Grassley, Ernst not concerned by Trump's nominees or antics

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have given the White House nothing to worry about as the chamber begins the process of confirming President Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees. Not only have Iowa’s senators voted for the three cabinet members approved so far, they have yet to voice serious concern about any nominee.

Two of the least controversial cabinet appointees gained Senate approval within hours of Trump’s inauguration on January 20: James Mattis for secretary of defense and John Kelly for director of Homeland Security. Only one senator (Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand) voted against confirming Mattis, because she opposes the waiver allowing him to serve in the cabinet less than seven years after leaving the military. Only eleven Democrats voted against confirming Kelly.

Mike Pompeo’s nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency drew more opposition when it came to the Senate floor on January 23. Thirty Democrats, Republican Rand Paul, and independent Bernie Sanders voted against Pompeo’s nomination, largely over concerns about his positions on torture and government surveillance.

As dangerous as Pompeo could be to the rule of law as it relates to intelligence gathering and interrogation techniques, Trump’s deceptive, off-topic, self-centered speech on Saturday at CIA headquarters knocked Pompeo down the list of things that terrify me about the coming years. Robin Wright explained for the New Yorker why “Trump’s vainglorious affront to the CIA” horrified intelligence community professionals. According to NPR’s national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, former CIA chief of Russia operations Steve Hall has said that agency staff are worried they might not be able to trust Trump enough to reveal the source of unflattering information about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This thread is for any comments related to Trump’s cabinet or out-of-control narcissistic rages, which require his advisers to serve as glorified babysitters keeping the president from spending too much time watching television. I enclose below official statements from Ernst on the first cabinet confirmations and from Grassley on his meeting with Kelly earlier this month. Both senators have studiously avoided any public comments about Trump’s child-like temperament or sometimes contradictory outbursts on matters of national security.

Continue Reading...

Jalapeno Pepper, Hot Sauce and Gasoline Tart

Howard County Democratic Party chair Laura Hubka is ready to fight. Who’s with her? -promoted by desmoinesdem

Does everyone else feel like they are in a dream? Not a nice cream filled donut dream but a jalapeno pepper, hot sauce and gasoline filled tart, a terrifying joke of a dream. One where you feel like you know all the players and the places but something is just off. Totally ridiculous and confusing. Its like we all went to bed after way too much to drink and are having a really bad nightmare. Up is down, down is up.

Continue Reading...

Thoughts on Gary Johnson's Des Moines rally and Iowa prospects

Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson made his first Iowa campaign stop this year over the holiday weekend. His September 3 rally in Des Moines attracted hundreds of people, making it possibly the largest Libertarian event in Iowa history. You can watch his full speech at C-SPAN or Caffeinated Thoughts.

Johnson will qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and is consistently polling far better than the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the only other minor-party candidate routinely included in public opinion surveys. I continue to hear the Libertarian’s radio ads on various Des Moines-based stations and have seen pro-Johnson television commercials by the Purple PAC on some cable networks.

The four most recent Iowa polls measured Johnson’s support at 8 percent (Emerson College), 12 percent (Quinnipiac), 6 percent (Suffolk), and 12 percent (Marist). Polls have historically overstated support for third-party candidates. Nevertheless, if the competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump remains very close here, even a 2-3 percent showing for Johnson could determine who wins Iowa’s six electoral votes.

Though I wasn’t able to attend Saturday’s rally, listening to Johnson’s stump speech reinforced my view that he is on track to outperform all previous Libertarian presidential candidates in Iowa by a considerable margin.

Continue Reading...

IA-04: Joni Ernst is all in for Steve King

Today U.S. Senator Joni Ernst became the third Iowa Republican heavyweight to endorse Representative Steve King, who faces a primary challenge from State Senator Rick Bertrand in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. Ernst didn’t just allow King’s campaign to announce her support in a statement, she also filmed a short video which I’ve enclosed below, along with a transcript.

Birds can be heard singing in the background as Ernst praises King for supporting life, liberty, the military, four-laning U.S. Highway 20, and the fuel blender tax credit. The sound you can’t hear is the door slamming on Bertrand’s already slim chance to win this primary.

Ernst served with Bertrand in the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from 2011 through 2014, so has observed his political work more closely than most Republicans. She could have stayed neutral, though seven-term incumbent King was heavily favored to win the IA-04 primary even before Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley publicly backed him.

As with Grassley’s endorsement, I wonder whether Ernst wanted to dish out some payback to Nick Ryan, the dark money operative who was recruiting a primary challenger in IA-04 and endorsed Bertrand immediately after the state senator made his campaign official.

Ryan worked for Mark Jacobs during his race against Ernst and others in the 2014 GOP primary for U.S. Senate. (Bruce Rastetter, a frequent ally of Ryan and major ethanol industry figure who is also supporting Bertrand against King, backed Ernst early in that race.)

Bertrand has been promoting himself as someone who will deliver for IA-04 in Congress, rather than trying to be a “national figure.” Last week, he asserted in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s William Petroski that there is widespread “discontentment” with King, who “has gone Washington.” Echoing that talking point, Ryan told Petroski, “I believe we can do better. I want a conservative congressman that cares more about getting things done for his district than booking an appearance on Fox or MSNBC.”

Ryan can raise a lot of money to spend on campaigns, but his track record in Iowa GOP contests is mixed. Unsuccessful candidates who benefited from spending controlled by Ryan include: Jim Gibbons in the 2010 primary for Iowa’s third Congressional district, Annette Sweeney in the 2012 primary for Iowa House district 50, Jacobs in the 2014 Senate primary, Matt Schultz in the 2014 primary for IA-03, and Mike Huckabee before the latest Iowa caucuses.

P.S.-Asked this morning whether he wants “to see King defeated” in June, Governor Terry Branstad replied, “It’s up to the voters to decide in each of these instances and I’ve always had confidence in the voters of Iowa to make a good decision and I will obviously support the Republican nominees,” O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa. Branstad made headlines by calling for Ted Cruz’s defeat less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. King was Cruz’s leading surrogate in Iowa after endorsing the Texas senator for president in November.

Continue Reading...

How Iowa law enforcement agencies justified armored vehicle requests

Marking the one-year anniversary of the militarized police crackdown on protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Molly Redden wrote a fascinating piece for Mother Jones on how local law enforcement agencies have justified their requests for “combat style weapons, trucks, and armor.” Redden noted that in public, representatives of police organizations have cited “hostage situations, rescue missions, and heavy-duty shootouts” to justify the need for military equipment. But when requesting mine resistant ambush protected vehicles through official channels, “very few sheriffs and police chiefs cite active shooters, hostage situations, or terrorism […].” More often, they indicated plans to use the equipment for SWAT raids, drug enforcement, or serving warrants.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Redden obtained more than 450 local requests for armored vehicles submitted during the past two years. She uploaded the documents here. Ten requests came from Iowa law enforcement agencies (the Iowa State Patrol, five county sheriff’s offices, and four city police departments). Those may not represent all the Iowa requests for armored vehicles; Redden told me she requested only applications with something written in the “special considerations” section of the form. However, I would assume that most police forces seeking to obtain heavy equipment from the military would explain why they need the armored vehicle and/or how they plan to use it.

After the jump I’ve enclosed links to the Iowa documents obtained by Redden and quoted each police or sheriff’s department explanation for requesting an armored vehicle.

President Barack Obama implemented new federal rules in May to prohibit transfers of certain military equipment to local police: namely, “tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, and large-caliber weapons and ammunition.” All of the Iowa documents Redden obtained requested armored vehicles on wheels (though the Scott County Sheriff’s Office indicated it would also accept tracked vehicles).

On a related note, in June the U.S. House rejected amendments to next year’s military budget that would have “prohibited funds from being used for the Pentagon to transfer flash-bang grenades and armored vehicles to local police departments.” Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) voted for the unsuccessful attempt to stop transfers of armored vehicles to police departments. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republican Steve King (IA-04) voted against that amendment.

Continue Reading...
View More...