And not only that, he unfriended me on Facebook! (Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
Iowa senator Chuck Grassley is something of an odd character. As I've said before, he used to be considered a reasonable moderate, but in the last couple of years he has basically turned himself into a Tea Party wingnut, combining the ideological extremism, face palm-inducing stupidity, and general craziness that makes that political movement so charming (although I was recently told that even a couple of decades ago, before Grassley began publicly yelling at clouds, people in the Senate privately considered him kind of a nut).
Today, The Hillreports that Grassley, who has spent the last five years floating conspiracy theories, impugning Barack Obama's motives, and telling truly vicious lies about his policies, is upset that Obama doesn't call him more often. Seriously.
As soon as it was revealed that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were immigrants from Chechnya—who had migrated as children, following conflict in the region—a predictable crew of conservatives pounced on that fact to disparage comprehensive immigration reform. Here’s Ann Coulter:
It’s too bad Suspect # 1 won’t be able to be legalized by Marco Rubio, now.
And lo, did the heavens open and pour down from above a wave of crystalline horror, and the people of the city did wail and moan and rend their garments in fear. Pillars of salt were spread on the byways to make them navigable by donkey and SUV alike, yet the people still cowered within their huts, Instagramming pictures of the newly alabaster land and spreading word through Twitter, with a million voices shouting, "Behold!" And parents did set their children in front of glowing boxes to quiet the incessant cries of boredom, and Madagascar 3 did unspool, and unspool again.
Iowa Republicans aren't ready to cast aside their anger over the state Supreme Court’s 2009 decision legalizing same-sex marriage. After successfully unseating three of the justices who joined the unanimous decision in 2010, they’re going after Justice David Wiggins, who is up for a retention vote this year. The new conservative campaign won't change Iowa's same-sex marriage law, but it further politicizes the state’s once-independent judiciary and may boost turnout for Mitt Romney in a key swing state.
Every once in a while, when anti-immigrant sentiment is running high, Congress will revive the "English-only" debate, which was last a topic of national conversation during the 2006-2007 push for immigration reform. But the most recent attempt to make English the official language of the United States came out of the blue, the day before Congress's August recess. Led by Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on an English-only bill that would require all federal government communications—including voting materials—to be printed in English.
In 1991, in the early days of his presidential run, then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton would occasionally cite and paraphrase from what was clearly his favorite new book: E.J. Dionne’s Why Americans Hate Politics. The book excoriated any number of politicos, but chiefly Republicans, for posing “false choices” to the American people—as in, you’re either pro-family or pro-government (as if there weren’t a raft of government programs to help families). Clinton wove these ideas into his stump speech, now and then taking care to attribute some of them to E.J.’s book. (E.J. is a close friend, so in this blog, he gets first-name treatment).
I briefly mentioned this in my previous post, but the latest Romney video offers a view from Iowa, where—if the narrative is any indication—the economy is in terrible shape. But this message is undermined by actual facts on the ground. For example, the joblessness rate in Iowa has dropped over the last year to 5.2 percent, which is close to full employment:
The national media hasn't paid much attention to Iowa since Rick Santorum's caucus victory, but numbers released over the weekend tell an important story for national progressives. The Des Moines Register—the most respected state pollster during caucus season—asked Iowans about their feelings on same-sex marriage and found that a 56-percent majority are just fine with the state's current laws on same-sex unions and oppose any effort to amend the state's constitution.
After an unusually warm December, winter has finally come to Iowa as the election season officially begins. The milder temperatures last month allowed candidates to hold their events outside—where they were overcrowded on sweltering 50 degree days—but now the temperature has dropped to the normal Midwestern chill. It is 12 degrees in Des Moines right now, and this morning, I needed to defrost my car for the first time in the three weeks that I have been here.
I am here in Iowa with Lynn Vavreck. I’ll have more to report on our minor adventures later. But before the caucus takes place, it’s important to address a perennial concern: the unrepresentativeness of people who attend the caucus. This is a familiar refrain that typically involves claims about the high costs the caucus imposes on voters, the resulting low turnout, the domination by activists, etc.
If you want to challenge your pedagogical skills, try explaining the Iowa caucuses to a child. "You see, Billy, in America, we get to choose our presidents, and every citizen gets to participate. So to start the process off, everyone who wants to be president spends months in the state of Iowa, personally meeting as many Iowans as they can. And then one Tuesday in January, those Iowans go to their local schools and community centers, hang around for an hour listening to boring speeches, then cast their votes. Then the media tell us that the candidates who didn't come in first or second are unworthy of any more attention from people in the other 49 states, so those candidates drop out of the race.
PELLA, IOWA—I closed out 2011 Saturday with a bit of good luck after stumbling upon a mythical creature: a undecided Republican caucus voter who had yet to be interviewed by one of the major news outlets. With 1,500 national and international reporters in the heartland for the Iowa caucuses, it's a coveted, rare find. In Marshalltown the previous night, I watched as The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz rushed to intercept The Atlantic's Molly Ball as she turned her tape recorder on a voter he had already selected for a profile. After a Mitt Romney event Thursday in Mason City, a reporter friend and I noted that we had both previously interviewed Beth, a high-school teacher from Clear Lake.
MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA—Rick Santorum has bounced up to third in recent Iowa polls and he'll have to hope that this is still the case next Tuesday. The winner of the GOP primary contest in the Iowa caucuses is often not the eventual nominee, but the vote helps weed out candidates who don't really have a shot. The infographics on TV screens next week will detail the top three finishers and discard the remainder as a footnote before they concede defeat on January 4.
This week Occupy activists in Iowa, who’ve been urging caucus-goers to vote for “Uncommitted” in Tuesday’s Republican and Democratic caucuses, cried fowl when the Iowa GOP signaled it would only count votes for declared presidential candidates this year. Tuesday night, Iowans launched a “People’s Caucus,” at which they discussed policy resolutions and then broke up into “dispreference groups” based on which candidates they were most eager to demonstrate against. Activists were arrested at campaign offices and at a Wells Fargo, which they had linked back to a Romney office via a cardboard “pipeline” representing the cash flow from the bank to the candidate.