Weekend open thread: Everything but the Harkin news

Busy weekend in Iowa politics! I’m continuing to update the post on Tom Harkin retiring with reactions and speculation about possible Senate candidates. Here’s an open thread for anything else on your mind.

A bunch of links that caught my eye this week are after the jump.

A group of reporters for the Source Media Group and Lee Enterprises are collaborating on a new weekly 15-minute podcast on Iowa politics. You can follow OnIowaPolitics on twitter here. In the latest podcast, journalists Mike Wiser (statehouse bureau chief for Lee Enterprises), Jon Ericson of the Waterloo Courier, Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times, and James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette discuss driver’s licenses for “DREAMers,” Governor Terry Branstad’s recent tour of eastern Iowa, and an obscure provision from the Iowa constitution dealing with a state militia.

Here’s fun blog post for programmers or Supreme Court junkies: How Justice Clarence Thomas Uncovered a Seven-year-old Bug in My Computer Program.

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified this week before House and Senate committees “investigating” the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. I only watched short clips from the hearings. Dashiell Bennett and J.K. Trotter posted a good rundown of news from that day, Dana Milbank described how Clinton “stormed” Capitol Hill, but the most entertaining account by far was Zerlina’s post at Feministing: “How to deal with a mansplainer starring Hillary Clinton in gifs.”

The Republican National Committee has been holding its winter meetings, and I was surprised to see that Reince Priebus didn’t face any real opposition in his bid to be re-elected as RNC chair.

In his remarks, Mr. Priebus reported to members of the committee that he had led the party out of the debt that he inherited when he took over two years ago. He said the party still needed to make strides to compete with the Democratic Party.

Mr. Priebus secured the support of the party’s major donors and state officials, even as he appealed to the Libertarian strains of the party that are represented by supporters of Ron Paul. He fought back the possibility of a challenge from Mark Willis, a committee member from Maine, who supported Mr. Paul in last year’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Willis did not receive enough support on Friday to have his name placed into nomination. Party officials who gathered here said Republicans needed to be unified if they were going to successfully rebuild after losing the race for the White House and seats in the House and Senate last year.

In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Priebus said the party needed to improve its technology to compete with Democrats, but also focus on returning to the basics of building a strong get-out-the-vote operation. He did not talk specifically about the divisions inside the party over fiscal and social issues, but he urged Republican officials to be driven by their overarching goal: winning elections.

I would expect a lot of donors and RNC members to look for new leadership after what just happened in November. Not only did Mitt Romney lose every swing state except for North Carolina, Republicans lost ground in the U.S. Senate and only held the U.S. House because of gerrymandering. (Democratic House candidates received more than 1 million more votes than Republican House candidates across the country.)

Priebus is open to rewriting the rules on allocating electoral votes in blue states with GOP legislatures, but some other influential Republicans are distancing themselves from the idea.

CBS News took on former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a commentator. In her debut appearance on “Face the Nation,” she called immigration the “really big issue” and called for Republicans to stop sending “bad signals” that turn off “large segments of the population.”

House Speaker John Boehner is supposedly ready to tackle immigration reform.

The Speaker made the previously unreported comments during a question-and-answer session on Tuesday at the Ripon Society, a Republican advocacy group.

In response to a question from the audience, Boehner said it is “time to deal” with immigration, a top domestic priority for Obama.

“I said it the day after the election. I meant it, and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Boehner said. “I think there’s a bipartisan group of members that have been meeting now for three or four years. Frankly, I think they basically have an agreement. I’ve not seen the agreement. I don’t know all the pitfalls in it, but it’s in my view, the right group of members.”

Boehner will have to beat down a back-bencher rebellion to get immigration reform through the House. One of the leading opponents is sure to be Representative Steve King (IA-04). This week he told Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson that some of the Republicans pushing for immigration reform are “political opportunists.”

“The people that are for some version of let me say ‘waiving immigration law’…they have always been that way and now they are political opportunists,” King says. “For me, I’ve taken the oath to uphold the constitution and that includes the rule of law and I don’t want to reward people for breaking the law.” […]

“In the center this, the American people want the rule of law respected and if you reward lawbreakers, you’re going to get more lawbreakers,” King says. “That’s just how it is and we learned that from the 1986 Amnesty Act that was signed by Ronald Reagan, one of only about two times that he let me down.”

King says Republicans can “moderate” their tone when talking about minorities, including Latinos, but King says the GOP should “reject identity politics.”

“We can’t compromise principle for political expediency,” King says.

National Republican strategists must cringe whenever King gets near a microphone. A generation of GOP state legislators are coming up with even wackier ideas, though. A New Mexico lawmaker is pushing one of the most outrageous proposals I’ve ever heard of: it would “make terminating a pregnancy caused by incest or rape a third-degree felony for ‘tampering with evidence,’ which could carry three years in prison.” So wrong on so many levels, not to mention completely unworkable.

Back to Steve King: when he served in the Iowa Senate, one of his signature achievements was the law making English the official language of the state of Iowa. Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed this law once but signed the second version that came to his desk. Democratic State Representative Bruce Hunter recently confirmed that he will again introduce a bill to repeal this law. He doesn’t have a chance to move this legislation in the Republican-controlled Iowa House. Democrats should have grabbed the opportunity to repeal “English only” the first time Hunter tried to do so in 2009.

Ruth Anderson, a civil rights leader in Iowa who also influenced generations of social workers, passed away this week at the age of 91.

Anderson achieved many firsts in her half-century of social and political involvement in Black Hawk County. She was the first African-American county social services director and the first African-American county supervisor. She made major inroads for female professors at the University Northern Iowa and helped create an entire academic department there. […]

Anderson, a native of Sioux City, arrived in Waterloo in 1959 after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkley and a master’s degree from Columbia University School of Social Work in New York. In the late 1960s, she became the first African-American director of social services in Black Hawk County.

She participated in the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C., at which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a Dream” speech.

Anderson became a professor of social work at UNI, where she won a legal battle with the university and was awarded a full professorship with tenure after having previously been passed over. The out-of-court settlement was seen as a major victory for female professors at public universities in Iowa. She taught for 22 years at UNI.

Under her leadership, contemporaries said, the UNI department of social work was created, and she headed that department. […]

In 1982, Anderson was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and was a recipient of the Women of Achievement award in 1988. In 1990 she received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Simpson College in Indianola. In 1992, at the end of her single term on the Board of Supervisors, she was named social worker of the year by the Iowa NASW.

In 1985 she published her autobiography, “From Mother’s Aid Child to University Professor: The Autobiography of an American Black Woman.” She was listed in Who’s Who Among Black Americans in 1977. In the early ’90s she was president of the Iowa-Nebraska State Conference of the NAACP.

In May 2012 she received a lifetime achievement award from the Iowa chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Speaking of influential women in Iowa, the Democratic Activist Women’s Network of Iowa is accepting nominations through January 31 for its four annual awards:

• DAWN Barbara Boatwright Award, a woman whose life work has advanced Democratic values, or a woman who has achieved a noteworthy accomplishment in her community or the state, which may be paid or non-paid work

• DAWN Elected State Official Award, a public official who has proven to be a strong leader and advocate for women at the state level

• DAWN Elected Local Official Award, a public official who has proven to be a strong leader and advocate for women at the local level, may be locally elected or elected Democrat Party County Chair

• DAWN Rising Star Award, a woman, under the age of 30, who has shown dedication to her community and to Democratic values

Eligibility: To be considered for a DAWN Award, the nominee must be a pro-choice Democratic woman who currently resides in Iowa. The nominee’s accomplishment/s must have had a direct impact in Iowa. Unless specified, there are no age restrictions. Women currently serving on the DAWN’s List steering committee are not eligible.

How to nominate: To nominate an outstanding Democratic woman, please submit the online form by January 31, 2013. You can also download and print a paper nomination form. Complete the nomination form, attach your letter of support and send it to P.O. Box 814, Des Moines, IA 50304 or email it to info@dawnslist.org. All email and online submissions must be received by January 31, 2013 and all paper submissions must be postmarked by January 31, 2013.

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