Neither party is immune from ineptitude

September 28, 2021 9:11 am

Leaders of both major political parties seem unable to demonstrate leadership. (Photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash)

Do the folks in politics think we are asleep? Do they really believe no one is paying attention to what politicians are up to?

It’s not surprising if you have acid indigestion these days. A few examples illustrate why I might need a tanker truck of Maalox.

Senate race

The comments by our political leaders last week to the news Charles Grassley is seeking another U.S. Senate term was disappointing, but predictable.

Grassley, now 88, said he wants six more years in the Senate because he has work to finish – work, presumably, that he has not been able to complete since he first became a member of the Congress in 1975. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that was 46 years ago.

Counting his time in the Iowa Legislature, Grassley has held elective office continuously since 1959. That is 62 years — four more than the length of time between the Wright Brothers first airplane flight and the first manned space mission.

Grassley also talked in his re-election announcement about his leadership being needed in these challenging times.

There is a range of issues the Iowa Democratic Party could have emphasized in its reaction after Grassley’s announcement. It could have been the senator’s tepid support for the safety net for low-income people. Or his votes against the Affordable Care Act. Or his most troubling lack of leadership, his refusal to support an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol on the day the 2020 election returns were being certified.

But the Iowa Democratic Party did not emphasize these reasons for why Grassley does not deserve another term. Instead, the party decided to smack him for something else: Grassley has not lived in Iowa full-time since 1981.

Well, duh. Isn’t that a natural result when we vote to send someone to Washington? Is the party really implying that Tom Harkin commuted to Washington every morning during the 30 years he was a U.S. senator?

The Democratic Party risks irrelevancy in Iowa if this is the best it can do when there is a news announcement that surprises few people. And Iowa needs to have two strong political parties.

Leadership, Part 1

With autumn upon us and winter just around the corner, Covid numbers in the United States are higher than we expected, and prayed, they would be. Once winter sets in and people spend less time outdoors, that troubling trend line is expected to continue upward.

We can debate at another time the reasons the disease is moving in this direction. But there is no rational explanation for why President Joe Biden has not nominated a permanent commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It has been eight months since the president settled into the Oval Office. He has had even more time, going back to the election and the formation of his transition team, to decide who should lead this important federal agency — which is responsible for evaluating the safety and efficacy of new drugs and vaccines.

Leadership involves gathering the relevant information and then making a timely decision. Democrats were quick to critique President Donald Trump when he decided not to bother with nominating people to fill important vacancies like this one.

Biden campaigned on a promise to bring a sense of normalcy back to the presidency. I take him at his word. So, c’mon man, make your appointment.

Leadership, Part 2

Mariannette Miller-Meeks is one of four members of the U.S. House from Iowa. She is a physician and a retired Army lieutenant colonel. She serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

With those credentials, she should be the last person in Iowa who stoops to causing unwarranted alarm among people who have served in our military. But that’s just what she did this month.

Miller-Meeks distributed via social media a link to a fake news story that was headlined, “Biden Orders VA to Withhold Health Benefits from Unvaccinated Veterans.”

A member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, with contacts inside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has instant access to accurate information. A member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who takes her job seriously should know that inaccurate information like this would confuse or scare the bejeezus out of veterans who depend on the VA for their medical care.

But the supposed news story came from a website that clearly states its content is satire. In other words, the content is phony and isn’t true.

Miller-Meeks distributed the story anyway, adding an inexplicable “if true, this is insane” comment.

A member of Congress has no business knowingly distributing information that is not accurate. That is a huge disservice to her constituents in southeast Iowa. And it demeans the important office she occupies.

If all of this were not enough, she has not bothered to apologize. Instead, she has tried to deflect criticism by saying the story “makes a powerful point.”

Yes, the story does make a powerful point. And the powerful point the congresswoman should take away from this embarrassing incident is this: There already is plenty of phony “news” and “information” clogging the Internet and cable television airwaves. We don’t need a member of Congress being paid $174,000 a year deliberately polluting the truth.

That’s not leadership.

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Randy Evans
Randy Evans

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, a 43-year-old nonprofit education and advocacy organization that works for improved government transparency and citizen accountability. He can be reached at [email protected].