Herb Strentz examines Chuck Grassley’s recent political messages and the weak spots in his Senate record.

The home stretch of this midterm election campaign unfolds in 3D format – Dire, Divisive and Despairing. This is especially true of the US Senate race between Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, who is seeking his eighth term at 89, and Democrat Michael Franken, a retired US Navy admiral, who will turn 65 on election day. , November 8.

This 3D nature of our politics in Iowa was well illustrated in one of the recent Grassley campaign television commercials.

In a roundabout way, Grassley recognized why it was time for the Iowans to reject him.

The announcement published in early September is titled “Who Does This Guy Think He is?”

The premise is that Franken is talking about Iowa. It’s amazing to hear a voiceover (speaking for the Grassley campaign) ridicule this Democrat promise: “We can do this: save the state of Iowa. Save our reputation.”

The spot implies that it is ridiculous for Franken to talk about the desperation he witnessed on the Iowa campaign trail, comparable to what he had seen in poorer countries during his 36 years of service in the Navy. Franken commented that today’s Iowa is “not the state I want for future generations” and “not the state I want to be buried in”.

Time and time again, the authors of Bleeding Heartland have echoed Franken’s view: what Iowa has become under Republican trifecta governance is not what we want for future generations.

For overtures, please consider the essay John and Terri Hale wrote in February: “We were proud to be Iowans.” It’s a simple, thoughtful, non-partisan piece, certainly not derogatory or desperate. Their references and recollections touch on important people and events, providing insight into how this state has changed.

Now consider our senior senator’s contributions to political culture.

For at least two decades, Grassley lied about how the estate tax, which he calls a “death tax,” affects family farms. Experts have refuted this characterization. The late Neil Harl, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University, found no farm families facing anything like the woes described by Grassley. More recently, Neil Hamilton, now retired as director of the Center for Agricultural Law at Drake University, called the senator’s talking points “bullshit.” Estate tax now exempts the first $23 million of a couple’s estate value.

Early in President Barack Obama’s administration, Grassley chained Democrats for months as they watered down the health care reform bill, hoping to gain bipartisan approval. Nonetheless, Grassley falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act would establish government “death committees,” where bureaucrats could unplug Grandma.

The Health Act of 2010 worked quite well. The grandmothers are still alive and kicking.

To fears of “death panels” and “death taxes,” we can now add fear of IRS death squads. As Tom Barton reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette in August, Grassley wondered during an appearance on a Fox News show whether the Internal Revenue Service would “use increased funding from the Tax Reduction Act.” ‘inflation to send armed units of agents to small businesses in Iowa’.

“Are they going to have a strike force coming in with AK-15s already loaded, ready to shoot a small business in Iowa with that, because I think they’re going after the middle class and the small businesses, because they think anybody with indirect income is a crook, and they’re not paying their fair share, and we’re going to prosecute them,” he said.

In television commercials and occasional news clips, Grassley does push-ups to show off his fitness. His work in the Senate often also involves political pull-downs. His tenure as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be marked by disregard for civil liberties. He helped shape the federal justice system to curtail women’s rights by annihilating the Roe vs. Wade precedent with promises of more reactionary decisions to come. This 2020 Bleeding Heartland article laid out the storyline, citing a law review article about Grassley’s judicial presidency that Iowa’s mainstream media ignored.

Grassley’s penchant for speaking out on contrived issues is compounded by his failures to be a voice of moderation, experience and influence so desperately needed in our divisive times. After Donald Trump’s last rally in Iowa in 2021, Grassley dismissed the former president’s irresponsible rants and incitements, saying, “He’s a private citizen…He can say whatever he wants. .”

One of the senator’s latest television commercials boasts that his tenure in the US Senate is “invaluable to Iowa.” But his reluctance to use this influence to heal is troubling. In emails to his office, I quoted fears attributed to Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill and other political philosophers: “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men not to do nothing.

Grassley does not respond to these messages. He might consider another observation, sometimes attributed to the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler: “Silence in the face of evil is itself wrong: God will not hold us innocent. Not talking is talking. Not to act is to act.

With these and other concerns, how can Iowans not rejoice in Franken’s call? “We can do this: save the state of Iowa. Save our reputation.

That reputation includes continued gratitude to the late Governor Robert Ray, who responded to the refugee crisis in Southeast Asia by welcoming refugees from Tai Dam in Iowa in 1975.

Contrast that with Gov. Kim Reynolds, who railed against nonexistent “sanctuary cities” and signed an immigration bill opposed by law enforcement groups as well as dozens of government or nonprofit organizations. non-profit. Reynolds’ Republican colleagues, Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, sent refugees to their states in Washington DC and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in obvious political stunts.

Nor is it the kind of state we want Iowa to be for future generations.

PS – While this post focuses on Grassley’s campaign publicity and related concerns, Bleeding Heartland will also continue to cover other aspects of the Senate race. In case you missed it, Laura Belin addressed this week’s controversy involving Franken and his former campaign manager.

Herb Strentz served as dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor until his retirement in 2004. He served as executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 until 2000.

Top image: Screenshot from Chuck Grassley’s ad campaign attacking Mike Franken.