Summary of a Grassley Town Hall Meeting

My wife and I attended a town hall meeting today with Senator Grassley. We counted 48 chairs setup for the town hall, and I would estimate we ended up with about 60-65 people there, when Grassley started the meeting he remarked that he was suprised at the number of people attending.

The Senator began by asking people who wanted to speak to raise their hands.  He would then have you tell him the topic you wished to speak on so that he could bunch similar topics together for debate.  There were about three people questioning Iraq, one on Iran, and a host of other issues.  I used the time to bring up using industrial hemp, because that is an issue I personally care about, and was quickly dismissed since Grassley felt it was ‘a law enforcement issue’.  Farmers in North Dakota are pushing for licenses because the state legislature voted to permit industrial hemp farming.  They are now waiting for the DEA to approve the licenses, which by the way required $2000 non-refundable application fees.

Grassley started out with smaller issues, taxes, farming pollution & superfund, my hemp question, estate tax, drug-free funding and others. 

He then moved on and asked for someone to speak about Iraq, and as the crowd started knocking down his excuses/reasoning, he suddenly switched to another topic (I can’t remember what exactly it was)…this was a total of 5-10 minutes debate on Iraq, and then a total switch. 

This led up to the final 15 minutes reserved for press (who had already asked their questions), and the Senator indicated he would stay in open discussion for the rest of the time.  Someone from the crowd brought up the military build up towards Iran, and Grassley said that Bush would only be able to order troops in for a limited time without congressional approval for a larger escalation.  The crowd was starting to get rowdy because the Senator was following the same old excuses for continuing the Iraq war. 

Part of the debate focused on the Baker commission report, and Grassley said he fully supports it.  Crowd brings up the fact that Bush does not accept one of the main diplomatic points, that we have to have public diplomatic dialog with Iran and Syria. 

The crowd began discussing nuclear issue with Iran 1) Would we stop processing all nuclear fuel if Iran did?  2)  Why would Iran want nukes? Because they see us and think we’re freaking crazy with how we are treating everyone in the world; self defense. 

Grassley begins lecture on how in 80s we were nominated (or self selected) as ‘world nuklear police chief’ and that we lowered our inventory sooo much and that we were leading for world peace to disarm everyone.  That ‘we would be the last to destroy our last nuclear weapon, but that we would be the one to push for disarmanent’  a lot of conversation in response to that lecture, including the fact that we are developing even more small scale nuclear weapons right now.

Grassley was getting under quite a bit of pressure, I’m sure he was glad to be done with that town hall meeting! 

— quick notes regarding Iraq/Iran —

Grassley very quickly fell back on three arguments regarding Iraq/Iran:  1.  He suppports the troops (which was quickly dismissed by the crowd, since even people who are anti-surge support the troops.  2.  That we have to fight terrorism ‘over there’ instead of here, which got quite a lot of commentary from the crowd about how Iraq is about three cultures that are in civil war, not *terrorists* out to get us.  3.  And to finish it off, he said (rough quote) ‘Bill Clinton pushed the Iraqi Freedom Act and it was approved 88-0 in the Senate, and Bush was not the one to come up with the idea Saddam needed to be removed’  I didn’t even get the last half of Grassley’s comment because ~10 people in the front row were laughing so hard and asking what else Clinton was responsible for !  LOLOL

Oh and don’t forget, former ambassador Joe Wilson is giving a speech tonight at the memorial union sun room in Ames @8:00 about “Dissent in Democracy”!

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  • He was rattled

    Thanks for the good write-up.

    I was there, too, one of the snickering crowd in front, responding to Grassley’s contention that Clinton started the whole mess in Iraq. But then Grassley repeated his contention for those of you in the back of the room because we were so rude to laugh at his idiocy. So, you should have been able to hear it the second time. Oh course, we laughed the second time he said it also.

    You probably could not see Senator Aw Shucks veins popping out of his neck.

    • Tough crowd *grin*

      My wife and I were laughing hearing you guys all up there cracking up…someone said “what else did Clinton cause” and I was dying.  God it’s good to see a stuffy Senator get heckled…made me smile in a great democratic way 😀

      I’ve got a thread going over on dailykos too, if you want to check it out…I was suprised at the number of Iowans commenting. 


  • Abramoff connection, also

    After the town hall meeting, I went up to the Senator and thanked him for braving the public and shook his hand. I then asked him about the Abramoff quote about him in Kim Eisler’s Washingtonian article from January 30:

    his old friend Jack Abramoff

    Of Iowa senator Charles Grassley, chair of the Senate Finance committee, who had been critical of Abramoff, Jack said: “You can say you have a good source that Grassley not only carried my water on the Bear Council issue [a fight over tribal recognition in Grassley’s state] and received a ton of contributions in return, but he also did one of the biggest asks from Abramoff ever, taking Tyco out of the tax bill. . . . They would have been hit with a $4-billion tax bill.”

    Surprisingly, Grassley was not aware of the accusation but seemed pretty interested in it. I asked for an explanation for the $4 billion tax savings he got for Tyco at Abramoff’s request, but Grassley could not figure it out. He said it must be an old story, maybe going back to the 2004 bill he pushed through against tax dodging by US companies set up in the Bahamas. I said that of course it is in the past, because Abramoff is in jail now and is not doing any lobbying these days.

    William Dillon from the Ames Tribune and Nancy (?) Runyon from the Tri-County Times seemed interested, so we will see if they write anything about it. It should be a story in the Iowa press. It is a pretty big accusation.

    I wrote a diary about the Abromoff-Grassley connection a few weeks ago.

  • What was your personal impression of him

    I was on a panel with him a couple months ago and he seemed really ornery, and it wasn’t an unfriendly room (although I think everyone else on the panel were Democrats).  Is Grassley getting senile?

    • Against partisianship

      The biggest thing he portrayed to me was that he didn’t want to get put on the coals, so anything that called him for his fellow republicans actions got an automatic response that he wasn’t going to play partisian games. 

      He seemed to want to fall back on canned responses quite a bit, and wanted to be in control of the conversation as much as possible (I’m sure a lot of dems act this way too )

      He ignored most heckling/arguing, but once or twice they really made him mad and he reacted. 

      The room had a pretty good feel to it, except for the dairy farmer co-op that was sitting next to me, I got a nasty comment from him that ‘you can’t say the people of Iraq are worse off than before the war’, but it wasn’t the time and place to educate him on the living conditions, death squads, and general chaos that goes on there every day.

      • Guy from Vinton?

        The guy representing the dairy cooperative was out of our county (and district), so I wasn’t sure why he was there anyway. He apparently showed up to complain about how tough it is for employers to tell if they are hiring an undocumented worker.

        • Yes, and having to call would put way too much burden on them

          I don’t know yet how I feel about this problem, because I generally don’t know what to do about the border issue.  I definately don’t want some huge wall up armed with weapons to kill people trying to cross the border, but if not that, then what level of enforcement do we want?  Do illegal immigrants have as much of a right to work here as we do?  What process should they go through to become legit?

          I know the companies need the labor, and so they are going to hire anyone who appears to be at least partially legit.  I figured just penalize the companies for any illegal labor found on their payroll, which would work for meat packing plants etc. because they would create a much more stringent process to figure out if the worker is legit. 

          Now, that brings up an issue my wife mentioned when it came up at the meeting…Grassley said that what he wanted to do is create a data pathway between the IRS and Social Security, along with Homeland Security to coordinate.  I’m sure there were specific reasons that that separation was originally written into the law.  It reminds me about the reasons FBI and CIA weren’t allowed to communicate, so that the CIA who can carry out clandestine operations projecting US power could not use information on our own citizens to carry out operations against citizens.  It’s a very sad fact that after 9/11 when homeland security was created it blurred the borders of data sharing between these two agencies.  Another scary loss of freedom and an advance of gov’t control.

    • Slower and more easily agitated

      I thought Grassley was a little slow-witted, probably from age. He really wasn’t able to intelligently answer very many questions, including some softball questions like ethanol.

      He kept control of the situation for the first half-hour or so, and he kept his cool pretty well until we started hitting hard on the Iraq and Iran issues.

      When we started following up on his bullshit answers without being called on, he got testy. Especially when he blamed the Iraq war on Clinton and we laughed. That is when he said he had to repeat his statement because there were people laughing at him up front. So he repeated it, and we laughed again.

      He wasn’t having fun. If he gets more of this, he might decide to retire in 2010 rather than stay as a minority member of the  Senate. One can only hope, and bird dog him as much as possible.