La Prensa and I conducted a joint interview with him. If Obama gets the nomination Dodd complements him in a number of ways as a running mate -- including his ability to campaign in Spanish.
And yes, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, also stood on the stage.
This piece is crossposted at Iowa Independent.com.
Offenburger, a Republican, is the former long-time "Iowa Boy" columnist for The Des Moines Register and one of the most well-known commentators and writers in the state.
Here is Offenburger:
For us Republicans, Romney may be our only hope of winning the general election. His business acumen, his international experience including his salvation of the Salt Lake City Olympics, his pro-life position, even if he came to it later than some, and the way he governed with consensus in heavily-Democratic Massachusetts – all those credentials highly recommend him. I also think Romney would give us an immigration and security system that would work and would not constantly embarrass us.
And I personally think his strong Mormon faith is another reason to support him. Devout Mormons, and he is one, live their faith a helluva lot better than most of the rest of us do. I think his faith has helped Romney maintain a strong moral compass, a deep concern for the poor, and a respect for other cultures and nations. As persecuted and put-down as Mormons so often have been and still are, they have empathy and compassion for people who are getting beat up in life.
one-time payout plan 'wacky'
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin today said the Republican presidential candidate to watch in Iowa and nationally is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee has been surging in polls and garnering more media attention.
"I tell you who you ought to keep your eye on," Harkin, D-Iowa, said. "You ought to keep your eye on Mike Huckabee. I'm telling you I think he could pull off some big surprises in the state of Iowa and beyond."
Harkin -- who himself has been a champion of fresh fruits and vegetables for schoolchildre and has gone so far as to take issue with Hollywood titans for their use of the cartoon character Shrek for marketing candy to kids -- credits Huckabee with zeroing on preventative health measures in the campaign.
"I've talked to Mike about this on more than one occasion," Harkin said. "He gets it and he's coming so I tell you: look out."
Harkin is not similarly impressed with Huckabee's plan to provide a one-time Social Security payout to seniors with a certain level of wealth, a vague plan Huckabee has talked about in debates and forums.
"I heard about and it just sounds like something he just threw out there for something," Harkin said. "That will not go anywhere. I can't imagine that getting support from anybody. I didn't say that I agree I with everything. That's sort of a wacky proposal. That's not going anywhere."
This story is crossposted to Iowa Independent where it originally appeared.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
In the wake of Edwards' somewhat confusing answer on ABC's "This Week," La Prensa questioned Edwards on whether he had changed his mind on the controversial matter, moving from a seeming supporter to a critic of a licensing program like the one proposed by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"I haven't changed my mind," Edwards told La Prensa in Carroll. "I've always thought that we want anyone driving on the road in the United States to have the training, the education, the licensing."
Edwards said immigrants on the path to citizenship should be able to get drivers' licenses.
But if immigrants aren't involved in a legal process toward citizenship states shouldn't give them drivers' licenses, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina said.
"If they choose not to, then they shouldn't," Edwards said.
Edwards also told La Prensa the issue is one for states, not the president, to determine. In 2004, as a vice presidential candidate he supported drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants based largely on road safety concerns.
Here is the exchange between Edwards and ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
Mr. Stephanopoulos: “Do you believe illegal immigrants should be denied driver’s licenses?”
Mr. Edwards: “Well, I think, first of all, that’s for states to decide, not for the President of the United States to decide. But beyond that –“
Mr. Stephanopoulos: “So the 40 states that deny illegal immigrants driver’s licenses that’s okay with you?”
Mr. Edwards: “Let me finish. I think that is their decision to make, not the president’s decision. But here’s what I believe. I believe that, first of all, we have to have comprehensive immigration reform. And for anybody in this country who is making an effort and on the path to obtaining American citizenship, yes, they should have a driver’s license. If they’re not making any effort to become an American citizen, and we have a system for doing that, my own personal view is, no, I would not give them a driver’s license.”
This post originally appeared at Iowa Independent.com.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards this weekend in Carroll said members of his party in Congress should tie any funding of the war in Iraq to a timetable for complete combat troop withdrawal.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 250 (267 signed in) at the Swan Lake State Park Conservation Education Center, Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and 2004 vice presidential candidate, said the Democratically controlled Congress is not using the mandate American voters gave it on Iraq.
“The Congress needs to grow a spine, stand up to George Bush,” Edwards said.
In addition to calling for troop pullout, Edwards said the Congress should take a position that there will be no permanent military bases in Iraq.
In a folksy, populist speech, Edwards said strongly criticized U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the Democratic presidential front-runner, for recently voting to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. He thinks the vote rolls out the red carpet for the Bush administration to go to war with Iran.
“We’ve heard this song and dance before,” Edwards said.
He added, “I strongly disagree with her (Clinton). We cannot give this president an inch.”
Edwards said a “rigged” and “corrupt” U.S. government is funding much of the war in Iraq with no-bid contracts and using largely unaccountable mercenaries from organizations like Blackwater to fight the conflict.
“This is not the way our government is supposed to work,” Edwards said.
A highly successful trial lawyer before his service in the U.S. Senate, Edwards said he would use the courtroom skills he honed against big business and insurance companies to take those interests on from the White House, chiefly to provide for universal health care.
He suggested that some other Democratic candidates are not up to the challenge.
“Replacing a group of corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats will not bring about the change we need,” Edwards said.
If elected president, Edwards said, he would seek to strip members of Congress of their health-insurance plans if they don’t provide the American people with a similar system by July of 2009. That line brought some of the most sustained applause in his Carroll visit.
Edwards has a question for those Republicans — and Democrats — who offer health-care plans he doesn’t think include enough people.
“I want them to explain to me what American is not worthy of health-care,” Edwards said.
In the area of education and energy Edwards said he supports a national cap on carbon emissions and wants to see more money spent on biofuels. He is opposed to any new nuclear plants.
Edwards also blasted the North American Free Trade Agreement and expressed concern about imports from China.
“When are we going to say ‘enough is enough,’” Edwards said.
This post also appeared at Iowa Independent.com.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
DES MOINES -- Dr. Steven Kraus of Carroll looked at the place-setting to his right and did a double-take.
The name read Barack Obama. The U.S. senator from Illinois and Democratic presidential candidate would be sitting next to Kraus and his wife Jill on Saturday for at least part of the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, a signature event in the 2008 presidential election process.
As it turns out, the Krauses, some of Obama's leading supporters in west-central Iowa, would sit with Obama for well over an hour, talking about family and politics and even chocolate cake.
"By the time he got to our table he had already eaten," Steve Kraus said. "He offered me his chocolate cake because he caught me eyeing it."
Kraus joked that he didn't take the cake, but he used the remarkable access to pick Obama's mind on a number of political and policy issues. Obama's wife, Michelle, also spent about 30 minutes with the Krauses at the JJ Dinner. In fact, the senator rose from the Krauses table to give one of the more important speeches of his political career with only 50 days remaining until the Iowa caucuses and Obama now in second place among Hawkeye State Democrats, trailing Hillary Clinton
I saw Kraus earlier Saturday night outside of Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, site of the annual event. Kraus said then he hoped Obama would press front-runner Hillary Clinton, criticize her more.
At the dinner table Kraus even made the suggestion to one of Obama's aides who responded that Obama just won't go negative. "It's not who he is," the aide said, according to Kraus. "He won't do it."
When Obama sat down with the Krauses one subject that did emerge is the question of experience, something on which Obama, only in his first term in the U.S. Senate, has to defend himself. Obama noted at the table, Kraus said, that former U.S. Sen. John Edwards' experience consists in large part of courtroom trials.
"Obama actually said that to me," Kraus said.
For his part, Kraus said he's tired of Edwards' pitch about being a trial lawyer fighting for the small guy -- a topic Edwards featured in speech to the JJ crowd of 9,000 people.
"Give me a break," Kraus said. "John Edwards went for the millions."
In contrast, said Kraus, Obama, with a freshly minted Harvard Law degree, opted for for the little-paid trenches of community organizing early in his career. It's a big difference between the two men, says Kraus, who sees Obama as the genuine article and Edwards as something of a southern showboater.
"That tells me about someone's character," Kraus said. "That's real."
Kraus said he learned first-hand that Obama and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd have a strong working relationship.
"He (Obama) also said he really like Chris Dodd, respects him," Kraus said.
Dodd even stopped by the table and jumped into a conversation with Obama.
"I could tell they have a lot of mutual respect for each other," Kraus said.
Kraus asked Obama about potential running mates should he get the nomination.
Kraus said Obama told him he wouldn't limit his selection to just the Democratic presidential field.
Kraus, 43, a chiropractor and the clinic director of the Family & Specialty Medical Center in Carroll, is also the founding president of Future Health, Inc., a medical software company. He's been advising Obama's campaign on the issue of electronic medical record-keeping and has met Obama before, including a 15 minute one-on-one conservation in Carroll in September.
"He asked how the software company was going," Kraus said. "It was the first thing he asked me."
Kraus said he relies on his wife Jill -- whom he says has strong people-reading radar -- to evaluate not only politicians but potential business associates.
"Jill right away said that guy (Obama) is real," Kraus said. "It's not political charism. It's real. It's genuine. He's doing it for the right reasons."
Kraus said he sees Obama in historic terms.
"He is going to go something momentous," Kraus said. "I feel it in my bones."
This post also appeared at Iowa Independent.com.
On Saturday night, during a marathon Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and political rally that lasted nearly five hours, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama seemed to have more of the Vets magic in his campaign. With more than 9,000 people in attendance Obama earned the loudest ovations, most sustained applause, and when he was first introduced, near the beginning of the dinner, the auditorium hit its energy apex.
In the western reaches of the balcony Obama supporters filled the arena with timed back-and-forth chants of "fired up, ready to go." Iowa Independents Lynda Waddington has a post explaining the origins of the now-trademark Obama cheer.
Tommy Vietor, Obama's Iowa press secretary, said about 3,000 of the people in attendance were Obama supporters. Vietor was pushing the spin that the strong Obama showing is something of a warm-up to the actualy caucuses and shows his man has the right stuff organization-wise.
Some Obama supporters held county signs similar the state buoys national convention delegates hold. No telling how many of Obama's supporters were from Iowa, and how many came from neighboring Illinois, something U.S. Sen. Joe Biden joked about during his introduction when he welcomed both Iowans and Chicagoans to the JJ Dinner.
When Obama addressed the crowd, near the end of the night, he received some strong applause when he mentioned his experience in Chicago -- a clear sign that some had made the trip from the Windy City. But the applause was not overwhelming. Still it reminded me of the scene in the movie "The Great Escape" when an escaped British prisoner of war is tricked into revealing his disguise when a German uses a throwaway pleasantry, "Have a nice day," to get the POW to accidently slip into English and say "Thank you." The Obama campaign should have had its people remain silent during any reference to Chicago. Minor thing, though.
For the rest of the story go to my post at Iowa Independent.com, where this originally appeared.
DES MOINES -- With the Unser boys, winners of seven Indianapolis 500s, standing beside him at a pre-Jefferson-Jackson Dinner rally, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson gave several hundred supporters some assurances.
"Neither one of the Unsers will be advising me on fuel-efficiency standards," Richardson, a Democratic candidate for the presidency, joked.
Al Unser Sr. and Bobby Unser Sr. are part of what Richardson called New Mexico's "most prominent family."
"He has done so much for New Mexico," Bobby Unser said. "He's the first good governor we've had in 50 years."
The Unsers were joined at the rally on the ground floor of the Quality Inn a few blocks northeast of the Iowa Events Center by John Early, a Vietnam veteran who went on to pilot for the International Red Cross in the Sudan where he was captured.
Richardson, as a Democratic congressman, personally went to Sudan to work out arrangements for Early and others to leave.
On the stage with racing legends and backing a candidate known for his humor, it was Early who stole the show, first noting with grave seriousness that Richardson had saved his life.
"Bill Richardson is a guy who can walk the walk," Early said.
Early talked about the surreal experience of being held by teen-age soldiers in a foreign land.
"The only thing more frightening than a 14-year-old boy with an AK-47 is a 16-year-old girl with a credit card," Early said, bringing down the house. Even reporters were laughing at that one.
Early then got off this blast about the Bush Administration:
"Right now our country is being run by a gaggle of fools and that's coming from a guy who voted for Nixon," Early, a former Green Beret, said.
For his part, in brief remarks, Richardson said he would restore the nation's standing in the world, making America "not the policeman but the conscience of the world."
This story is crossposted at Iowa Independent.com and is reprinted in Spanish in La Prensa.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
AMES -- Rudy Giuliani is dreaming.
That's what he told an audience of about 400 at Iowa State University's Memorial Union in Ames Thursday afternoon.
In fact, Giuliani joked, he's had the same dream over and over. In it, the former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate's kindred political spirit, Nicholas Sarkozy, a Frenchman no less, is flying over the ocean toward the United States when his plane passes by an American jetliner bound for Paris. In Giuliani's dream, Sarkozy, the U.S.-friendly French conservative president, is close enough to see three passengers in the American plane: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
In an often theatrical speech, full of hand gestures and popping with mocking remarks about Democrats, Giuliani completed his dream sequence story with the observation that Sarkozy wants to make his nation more like America while the three leading Democratic presidential candidates want the United States to more resemble France.
"You do not want the United States being on the left of France," Giuliani said.
A day after getting the endorsement of Christian conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, Giuliani showed that's he's following the advice, or at least the rationale, of another prominent GOP figure, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in seeing a potential political role model in Sarkozy -- who scored an upset win in France over a liberal female candidate. Hoping to see that movie sub-titled here with his New York tailored self in the leading man's role, Giuliani referenced Sarkozy several times.
"He wants to get the French to work more than 35 hours a week," Giuliani said of Sarkozy.
Here is The New York Times Editorial Board on Gingrich's Sarkozy theory:
The way a Republican could win, he said, is by running a fresh-ideas campaign along the lines of the recent win by French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy. Mr. Gingrich argued that Mr. Sarkozy should have lost to Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, but he did a brilliant job of running against the unpopular conservative government of which he himself had been a part.
In his remarks in Ames, Giuliani not only referenced Hillary Clinton, but blamed her husband for what Giuliani said is a weakening of the U.S. military. He said President Clinton's "peace dividend" was "happy talk."
"Happy talk by leaders is very dangerous," Giuliani said, adding that he would substantially increase military spending.
"Our military's too small," Giuliani added. "It really is too small to deter would-be aggressors."
The Republican candidate started his speech and question-and-answer session on terrorism.
"I believe this country has to be on offense to deal with Islamic terrorism," Giuliani said. "We are safer when we are on offense."
Giuliani spent the bulk of his speech on economic matters, telling the Ames audience he would cut the non-military/intelligence federal workforce by 42 percent over eight years by not replacing 50 percent of the people expected to resign or retire during that time frame. He also called for lower corporate tax rates and low capital gains and dividend taxes.
He quipped that Democrats have a broad defintion of the wealthy when it comes to taxes.
"Here's what they mean by rich: everyone paying taxes," Giuliani said.
In answering about a half-dozen audience questions Giuliani spent the most time on one about China. While citing China as a reason to bolster the U.S. military, Giuliani also sees the Asian giant as a trading partner with buying eyes.
"We should be thinking about what we can sell to China, not worrying so much about what we can buy," Giuliani said.
Specifically, Giuliani said American green technology could be exported to energy hungry China to help turn the trade tables in the United States' favor.
"China needs energy diversity more than we do," Giuliani said.
Former Story County (Ames) Republican Party Chairman Norman Rudi, a Glidden native and retired architect who has written popular books on World War II veterans from Iowa, says he's a solid Giuliani supporter.
"He is very strong and I like him because he talks about principle," Rudi said. "He's got a very strong message on terrorism which I think is probably the thing Americans take for granted. We don't realize there is as much terrorism that could be applied to us as we think."
Rudi said Giuliani's mission in Iowa is not necessarily to win the caucuses but to have a strong showing.
"I don't think he has to win Iowa," Rudi said. "I think he has to have a strong showing. George H.W. Bush did not carry Iowa (the caucuses in 1988)."
Giuliani's Iowa caucuses coordinator Russ Cross of Ames agrees that his candidate doesn't need the No. 1 spot on Jan. 3 in Iowa.
"A strong showing is possible in Iowa and would certainly strengthen his efforts in other states," Cross said. "The challenge for Iowa is, and for all of these candidates, is with other states moving up their primaries, suddenly you have to spend a lot of time and effort earlier on in other states other than you originally had to do."
Cross, vice president for regulatory affairs with Walls Fargo Financial, says Giuliani does have a campaign style that works in Iowa, and handles one-on-one exchanges, the coin of the realm here, is smooth fasion.
"Just like today, he's an interactive, spontaneous kind of person who not only wants to share his thoughts about where the country should go but he wants to hear from folks," Cross said.
This story is crossposted at Iowa Independent.com.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Britian's colorful Boris Johnson, member of Parliament, newspaper columnist and candidate for mayor of London, has just authored an illustrated book about supercontrolling parents. Titled "The Perils Of The Pushy Parents," the book might be fitting as a stocking stuffer.
Here is Britian's Daily Telegraph on the book:
Over some 100 pages illustrated with ink sketches, the Conservative MP and Daily Telegraph columnist tells the story of brother and sister Jim and Molly Albacore, who love nothing more than inventing outdoor games or lounging in front of the television but are forced by their parents from a young age to read literary classics and play endless tennis lessons.
"Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, discussed the issue at an AARP forum in Sioux City," reports The Des Moines Register. "Huckabee proposed giving retirees a one-time Social Security payout."
It's a bold headline to be sure but we are still waiting to see the fine print. And Iowans had better start asking for it.
Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is developing into something of the chattering class's pick as heir to the "compassionate conservative" mantle. He's drawing more attention from political reporters, and with a solid second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames in August and recent surging poll numbers in the Hawkeye State, Huckabee could be the Republican story in Iowa on Jan. 3.
But what do we really about the substance of Mike Huckabee.
With a few exceptions -- notably a detailed parsing of his policies and actual views by Iowa Independent contributor and American Prospect senior editor Garance Franke-Ruta -- most media pieces on Huckabee have been of the stranger-in-a-stange-land variety as secular-footed writers have focused almost exclusively on his Christian faith, a just-folks political style and of course that that remarkable weight loss of more than 100 pounds. We know this Baptist minister can preach and play guitar. But how in the world will this Social Security buyout plan work? Will somebody please get past the syrup and fork around in the pancakes.
At recent events in Iowa and during debates one of Huckabee's most striking, even startling, comments has been this vague notion of the Social Security buyout. He made similar comments in a conference call with bloggers as well.
Huckabee's campaign did not return Iowa Independent's calls seeking more details on the plan, and a policy paper is either not available or not conveniently found in his promitional materials.
Others need to ask him for details, too. Mainstream media reportersand official Washington seem uninterested in the substance of hisSocial Security buyout idea. I contacted two Washington think tankswell versed in Social Security politics and neither was familiar with Huckabee's plan. Of course, if Huckabee's own buyout scheme has not moved past the scribbled-cocktail-napkin stage, no deeper analysis is possible.
But reasonable questions abound: How wealthy do you have to be to get the buyout? How will the amount of the buyout be determined? Based on yourcontributions to date? On your age? Will the buyout be subject to state and federal taxes? If so, at what level? And how would the plan affect the overall system which manyRepublicans (and a few Democrats) will not be able to support all the Baby Boomers now moving into senior citizenship?
These are all questions Huckabee should answer, particularly in Iowa, a state with a graying population where Social Security isn't just a theory, but a matter of the check's in the mail.
Monday, November 05, 2007
“We pay to celebrate couples’ life choices, but after graduation that’s it for us with gifts, except birthdays, and everybody has those,” goes the oh-so-very Carrie line of reasoning.
I rarely watch HBO’s “Sex And The City” (now in syndication elsewhere) because it is, well, a TV show for women. During the rare episode I was forced to watch Sarah
Jessica Parker was really upset because she went to a baby shower for a friend. Said friend, a germ freak named Kyra, made Carrie take off her shoes, which happened to be a $500 pair of Manolo Blahniks.
Someone steals the shoes.
So Carrie is out the $500, plus the money it cost her to buy gifts for the baby.
She thinks her friend should pay for the shoes. But Kyra, a mother and wife with “real responsibilities,” belittles Carrie’s admitted extravagance with footwear.
Perennially unsuccessful with men or at least content with temporary arrangements, Carrie thinks about the shoe incident and comes to a marvelous conclusion — one I’ve thought about for years.
When you reach your mid to late 30s, and you’re still single, you realize just how much money you’ve spent celebrating other people’s decisions to get married and have kids.
It’s expensive — particularly if you are standing up with friends at a wedding.
There is the cost of the formal wear, the hotel rooms, the gifts and the travel — not to mention the strippers for the bachelor parties.
Carrie figures she spent $2,300 on the wedding expenses and baby gifts for Kyra alone.
For my part, I’ve been in six weddings, and a best man in three. On Tuxedos alone that’s more than $500.
I’ve also been to numerous other weddings for co-workers and friends.
All told I’ve spent thousands of dollars on wedding-related expenses.
It’s an honor to be invited, and more special and life-affirming to be asked to participate in the ceremonies and give toasts.
And I sure haven’t used the splendid days in the lives of loved ones and friends as an occasion to wonder why I’m still single.
That’s for self-absorbed types like Carrie.
But she is on to something. If one never gets married, then shouldn’t a decision to remain single be celebrated, too?
Why should married people get all the gifts?
After all, they have each other.
We singles have microwaved dinners and re-runs of bad movies on TNT. The other day I even watched Robert Downey Jr.’s “Less Than Zero” again.
In a very real way, gifts would mean more to the single people of the world. We could ration them and open one every night we get lonely.
Nothing kills the blues like unwrapping a toaster oven.
Think about it this way: Someone could get married three times — and receive gifts at each blessed occasion — while the terminally single person gets absolutely nothing.
What’s fair about that?
Playing the Dennis Rodman card, Carrie announces on “Sex And The City” that she’s marrying herself.
And she registers for shoes.
That’s a bit extreme. Or at least odd.
But perhaps it’s the start of a movement.
If people make it to, say, age 40 without being married, their friends and family really should — out of fairness or sympathy or something — organize a “single celebration” with loads of gifts and food.
And just think how great the bachelor party beforehand would be.
The only way you could ruin the main event is by ending up with a stripper — and marrying her.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
You can catch Ramsey via his Web site. He's also on XM Radio -- the Talk Radio channel in the news area of selections from 2 to 6 p.m. weeksdays (CST).
His message of debt reduction as a means to self-improvement is powerful -- and he is one of the few men standing in the way of China owning all of us.
Here is Lizza:
At a recent “Ask Mitt Anything” event in Orange, California, a young man asked, “If you were elected President, how many First Ladies could we expect?” The audience gasped, but Romney remained unflustered and advised the questioner to consult the L.D.S. Web site.
This is the best scene from one of the best television shows, HBO's "The Wire."
With graying demographics and in some cases staggering population losses in their communities, many Iowa schools, particularly those in the southern and western reaches of the Hawkeye State, have resurrected eight-man football -- a product of the Great Depression -- to keep their grid-iron programs alive or make more them competitive again.
New to Iowans of more recent vintages this brand of football is something of re-opened history book for many in the Hawkeye State.
In the early 1950s about 100 Iowa high schools played eight-man or six-man football.
But with the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the ensuing urgent focus on academics, scores of rural schools consolidated and eight-man football, as well as the six-man format favored in some Iowa schools, survived only in the yellowed newspaper accounts of old games. The game has a rare atmosphere, blending the modern, hectic pace of arena football with a nostalgia for a time when the boys iron-manned it and played both offense and defense.
Bud Legg, the history minded information director for the Iowa High School Athletic Association, says that from the 1960s to the late 1990s eight-man football essentially was extinct in Iowa.
“The charm of it is seeing a community that might not have a chance in an 11-player game and has probably gone through years of losing seasons finally make the change and go into eight-man football and it just grabs the community by the heart,” says Iowa journalist Chuck Offenburger, author of a recently published history of high school sports in Iowa, “Bernie Saggau & The Iowa Boys: The Centennial History of the Iowa High School Athletic Association.”
Many of the Iowa schools now fielding eight-man teams are in smaller western Iowa towns, places like Glidden and Coon Rapids and Exira and in districts such as Ar-We-Va. Many of eight-player teams are west of Interstate 35.
“I think it was just great to bring that game back because, otherwise, we were going to have a bunch of smaller schools that were going to have to give up football,” Offenburger said. “They just could not field squads big enough to maintain an 11-player team. This gives smaller schools an opportunity to continue to have a football program, and you’re seeing in Glidden the positive results of that.”
A high school's choice to move to eight-man football can very much define a community. In 2000 as he campaigned for the presidency former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley visited the western Iowa town of Exira, which to this day has one of the smallest school districts in the state and had recently moved to eight-man football. Legendary reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post asked me, a local reporter here in western Iowa, about Exira, what made the town of 700 tick. When I told him the local high school team played eight-man football, he stopped asking questions, said, "great nugget" of information, and used that fact prominently to paint a picture of the campaign stop.
Exira is in Audubon County which, according to the U.S. Census, lost 8 percent of its population from just the year 2000 to 2006. Only 12 percent of people over age 25 have bachelor's degrees in Audubon County, compared with a state average of 21 percent. Nearly a quarter of the population in the county is 65 or older.
When you watch eight-man games as an Iowan age 35 or older you can't help but experience some sadness as the team playing three short on the field often is representing a town with sagging fortunes -- although some smaller communities, like Glidden, in close proximity to regional trade center Carroll have much reason for optimism.
In its return to the eight-man format Iowans only had to look across the Missouri River for guidance.
Nebraska is the birthplace of both eight-man and six-man football. In Nebraska, the eight-man format developed out of Depression-era necessity, said Steve Borer, assist principal at Seward, and a former longtime eight-man football coach at Brady, a town near North Platte and just north of Interstate 80.
He is the co-author of two books on eight-man football — “Eight-man Football: Collection of the Best 1 and 2."
“We’ve been playing it as long as anybody,” Borer said. “Oklahoma could make a claim to it as well as Kansas. When you think of eight-man football you think of Nebraska.”
The sport is also popular in sparsely populated areas of the American West as chronicled in the blog, Small Town High School Football, which features Wyoming and Montana.
Borer said the general reaction from football fans on a national level is a mixture of fascination and contempt.
“I’ve experienced both,” Borer said. “There does seem to be an ugly stepchild aspect to it.”
Some detractors have claimed that, “’Well, if you can’t play 11-man football, you have to play eight-man,’” Borer said. “It’s always derided.”
For his part, Borer counters any snubs or criticisms with the arguments that the eight-man game is both more exciting for the fans and challenging for players.
“It’s really hard to hide somebody who isn’t as good an athlete,” he said. “I think eight-man kids get a little tougher attitudes."
His old school, Brady, printed some shirts with the slogan, “8 men doing the work of 11.”
“That made some 11-man people mad,” Borer joked.
In the eight-man format, teams in Iowa play on an 80-yard field without tackles on the line and with the loss of one skill player.
Borer, the former secretary and treasurer of Nebraska’s eight-man coaches organization, was one of several people from that state to meet with western Iowans about the re-emergence of eight-man games here. He’s also sent materials to professional eight-man teams in New Zealand and youth leagues in Malaysia.
Legg said the eight-man game places a premium on fundamentals.
“Football comes down to blocking and tackling,” he said. “I think the coaching strategy becomes a little more wide open.”
Offenburger, well-known for formerly writing “The Iowa Boy” columns for The Des Moines Register, said in an interview that he’s been to a handful of eight-man contests since the game came back in the late 1990s.
“I love it. I like going to the games,” he said. “They’re exciting and they’re fun.”
Offenburger said he’s somewhat alarmed at some of the lopsided scores. Glidden-Ralston has bettered some opponents by more than 50 points, and just the other night, at a game I covered for my family's paper, The Carroll Daily Times Herald, the Wildcats scored 44 points in the first quarter alone. Glidden won the state 8-man title in 2005.
“I know that that can happen easily, but I think there probably needs to be some tinkering done with that somehow,” Offenburger said.
Borer said he knows of a game in Nebraska in which a team scored 100 points. Glidden-Ralston could have the other night.
“That can become a problem in eight-man football because if you get a mismatch, it can really get ugly,” he said.
In Iowa, if a team goes up on its opponent by 35 points, the clock runs continuously in the second half. Other states have their own “mercy” rules.
But Offenburger and other eight-man football advocates say such concerns are just glitches in a format otherwise filled with positives.
Offenburger said Iowa could capitalize on the charm of eight-man football for tourism as well.
“I think there could be a tremendous promotional campaign launched to attract people to come to these communities and see these games,” Offenburger said. “I think you’d not only get them from out of state. I think you’d get them from all over Iowa.”
He added, “It’s something that could be promoted and turned into a neat experience in those towns that the large schools and the large towns can’t compete with right now.”
There’s that nostalgic air about eight-man football that just isn’t there with the more popular 11-man brand, say some observers of the sport.
As an example, Legg said eight-man football may hold a special place in some Iowans’ hearts for a different reason: the memory of six-on-six girls basketball.
“I don’t want to make the comparison with girls six-on-six basketball,” Legg said. “But in many respects there is a comparison.”
This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.com.
Photo is courtesy of Carroll Daily Times Herald photographer Jeff Storjohann.