Michele Bachmann comes to Iowa (she was born here, you know!)

Michele Bachman, with husband Marcus Bachmann

Since making her candidacy for President official earlier this week in Waterloo, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is back in Iowa for the Independence Day holiday weekend for a bus tour of our state. 

This morning Congresswoman Bachmann held an event at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City.  It was not well publicized and I would have not known anything about it without a Facebook message from John Archer (soon to be announced GOP candidate for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District).  The 8AM event was not at the traditional breakfast spot in Iowa City, the Hamburg Inn.  After all, it was Ronald Reagan who was the first candidate from either party to visit there during the caucus season of 1979, and it has become a tradition, a rite of passage if you will for all Presidential contenders since.  But the Bluebird it was this morning. 

After spending the night in Iowa City, Michele Bachmann, her husband, Marcus Bachmann and daughter arrived about 8:40 AM for the 8AM event.  She worked the room masterfully, talking to everyone there, autographing whatever was presented and had a picture taken with everyone who asked.  She was particularly attentive to the children and young people in the room and even posed with the wait staff at the Bluebird for a picture.

I met some other friends there who had new neighbors moving in this weekend.  The parents of these neighbors were in town from New Jersey and when my friends told them that they were going to see Michele Bachmann this morning, they got directions and attended as well.  They were the first people that she met as she descended from her campaign bus. 

For about an hour and fifteen minutes, she visited, encouraged people to attend the Ames Straw Poll in August and by sitting down and eating breakfast with the owner, she gave the media, both local and national, enough for the obligatory photo ops.  CNN broadcasted live, and I saw a young man with NBC credentials around his neck, Time magazine, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, along with our local ABC affiliate were in the press throng covering the event.

She gave no general address to the group as a whole and a little bit before 10AM headed out the door to her next stop in Cedar Rapids, for which I overheard one of her staffers say that they were going to be about 45 minutes late there as well.

Michele Bachmann has created quite a buzz in the time that she has served as a Congressman from suburban St. Paul and is a Tea Party favorite. She organized and established the Tea Party Caucus in the Congress.   She is a social and fiscal conservative and there can be no question of her credentials in that regard.  Congresswoman Bachmann is a genuine person, she looks at you straight on (well probably looking up at you, because she only appears to be about 5’ tall) with piercing blue eyes as if you and she are the only two people in the room.  She was gracious and warm. 

I would have liked to hear something from her today.  With the debt ceiling negotiations going on in Washington it would have been a perfect time to take advantage of that to let the people who had gathered hear what she had to say about that.

The most amusing moment of the morning, was when she met a ‘seasoned citizen’, a local Republican activist whom I know well.  He and his wife had arrived about 7:30 AM for the scheduled 8AM event.  When he stood up to meet her, he said that he would like to give her some advice, “Be on time for your events” is what he told her.  Good advice, John.  I would agree.

Thank you, Congresswoman Bachmann for coming to Johnson County and stopping in Iowa City.  In this liberal bastion, you will not garner a significant amount of support, but you get kudos from me for even making the effort.   God speed in your travels this weekend.

John Archer with Michele Bachmann

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Rick Santorum……unplugged

Iowans have such a unique privilege, in that every four years; we have the unabridged access to many if not all the Presidential candidates from both parties.  I had such an opportunity earlier this week with a 2 hour private meeting with Rick Santorum.  This father of seven children has formed an exploratory committee and predicts that he will make a formal announcement of his intention to run for President of the United States in the early summer.

 Approximately 15 conservatives from eastern Iowa sat down in a Perkins Restaurant in Cedar Rapids to listen, ask questions, and challenge the former Senator from Pennsylvania.  This was the second time I had met Sen. Santorum.  He was the speaker at a fund-raiser for my friend, now State Senator Sandy Greiner in June, 2010.   Back then I found him to be an articulate speaker and unquestionably a committed conservative.  At last year’s meeting, while making an impression, two things concerned me about Rick Santorum:  one being his support for Arlen Specter in a contested GOP primary back in 2004 and that he lost his Senate seat in 2006 by 18 points to his Democratic challenger. 

I found out quickly, that those assembled for this week’s meeting had the same concerns.  After an opening statement and introduction to us he then opened the floor to questions, and the first one, not from me, was about the Specter issue.  Sen. Santorum with conviction in his voice explained that in 2004, the Republicans had the slimmest of margins with a 51-49 majority in the Senate.  At the time, Senator Specter was the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.  He was the gate-keeper for President Bush’s nominees to the United States Supreme Court.  Sen. Santorum quite simply made the case, that Specter’s chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee was tantamount to nominating and confirming President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees.  While John Roberts, one of Bush’s nominees had a relatively easy path to confirmation, other conservative judges would not have.  When Samuel Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court, Santorum gave Specter the credit for this conservative jurist being nominated and eventually confirmed.  Santorum simply stated, “Without Specter, there would be no Alito”.  Justice Alito gives the conservatives a 5-4 edge on the US Supreme Court.  Even more telling, when asked if he would do it again, he replied with no hesitation, that he would. 

When the question about his defeat in 2006 was raised, he explained that running against the son of a popular Democratic pro-life former Governor, lost him the support of the Catholics who had previously supported him in runs against pro-choice Democrats.  Along with the fact that 2006 was the year that the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives it was not a good year for Republicans.  He also cited the historical note that Abraham Lincoln had lost his election for the US Senate from Illinois before running for the Presidency.

To his credit, he made no derogatory comments about any of the current or potential candidates.   He did state that the thought that Donald Trump was causing damage with his Obama birth certificate obsession, and hopefully with the release of the President’s birth certificate today, this issue has been put to rest.  Santorum shared that he had been born in Virginia and that he would not be able to produce any other kind of document other than a registration of his live birth, not a birth certificate as such.  He said that he had no question that Barack Obama was a lawful President by virtue of being born in this country.

Sen. Santorum spoke on topics ranging from education, energy, economy, national security, and immigration.  In education he said that public education in this country should not be controlled by “No Child Left Behind” and that the US had to do a better job of educating and graduating engineers and scientists who will lead the research and innovation that will help rebuild the American economy and allow us to compete in the global marketplace.  

He supported the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and said that he would again, but questions President Obama’s commitment to victory in Afghanistan.  He sees Iran as a serious threat in the Middle East and thinks that the Libya policy is misguided. His commitment to defend Israel was clear as well. There is no question that Santorum believes that there is a jihad against the US and there are Islamic fundamentalists who want nothing more than to destroy the United States and its allies. 

 He would build the fence along the border to prevent any more illegals from entering and then deal with the problem of illegals in this country at that point.

 He said that for the American economy to fully recover that the corporate tax code needs to be changed to incentivize entrepreneurship and that we needed to start making things again. He would consider a repatriation of investments by Americans in foreign accounts to bring that money back into this country. 

His energy policy would be one that the United States would to drill for oil here to end the problems that a turbulent Middle East has on oil and energy prices in the US.   He opposed ethanol subsidies as a US Senator, but conceded yesterday that ethanol was an important component to achieving energy independence, and that the ethanol industry had turned the corner and is now doing well enough those subsidies may now no longer be necessary. 

Then, succinctly and with true conviction, he remarked that the repeal of Obamacare was the signature issue of this campaign. ObamaCare, fully instituted, Santorum sees as the end of America as we know it.  He told of defeating three incumbent Democrats in congressional elections in his home state of Pennsylvania, and stated with no hesitation, “I know how to beat incumbent Democrats.”  He does not believe that President Obama will raise $1B for his re-election campaign and he is ready to commit the time and resources to an election which he regards as the most important in this country since the Civil War.

I am ready to keep listening to Rick Santorum.  As I emailed to a friend last night, he exudes confidence and has a take no prisoners attitude.  There is no question that he has the credentials to appeal to all segments of the conservative voting bloc.    Sen. Santorum plans to spend a lot of time in Iowa as well as the other early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.  He has assembled a campaign staff in Iowa who already understand Iowa politics and know the intricate workings of the Iowa caucus system.  He has positioned himself well in this state.  And if he can keep up the intensity and visit here often so that he can conduct the retail politics that Iowans have come to expect, there is no question that he could do very well in the caucus and go forth to do well in succeeding primaries as well.  I will definitely be watching.

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Wisconsin…on the front lines….again

As the state where Gov. Robert LaFollette ushered in the Progressive movement in this country in the early 1900s, it appears that Wisconsin will become the flash point of the budget battle being waged on every level of government.  The first public employee labor union, AFSCME-American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees was founded in Wisconsin, so it seems only fitting that the first state to stand up to said union and all others would be the Badger State.

Let me be clear:  (who else says that?)  I do not oppose labor unions. I have never been a member of a labor union, but understand the role that they have played to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for the workers that they represent.    My opposition to them is the power that they have amassed over the years, many times to the detriment of the very people that they are supposedly organized to help.  In the past three days, the unionized teachers of the public schools, especially in Dane (Madison) and Milwaukee Counties, with help from OFA, Organize for America—the offshoot of the Obama 2008 campaign, and various other sympathetic groups marched on the state capitol.  They are protesting the newly elected Republican governor and state legislature’s attempt to limit their collective bargaining agreement and increase the amount that they contribute toward their health insurance and retirement.  

Interestingly enough, George Meany, former President of the AFL-CIO, stated in 1955:  “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”    The Heritage Foundation has a great article about this, pointing out that in 1959; Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining with public employees.

http://blog.heritage.org/2011/02/19/fdr-warmed-us/

Adding to the intrigue of it all is the AWOL status of the Democratic members of the Wisconsin Senate. In a 19-14 split Senate, only one Democrat would have to be present to meet the 3/5ths quorum required to conduct business.  None of the Senate Democrats wanted to be the “one” to help make that quorum.  So, because of a quirky Wisconsin state law that allows Wisconsin State Police to bring legislators, who are in-state, to the Capitol to make a quorum what did they do?  Boarded a bus and headed for Rockford, IL.    Now nothing against Rockford, but why not Dubuque?

This video shot during the Madison protests shows the vitriol, anger, and downright hatred of these protestors against the legally elected Governor and Republican state legislators.  It is a great video because it shows the contrast of what the Democrats in the US Congress had to say about the Tea Party protestors for the past two years.  Ah…how quickly the tables turn.  Also, remind me again about civility in our rhetoric.     I can say with reasonable certainty that Sarah Palin is nowhere near this group in proximity or ideology.  So, this one is not her fault!

What is at stake here is not the future of the organized labor movement in the US.  It is virtually the future of our nation itself.  We have a staggering debt. In addition to the federal government,   states like California, Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York are teetering on bankruptcy.  My own home state of Missouri and adopted state of Iowa are not in good financial shape either.  The “kick the can” philosophy taken by our elected leaders, both Democrat and Republicans has put our nation and our states in the precarious position that we find ourselves in now.  We do not have a tax deficit, we have a spending surplus.  Cities, counties, states, and the federal government find themselves with balance sheets where the liabilities far exceed the assets.  Expenses outpace income. And one of the biggest liabilities every level of government has are because of the lucrative public employee compensation contracts as well as the public employee retirement systems. Public school teachers, firemen, police officers, public works employees are all a part of this system. 

Many years ago, when the salaries for public employees were not at the level that they are today, more generous benefit packages were offered.  In the state of Iowa, there is something called the rule of 88. It is age plus the years of service—and when added together for a total of 88, one is eligible for retirement.  Retirement benefits cannot be collected until one is age 55.  Because of this, we have many in their early 50s who have achieved the 88, then can retire.  And many come back to work for state or local governments as a private contractor—working full-time in the same job that they had with the government!  Only public school teachers are precluded from this arrangement.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy, vibrant 55-year-old who may still want to work. But what is wrong with the system, when in many cases we offer an incentive for early retirement only to have these same people back doing almost the same jobs they did while on the public payroll as private contractors?  And why the incentives?  Because over the years, governments began to think that in addition to the gold-plated benefits packages, they had to offer wage packages that mirrored the private sector.  In the state of Iowa alone, public sector salaries outpace private sector ones for similar positions.  Those receiving a paycheck from the taxpayer often time is making more than the taxpayer themselves! It all comes down to the power that the public employee unions have amassed.

For these  Wisconsin teachers and other state employees to call in sick, head to Madison, and protest against this, while is their right to do so, is it the right thing to do in these economic times?  And what kind of message does that send to students…that it is okay to lie about something if it is to do what one perceives as something for the greater good? Not so sure that is the message that we want to send. 

My Bachelor’s degree is in elementary education. I was an elementary school teacher in Missouri public schools for 18 years. I remember vividly that one of the professors I had as a senior in college told us that if we were planning to become wealthy as a public school teacher, that we needed to reconsider our major right then and there, because, he said, when you are dependent upon tax dollars for your wage, you will always be at the mercy of others who will make the decision about how much you are paid  who will be guided by the voters in telling them how much they were willing to be taxed. It will never be based upon your marketable skill but whether the taxpayers of the school district were in a generous mood on any given election day.

I signed my first teaching contract in 1975 for $7200.  Because the state legislature passed a funding increase for elementary and secondary education, by that fall, my salary had increased to $7500.   I am not saying that to begrudge any teacher in any school the wage that they are paid today.  Quite the contrary.  In a perfect world, our school teachers, nurses, police, fire, sheriffs, state patrol, and snow plow drivers, nurses, and care givers to the elderly would all earn what we pay our major league baseball, football, and basketball players.  And along with that the money that is spent to build the majestic palaces of play for them would be put toward schools, libraries, hospitals, long-term care facilities and infrastructure in our cities and states.  But alas, it is not a perfect world.

And it is not a perfect world for public employees now. State, city and county budgets are stretched to the max, and just like in business, personnel costs are the biggest portion of that budget.  When the taxpayers who are paying the taxes to pay the salaries are not getting raises, and for what I believe is almost 20% of the population of our country-do not have a job at all, public employees have to be willing to make the same sacrifices that others are making to get out of this economic black hole that we find ourselves in at this time.  

Another prime example is here in Iowa with the Department of Human Services.  Before leaving office in January, the outgoing {Democratic} Governor negotiated a new salary and benefits package with the state employees’ labor union.  Because of budget cuts, the current {Republican} Governor has stated that unless the DHS union employees will rescind that salary and benefits package, then 136 positions will be eliminated, and services at several of our mental health facilities will have to be cut back. To me this is a no-brainer.  Give it back to save your colleagues’ jobs and keep services!  But rather, a press release and in-house email went out about the big, bad Governor who was cutting jobs and services.  He is doing the only thing he can do. 

Compromise is not always pretty, but when it is the alternative to losing jobs then it has to be done.  Wisconsin is just the beginning.  New Jersey is fighting this battle and I expect more skirmishes as states continue to work to put their budgets together for the next fiscal year—with more red than black on the balance sheet.

So to the protestors:  rant, rave, protest, but do it on your own time. Get back into the classroom on Monday morning and teach your students a lesson in how the system works.  But be ready to realize that the system will only exist if everyone is willing to give some to get by until better times are here.

And for Madison, you may have just joined the ranks of Lexington, Concord, Fort Sumter, Gettysburg  and Shanksville as a place where the battle lines were drawn and an important stand was made by those willing to do the hard work.  It appears that you will be leading the way….again.

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…..And They’re Off!

Those who seem to know more about this kind of thing than I do are predicting that April 1 will be D-Day—Decision Day for those who may be planning to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012. Given their reasoning that April 1 is the first day of the second quarter fundraising period, I would have to agree.

Here in Iowa, we will have a front-row seat. Contacts have been made. Staffs are starting to be hired.  Alliances are starting to gel.  Endorsements are being sought.  All in anticipation of what will be the political equivalent of the Kentucky Derby.   April 1 is a significant day for one reason:  MONEY.  Staffs, alliances, media buys, and even endorsements are available only if you have been successful in fund-raising. While volunteers are essential in the early states, paid staff is also necessary to shepherd those volunteers into an organization that turns out the caucus goers in Iowa and voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Media has to reach those that volunteers can not.  And while most electeds do not want to talk about it,  a contribution or attendance at a fund-raiser for a legislative or state candidate can go a long way to get into that person’s political Rolodex and campaign organization for more volunteers and contacts.

Money, it has been said is the Mother’s milk of politics.  FEC filings are fodder for the ‘analysts’ and opponents as to the health and sustainability of a campaign at any level.   April 1- June 30 is the time frame of the 2nd quarter, and those reports which will be released in mid-July will give an early indication of organization and fundraising strength of any candidate.

The GOP candidate will not be chosen in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina this time.  I truly believe that it will be early spring—April or May before the front-runner is decided.  And that is a good thing.  To have a candidate who can have a strong showing in the primaries in the battleground states of Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania,  New Mexico, North Carolina and Colorado will  serve to make that candidate that much stronger going into what will undoubtedly be a brutal Presidential campaign in the fall.

So as this April 1 date approaches, let’s take a quick look at the possible candidates:

Newt Gingrich:  Name recognition, incredibly articulate, no one is better on any issue.  But as I ‘tweeted’ this morning, if it were only 20 years and 2 wives ago.  This is a problem for Newt. Whether the stories are urban legend or actually true about how he treated his ex-wives, these reports are difficult for many to accept.  Now that being said, with everything that was known or not known about Barack Obama, if it is more about  Newt the candidate and not Newt the husband, it could work out for him.  He was back in Iowa recently—at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City meeting with doctors and nurses on the staff there.  Iowa City and the University of Iowa typically not friendly territory for conservative candidates–which speaks volumes about Newt and his political acumen.

 Mitt Romney:  Mr. Romney has much support among the Republican Party ‘establishment’ players in Iowa.  He has kept in touch with staff and volunteers and those who supported him in 2008 will not be blindsided by an under the radar campaign as that which was waged by the Huckabee people to win the Iowa caucus then.  He has money, name recognition, a political pedigree, looks Presidential, great family.  But he has one major flaw:  RomneyCare—the health care initiative that he put forth while Governor of Massachusetts.  He continues to avoid addressing the issue and until he can and give a reasonable explanation and set the record straight he may still find himself coming up short.   There is talk that he may put more effort into New Hampshire and South Carolina than Iowa, but he has the boots on the ground here and would be a strategic error to dismiss the first in the nation caucus.

Tim Pawlenty: as the former Governor of a neighboring state, he has name recognition and an instant geographical connection in Iowa.  He has garnered the support of some major players in Iowa Republican politics and has made many trips and has covered all the major media markets in the state to get the saturation that he needs. But then again, the trip from St. Paul to Sioux City, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Ottumwa,  Cedar Rapids and Des Moines can be done by automobile in an easy drive.  So, that is an advantage especially when funds are not being spent for air travel.  But outside of Iowa, I do not see Pawlenty as a contender.  He is pleasant, well-spoken, on the ‘right’ side of the issues, but lacks the “wow” factor that is needed to carry him past the initial contests in IA, NH, and SC. 

 Michele Bachmann: another Minnesotan with Iowa ties. At every stop in Iowa, she makes sure that she reminds everyone that she is an Iowan by birth.  That help makes the connection, but Iowans who are involved in this process are much more politically savvy to allow a birth certificate to sway their decision.  On the other hand, at least she has one…but I digress.  There is nothing else to say about Michele Bachmann except this: She is running for Vice-President.

John Thune: good looks, strong conservative, Midwestern, strong western Iowa ties-but it ends there.  I watched his CPAC speech and it was a good speech to introduce himself to the gathered faithful.  He appears to have been very hesitant to make any kind of move in Iowa or anywhere else for that matter.  He does have $7 million in his campaign war chest as he had no primary or general election opponent in South Dakota re-election contest.  Will he be willing to move that into a Presidential campaign committee remains to be seen.  One major positive for Sen. Thune in Iowa is his closeness to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley.  Sen. Grassley has indicated that unlike 2008, he will endorse a candidate for President in the Iowa caucus.  Grassley and Thune are two peas in the political pod on many issues—ethanol being one of them.  While that is a huge positive in Iowa, and not saying that he will win Grassley’s endorsement here, but how does that play in the rest of the country and could John Thune having his ticket punched out of Iowa get him the support he needs in subsequent contests.  If he does not prevail in the Presidential field he will stay in the Senate…no VP run for him.  He says he will make a decision by the end of February….stay tuned. 

Haley Barbour:  Governor of Mississippi, one of the few GOP survivors of Katrina, former RNC Chair, extensive contacts throughout the country, probably one of the few who can co-opt the Reagan thing given his work in the Reagan administration.  He gave the best speech of any of the candidates at CPAC.  I like him, I could support him.  I think he could carry the day in November.  He could also benefit greatly from a Grassley endorsement. Now, will he run?  Again, he “will be making a decision” in the near future.

 Mike Huckabee: Why in the world would he give up a lucrative gig at Fox News where he has a weekly platform to say and advocate for whatever he wants.  Earlier this week it was announced that his Presidential campaign committee from 2008 was dissolved.  Now whether that is so that he can set up a 2012 committee, who knows.  Gov. Huckabee is a very pragmatic politician.  He understands that the social issues that garnered him so much attention in 2008 will not have the same significance this year.   He may make trips to Iowa to advocate for an agenda, but I will be very surprised if he enters the race here.

Sarah Palin: She and her daughter, Bristol trademarked their names recently. What is that about?  A young conservative woman and Twitter friend, Jackie Seal  recently wrote in her blog http://jackieseal.wordpress.com/2011/01/ about the Palin Factor.  Again, as a Fox News contributor and with the success of her recent Learning Channel series, her platform is much broader with than any that she would have in a Presidential campaign.  She has been much too coy about her plans—when she has known what they have been all along.  She is a remarkable person and deserves much of the credit for waking the sleeping giant that President Nixon referred to in his day as the “Silent Majority”. The Tea Party movement would not have had the impact in 2010 without her.  I am sure that she will be a great help to any candidate that she would support, but do not look for Sarah Palin’s name on a ballot again.

Rick Santorum:  He has made numerous trips to Iowa and helped out several state and legislative candidates  in 2010 not only with appearances but through financial contributions from his PAC.  He is an impressive speaker. I had the pleasure of meeting him last spring at a campaign event and it was quite clear then that a Presidential run was definitely on his radar.  His Achilles heel so to speak is his endorsement of Arlen Specter for the Pennsylvania Senate at the urging of President George W. Bush in 2004.  Sen. Specter then turned (again) which resulted in the Democrats taking back control of Congress in 2006, and Sen. Santorum eventually lost his Senate seat.  Some say that all has been forgiven with the win back of that seat by Pat Toomey last year, but then again, he was Specter’s primary opponent when Santorum gave his endorsement.  Interestingly enough, Santorum told the story that even his wife, Karen told him at the time that the Specter endorsement was a mistake.  Well, maybe if he runs, President Bush will come back and help in his campaign. (not!)  Nice man.  Strong conservative values.  But can he carry the day?  Iowa is the big test for him.  If he falters here, he is on the short list of Vice Presidential candidates.

Donald Trump and Ron Paul:  Well everyone needs to have their 15 minutes every so often.  Is “The Apprentice” starting a new season anytime soon?   That being said, Ron Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is certainly one to watch. His father should take great pride in the influence that he has had on one of the up and coming leaders of the Republican Party.

Other names that are frequently mentioned:  Governors Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie, former Governor Jeb Bush, and Congressman Mike Pence have all indicated that they do not intend to run and I take them at their word.  Congressman Pence will undoubtedly run for Governor of Indiana.  Governor Christie is focused on New Jersey.   Jeb Bush will not run for public office while his mother is still alive—Barbara Bush is still a force to be reckoned with in the Bush family.  Mitch Daniels very well could be a Cabinet Secretary in a Republican administration for any candidate that he may aid in a campaign to win the White House.

So there it is.  My take (along with at least 50,000 others) on the landscape of the Presidential primary season which whether you like it or not is in full swing.  The horses are all in the starting gate, and on April 1 I believe that we will hear the shot of the starter’s pistol as we watch the race begin.  For the first time in many cycles, this will be a race that will be won with endurance, not speed.  Watch those FEC reports for steady and consistent fundraising numbers to see who will have the staying power to last not only through the retail politics of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but the multi-state primary media contests in March and April.  It is all about the money.

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A Day Like No Other

January 20 for the most part is in the dead of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  But, January 20 is one of the most significant days in the American republic.  It is Inauguration Day. Every four years, on January 20, that person who received the most number of electoral votes in the previous November election, puts a hand on a Bible, and swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.  It is the finest example on Earth to demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power from one person to another.

This January 20, 2011 is the anniversary of the inaugurations of three American Presidents who have had a profound effect on the American nation in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries.  John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush were inaugurated on this day with 20 years intervals separating them from one another. 

In 1961, 50 years ago today, John F. Kennedy, a young, charismatic Senator from Massachusetts, the first Catholic ever to be elected President, was inaugurated on a cold, snowy day in the District of Columbia.  A Democrat, he called for a reduction in the marginal tax rate to help spur the economy and supported  a strong military as a defense of our nation, which would align him more with the conservative Republicans of today.    The tax cuts passed with the help of conservatives from the Midwest and Northeast were instrumental in the growth of the American economy and establishing a standard of living for Americans unequalled anywhere in the world.  With strategic allies in Western Europe and the Far East, Kennedy was a committed anti-Communist.   Even though he had been embarrassed by a shoe pounding Nikita Khrushchev  earlier in the year, in October, 1962 he guided the United States through eight days of crisis by ordering a naval blockade of Soviet ships loaded with short range ballistic missiles headed to be installed on the island of Cuba, a mere 90 miles from the US shore.    By causing the other side to blink, he established himself as the leader of the free world and went on to be admired by people of all nations.  On a trip to Germany in the summer of 1963, he spoke to an almost immeasurable crowd in the divided city of Berlin, and told them that “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

This first World War II veteran to occupy the White House, Kennedy inspired future generations of Americans to public service, as the words from his inauguration, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” are some of the most quoted from any Presidential inaugural and still ring true today.  

Sadly, this President would be killed at the hand of an assassin in November, 1963, and his term of about 1000 days in length would be remembered more for references to ‘Camelot’ than what was actually accomplished.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States.  A new kind of conservative who had served as Governor of California through a turbulent time, this almost 70-year-old became one of the oldest to ever occupy the Oval Office.   Prior to becoming Governor he had been a movie and TV actor known for hawking General Electric appliances,  co-starring with a chimpanzee and inspiring the Notre Dame football team to “win one for the Gipper”. 

After the divisions left from Vietnam, the disappointing years of Watergate, the four years of Jimmy Carter telling Americans that we were in a malaise, this eternal optimist  spoke of the “shining city on the hill”  and reminded us that we had a  “rendezvous with destiny” to “preserve for our children this last, best hope on earth”.  He reminded us that America is a remarkable and exceptional country and made us feel good about ourselves again. His enthusiasm and patriotism was contagious. So many of the conservative leaders of today talk of how Reagan inspired and influenced them and helped to cultivate their conservative principles.  President Reagan, through his remarkable communication skills gave us such memorable moments including that of admonishing the Soviet President by stating at the Brandenburg Gate:   “Mr. Gorbachev:  Tear down this wall!” in reference to the that which was constructed some 25 years earlier to divide free from Communist Berlin.   

Both Kennedy and Reagan had two of their more memorable moments in Germany.

In carefully staged and crafted event, he saluted the ‘boys of Pointe Du Hoc’ by commemorating the 40th anniversary of the landing at D-Day with the 60 year olds of the Greatest Generation.   And in January, 1986, Reagan lead our nation as we mourned the loss of the NASA astronauts killed in the Challenger explosion.   Dubbed “The Great Communicator” Reagan brought a new era to the Presidency, one that was tailor-made for the medium for which he had gained acclaim earlier in his professional life,  television.  It was during his term, the advent of cable TV news and the 24 hour news cycle began, and President Reagan was never short on photo-ops and sound bites to feed the appetite of  the ever-increasing national media.

While the nation sang along with his campaign theme song “God Bless the USA”, a young Marine officer was working behind the scenes under the direction of the national security advisor to help bring democracy to Central America. Ollie North then traded arms for hostages with those who were determined to destroy Israel and cause harm to the United States in the infancy of what would become the defining conflict for the United States for the rest of the 20th century.  Reagan’s legacy would forever be entwined with what was referred to as the Iran-Contra Affair. 

After the most disputed election in our nation’s history, a son of a President, for only the third time in our nation’s history was inaugurated on January 20, 2001.    Ten years ago today President George W. Bush; with his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush looking on, became the 43rd President of the United States. 

He had campaigned on a platform of lowering taxes, limiting government, improving America’s schools for its children along  with bringing about a more compassionate kind of conservatism.

He had passed a landmark tax cut early in his administration and appeared to be making good on his campaign promises to work to grow the American economy and guide it out of the downturn that was inherited from his predecessor.

Then, on a bright, sunny, September morning, while he was in a primary school classroom in Florida listening to children read, in an event meant to advance his education initiative, his Chief of Staff Andy Card, with the TV cameras recording the moment, whispered into his ear, “Mr. President, America is under attack”.  Nineteen young men, extremists from Islamic nations in the Middle East, had hijacked four airplanes:  Two had struck the World Trade Center, one plowed into the Pentagon, and one by the grace of God and because of the heroism of Americans on Flight 93, crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania, thus saving the intended target, thought to be the US Capitol from the same fate as the WTC and Pentagon that day.  Over 2000 Americans lost their lives that day in the worst attack on the American mainland.

From September 11, 2001 on, the Bush administration focused on the War on Terror.   In a speech before a joint session of Congress, he put the world on notice, with the words:  “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”  For the next seven years, throughout the rest of his Presidency, George W. Bush focused on the safety of the American people to insure that there would never be another terrorist attack on the American homeland.  He was determined to bring these ‘evil-doers’ to justice, and with the might of the American military, he brought an end to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that harbored and encouraged the terrorist training camps where the 19 hijackers of the Sept. 11 flights had honed their skills.  That fight in Afghanistan continues to this day in what has become the longest war in American history.

In 2003, with intelligence reports from several corroborating sources that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, President Bush with the support of the US Congress gave the order for US troops to invade and occupy Iraq.  The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein twelve years earlier had invaded the neighboring nation of Kuwait, leading to Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, the military action ordered by his father, President George HW Bush, and with President Bush 43’s Vice-President, Dick Cheney as the Secretary of Defense.

During the Iraq War of President Bush 43, Saddam was captured by American forces, and then tried in an Iraqi court and sentenced to death for his crimes against the Iraqi people.    

The Iraqi War would be the defining and most frustrating issue for Bush.  The American people grew increasingly skeptical of the mission there, and in 2006, handed President Bush a midterm election defeat returning control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats for the first time since 1994.

Despite his campaign promise of a smaller, less intrusive federal government, he oversaw the largest expansion of the federal government in our nation’s history.  The creation of the Department of Homeland Security has become one of the largest bureaucracies in the federal government.

As Barack Obama was inaugurated two years ago today, the outgoing Republican President, George W. Bush handed over the power and responsibility of leading not only America, but the free world, to his Democratic successor.  It is without a doubt a wonder to the rest of the world that at the stroke of noon on January 20 every four years, with the utterance of an oath, the peaceful transfer of power occurs often between political opponents.   The only gun fire to be heard is that from the 21-gun salute from the assembled ceremonial military units.

It is one of the most remarkable displays of what our republic is about, and what our Founders envisioned some 240 years ago as they established a new nation. 

The office of the Presidency has been held by a variety of people  over the years from varying backgrounds, having differing temperaments, and possessing methods of leadership that cover the gamut from laissez-faire to that of an iron fist.  But what each of these people know, is that when their term is ended, when the 4 to 8 years that they occupy the White House will come to an end, they will sit in a chair on the steps of the US Capitol as their successor recites the Presidential oath and observe as a new leader takes the reins.

This display of a peaceful transfer of power is the envy of the world and what makes America truly exceptional.  On this January 20, the 50th, 30th, and 10th anniversary of the inaugurations of Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and George W. Bush, respectively, we should celebrate from where we have come and what is still to be for this American nation, and honor that which sets us apart from the rest of the world.

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The Year of the Woman (no Conservatives need apply)

This election year has been so named by those who decide these things “The Year of the Woman”.  Never in recent memory, or in history for that matter have there been so many female names on the ballots across the country.  Wow!  Ninety years after women were finally allowed to legally cast ballots, we’ve come a long way baby….but have we?

The sisterhood of politicians is a tough sorority to join.  For example in my county, the liberal bastion of Johnson County, Iowa, several of the women who hold elective office and the Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party of Iowa, submitted a letter to the editor  last week to the Iowa City Press-Citizen and Cedar Rapids Gazette stating that they do not believe that Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the GOP Candidate for Congress in Iowa-2 is “qualified” to be the first woman to represent Iowa in the US Congress.  Wow!  A woman who joined the Army, earned nursing, teaching, and MD degrees, a member of the medical school faculty at the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa, the first woman President of the Iowa Medical Society, small business owner, wife, mother, community volunteer, and admittedly an unsuccessful soccer coach is not qualified to be a member of Congress. What disqualifies her?  Only the “R” designation of her political party.

In the past ninety years, so many women  from both parties have attempted to crack the glass ceiling that still exists in only two states:  Iowa and Mississippi , where there have never been a woman elected as governor, US Senator, or member of the US House.  So of course, the Iowa liberals are beside themselves at the prospect that a conservative, a Republican, a woman from a small south-central Iowa city (Ottumwa) appears to be poised to do what the Democrats in this state have been unable to do.

Iowa is not the only state where this is the case.  The situation in California which came to light in the past week of the unconscionable comment from  former Gov. Jerry Brown to describe his opponent, Meg Whitman is beyond belief.

Earlier this morning, I heard Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) state on Fox News Sunday, when asked about the Sharron Angle-Harry Reid race in Nevada, “we can not have ‘that’ in the United States Senate” : ‘that’ being Sharron Angle.  Oh, my!

What is going on here?  From Christine O’Donnell to Sarah Palin, women in politics deserve to be put under the same scrutiny for their positions on policy as anyone else. But to summarily dismiss or impune a woman on personal issues or with the most vile and disgusting terms shows that maybe we have not come as far along baby as the feminists of the 1960s would want us to believe.

Women have as much right to a point of view as men, and that so many of them this year are conservatives and carry that banner is testament to the fact that the glass ceiling has been broken for women who previously were held back by the feminists of the past who really were not about allowing women to grow into being their own person, but rather to march in lockstep to the liberal, progressive, anti-family agenda that they espouse.

I am proud to be a woman, and even more proud to be a Conservative woman. I say to my sisters who have walked the walk and now have put themselves out there to put their name on the ballot– whatever the political party that you represent, I salute you.  I will choose to vote for you not for your gender, but for your political philosophy.  I can only hope that soon, others will come around to do the same.

In the meantime, Mariannette, wear some protective head gear…something tells me come November 2 you will need it!

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While you were away…..

I typically would not use this blog for a local issue, but this is one that deserves attention.  The community where my business is located is about to borrow $11 million to buy 60 acres of property.  Here is why everyone needs to keep an eye on all levels of government, not just the state and federal.

 

On August 10, while most North Liberty residents and taxpayers were enjoying their summer vacation, the North Liberty City Council voted to authorize the issuance of $20 million in bonds to fund (among other things) the purchase of 60+ acres of land off of Penn Street, purchase land for a new City Hall and continue the Highway 965 project.

 Why is this significant? For several reasons, but most importantly, it will result in an increase in your property taxes.  As yet, that amount has not been determined, but as everyone who owns property in Johnson County, Iowa knows, the property tax burden on property owners whether it be residential or commercial is staggering.  And at a time when the taxpayers have had to tighten their financial belts and live within their means in a delicate economy, the City of North Liberty has chosen to live beyond their means  and bring an extra $20M of debt upon the residents and taxpayers of this City.

The purchase of the 60+ acres of land just south and east of the Penn Street/I380 intersection will be divided up and up to 20 or so acres will be sold to the University of Iowa Community Credit Union to build their 100, 000 square foot service center.  But rather than purchasing the land outright, the City has offered a financial incentive to the UICCU.  They will sell this 20 acres to them for $1 (one dollar). The $ 25 million building that will be built by 2013 will be on the land purchased by the City –and the property taxes for the building will go to pay off the bonds to purchase the land.  Part of the bond debt will have to be paid by an increase in property taxes with the rest from TIF.   The UICCU building will be put into a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district.  The City of North Liberty will use most of the estimated $600,000 in property taxes from this building toward paying off the debt incurred by the bonds-while the Clear Creek Amana School District, Johnson County, and other taxing entities will not get their fair share of this property tax until the bonds are paid off—probably 10 or so years into the future.

The mayor and city administrator have touted that this facility will employ 400 people.  Wow—public debt to create jobs!  Where have we heard this before…oh yeah, the federal stimulus bill on 2009—you remember the one that would keep unemployment to under 8% or the massive I-Jobs program from the State of Iowa that will have Iowa taxpayers paying off the bonds from that to the tune of $55M per year for the next 20 or so years—with no real permanent jobs to show for it.   In the letter that I received as a member from UICCU, it was explained that over the 30 years that they plan for this facility to be in operation that there could be as many as 400 jobs created. Quite a bit different from what Mayor Salm and City Administrator Heiar would lead you to believe. 

 When I contacted some North Liberty council members, I was told that this property is currently zoned for a high density multi-family housing development.  Nothing has been proposed, however by rezoning it for a commercial type use that would eliminate any future multi-family housing from being built at this site and adding more to an already stressed infrastructure and the crowding of North Bend Elementary School.    My question is why in the “multi-family capital of the Midwest” was there even any thought to adding more multi-family zones?  And if you do not want the multi-family built there, then put a moratorium on multi-family development until the infrastructure can support it.  Or better yet, do not allow for anymore multi-family land use in the City of North Liberty.  Many of the current council members as well as the Mayor campaigned against more multi-family housing during their campaigns. What happened there?

But what about the other 40 or so acres of this parcel?  The city would market it and sell it off for future commercial development and the proceeds will go to pay off the debt from this bond sale. So, the city will then be in the commercial real estate business, competing with those who have commercial property (including myself) for sale.  I wonder if they will sell those parcels off for $1 as well? 

I applaud the UICCU for their investment in the service center.  It is obviously needed and I congratulate them for their success in this economy. However, if they can afford to build this building, why do they need the “economic incentive” as described by Jim Kelly, UICCU Senior VP on Marketing as quoted in the August 11 issue of the North Liberty Leader at the expense of the already beleaguered North Liberty property tax payer?

 In May, 2009, over 700 North Liberty residents voted in the local option sales tax election on whether to add 1 cent of retail sales tax in North Liberty for the purpose of expanding and improving Hwy 965.  It lost by a wide margin of 61% against to 39% for. And yet this council has gone ahead and as a part of this bond issue will assess a tax anyway—on the property owners of North Liberty for what many believe to be an overreaching and ill-conceived plan.   What part of”No” does this city administration and council not understand?  Sadly, when the municipal elections were held in November, 2009, less than 5% of the registered voters, fewer than the number that showed up at the polls for the sales tax referendum took the time to understand the issues and candidates to cast a ballot in the election for city council and mayor. 

 While the grassroots movement to change the Federal government continues to gain steam, this must trickle down to the local governments as well.  Municipalities, counties, school districts and states need to have their insatiable revenue appetites restrained just as much as the Federal government.  It takes attention and just a small amount of time. If the Council chambers had been filled the night that this vote took place in North Liberty, there may have been a different outcome.  This council and administration will keep on this path unless and until residents of this City voice their displeasure. 

 As the past president of the North Liberty Development Group and a longtime business owner in this community, I have been a proponent and supporter of the city of North Liberty. But enough is enough.  I welcome the UICCU service center to North Liberty, but not at the expense of the North Liberty tax payer.

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