Don't hold your breath waiting for Steve King to debate

Democratic Congressional candidate Matt Campbell has challenged incumbent Steve King to a series of three debates this year. Campbell’s press release notes that King “has never formally debated an opponent” since his first election to Congress in 2002.

Don’t expect this year to become the exception that proves the rule. King ignored Campbell’s request that he apologize for making racially polarizing remarks about President Barack Obama, and he’s probably going to ignore Campbell’s request for debates on the issues.

Why would King agree to take questions from a panel of journalists while Campbell points out how little the incumbent has accomplished for his fifth district constituents? The status quo is very comfortable for King. Conservative interest groups pay to fly him all over the country. He gets one softball question after another from right-wing talk radio hosts. Even when sensible Republicans are embarrassed by his presence, he can find a receptive audience for his wrong-headed comments.

Douglas Burns put it well at the Carroll Daily Times Herald:

In evaluating employees one of the more important measures is time management. […]

We can debate whether King is accurate with his portrayal of Obama as a closet black militant. But, really, is this the sort of business we want Mr. King, our $174,000-a-year employee, doing for us on the job?

The time King spends on this matter is time he’s not devoting to the great sweep of land that is the 5th Congressional District. A self-described insomniac, King can claim that he has time to be a right-wing talk-show darling and a reliable piñata for MSNBC’s liberal commentators whose eyes light up like kids seeing candies and other sweets every time they see the Kiron Republican’s lips jiggle into their default position of flapping about.

But at the end of the day, there’s no getting away from the fact that it takes time and energy and political capital to play the role of Congressman Steve King as he’s written the part. […]

More important, when King is chasing the lights, cameras and action of the spit-scream arena of modern political talk entertainment shows what is he neglecting in Cherokee or Carroll or Creston or Council Bluffs? What agricultural or economic-development issue is getting less attention than it would otherwise have?

The most important choice we make in life is how to use our time. It is a limited commodity. King is on our clock and he’s spending our time in ways that have little to do with real life in western Iowa.

I would bank on Campbell’s handshake with King at the Storm Lake 4th of July parade being the only meeting between the two candidates this year.

In related Steve King news, this week he claimed the closure of a voter intimidation case in Philadelphia proved he was right to claim the Obama administration has a “default mechanism” favoring racial minorities. For context about the New Black Panther Case dropped by Obama’s Justice Department, read this piece by Zachary Roth at TPMMuckraker. Conservatives like King are making “whistle-blower” Christian Adams out to be a hero, but Josh Marshall reminds us how this guy got his DOJ job in the first place:

Adams was one of the attorneys US Attorney firing scandal luminary Bradley Schlozman hired when he was purging the Civil Rights Division of female, minority and non-right wing attorneys and replacing them with “good Americans.”

Basically, Adams was one of the guys who got in during the bad old days when the crooks and bamboozlers then running the DOJ were purging career attorneys and replacing them with right-wing activists like Schlozman himself. And remember, Schlozman’s role at the Bush DOJ was getting US Attorneys to bring bogus ‘vote fraud’ cases to further the effort to suppress minority and low-income voter turnout.

Let’s see, what else was one of the 10 worst members of Congress wrong about lately? Oh yes, King agreed with a right-wing talk show caller who claimed Obama’s not helping Louisiana cope with the BP oil spill because that state’s governor is a Republican. In the process he falsely accused the president of failing to waive the Jones Act. Pat Garofalo explains here why the right-wing Jones Act talking points are false.

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We failed the people who cleaned up 9/11. Will we fail the people cleaning up the Gulf?

In the aftermath of 9/11, we saw thousands of workers develop devastating respiratory conditions and other illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic dust that filled the air in the days and weeks after the twin towers fell. To this day, these peoples’ plight continues to add misery to the ongoing tragedy of 9/11. What makes it even worse is that these people were assured the air was safe.   As we all know now, it wasn’t.

Today, sadly, history may be repeating itself in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Thank you to Ligia Ercius-Dipaola, who posted this video on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook Page)

Amazingly, despite reports like this one, BP “continues to pretend that – just like an oil spill of this magnitude could never happen – there also could not possibly be a worker health concern.”  While the potential health hazards posed by chemical dispersants and oil itself are debatable, it is clear that significant risks existed.  

Already, we’ve seen evidence of the impact that spilled oil can have on human health. For starters, an increasing number of workers and residents in Gulf Coast areas have reported “suffering from nausea, vomiting, headaches and difficulty breathing.”  Considering that oil contains “petroleum hydrocarbons, which are toxic and irritating to the skin and airways”, as well as volatile chemicals “which can cause acute health effects such as headaches, dizziness and nausea” it’s no surprise that these symptoms are appearing.

(Thank you to Gary Chattem, who posted this on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook Wall)

So now, with the “60 exposure-related complaints filed with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals”, not to mention the “overwhelming evidence that many of the compounds found in crude oil are dangerous,” shouldn’t BP be protecting the people who are cleaning up this mess? If they aren’t doing so, why aren’t they?

The bottom line is this: people along the Gulf Coast deserve to know the facts regarding the dangers they are facing and how to protect themselves.  It’s bad enough that their economic livelihoods are in danger of destruction in part due to BP’s greed and recklessness.  But if their lungs and other organs are damaged by oil and dispersant particles in the air, more than their economic livelihoods could be damaged.

None of us should ever forget that this disaster was brought on, at least in part, by BP cutting corners to save a few (million) bucks, and by the government’s failure to prevent the company from doing so.  As a result, the unthinkable has happened.  We must learn from those grave mistakes, not repeat them.  That means, in the long term, ridding ourselves of our dangerous, destructive addition to oil.  But what must happen now – right now – is for BP to stop cutting corners with the health of the people cleaning up the Gulf.

At the minimum, BP must switch its philosophy from “hope for the best” to “do whatever it takes, whatever the cost, to make sure people are safe.”  If BP won’t “make it right,” as the company’s ads like to say, then the government should force BP to do so.  In the words of one Venice, LA mother: “I’ve got the two most beautiful children in the world. If something were to happen to them, how could I look in those baby blues and say, Mommy didn’t know?”  It’s a great question.  What’s the answer, BP?

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Steve King update

Representative Steve King ventured to Colorado to speak at two events on Saturday. A tea party splinter group hastily arranged the “United We Stand with Arizona!” rally in Loveland after Northern Colorado Tea Party organizers made clear King would not be welcome speaking at their “Remember November” rally later in the day. King told his followers on Twitter, “Colorado trip was a complete success. Turnout surpassed projections in both Loveland and Elizabeth. No better friend than Tom Tancredo.”

King didn’t have such kind words for Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate in Colorado’s fourth Congressional district. Last week Gardner canceled a fundraiser King offered to headline. Speaking to the Coloradoan newspaper, King declined to endorse Gardner for Congress. King’s buddy Tancredo expressed hope that Gardner would show “more spine in Congress” than he did reacting to King’s controversial remarks on race.

At the immigration rally, King spoke near a sign that said, “Political correctness = intellectual fascism.” Here’s a clip in which King describes his vision for protecting us from illegal immigrants. For the price of $2 million per mile, he claims, we could build a fence, a road, and a concrete wall (with wire at the top) running the whole length of our southern border. He characterized that as a bargain compared to the $6 million per mile the U.S. spends on our current border security policy. With an offensive flourish that has become his trademark, King boasted to his audience, “If you give me $6 million a mile there will not be a cockroach get across my mile.”

The group America’s Voice, which advocates for comprehensive immigration reform, has compiled this archive on King’s comments about immigration and ties to “anti-immigrant extremist groups.” He has indicated in the past that “his words are weighed ahead of time, never off the cuff and designed to stir discussion of key issues.” King succeeds in drawing national attention to himself and his agenda. But residents of Iowa’s fifth district pay the price, Democratic challenger Matt Campbell noted last week: “Instead of focusing on moving America forward, King is busy making polarizing statements. […] King’s polarizing statements and failure to lead is preventing the people he represents here in Iowa’s fifth district from having their needs met.”

King found time in his busy schedule yesterday to speak up for British Petroleum. He agrees with conservatives who feel President Obama has dealt too harshly with the corporation. They object to plans for BP to finance “a $20 billion escrow fund to pay out claims to individuals and businesses harmed by the spill” in the Gulf of Mexico. The way King sees it, Representative Joe Barton was right to apologize to BP for the “shakedown” (hat tip to Deeth). Many other Washington Republicans have distanced themselves from Barton’s views.

Please give some money or time to Matt Campbell for Congress if you are able.

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