Beware the Ides of January and the GOP caucus

Photo by Lev Radin, taken during the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, available via Shutterstock.

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Instead of “beware the Ides of March,” maybe we should beware the Ides of January. For as a soothsayer warned Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar of impending assassination and the end of empire—driven by the supposed effect of the full moon on human affairs in the middle of the month—we should beware the Iowa GOP caucuses, which may herald the onset of a second Donald Trump presidency.

In what would resemble an early Halloween prank upon our nation, Iowa may boost Trump’s candidacy, to the detriment of our democracy.

Indeed the well-respected weekly magazine The Economist asked in a January 10 post, “Can Trump deliver a knockout blow in Iowa?”

That fear is warranted by Trump’s forsaking what the U.S. aspires to, even as he has enjoyed the support of Iowa Republican leaders, including Governor Kim Reynolds (before the current election cycle), U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (who hasn’t picked a favorite in this year’s GOP field) and Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, an enthusiastic Trump endorser.

Consider a few contrasts that should haunt us if a Trump triumph in the Iowa caucus clinches the GOP presidential nomination for him.


In her 1883 sonnet, The New Colossus, written to raise funds for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus wrote of the statue she called the “Mother of Liberty,”

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

In contrast to welcoming those “yearning to breathe free,” Trump spoke approvingly of authoritarian leadership during a November rally in New Hampshire, and likened his political opponents to “vermin.” He praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a “very tough, strong guy,” adding, “He didn’t allow millions of people to invade his country.”


When Russian invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Trump termed the move by Russian President Vladmir Putin as “shrewd,” “savvy” and “genius,” because Putin would gain some prime real estate at little cost.

Last September the United Nations reported some 500,000 soldiers have been casualties in the war, as well as about 30,000 civilians, mostly Ukranians. So much for little cost. As the war continues, Zelenskyy is an heroic figure seeking support from NATO countries and the U.S. as well. The Trump wing of the U.S. House Republican caucus has stymied further military aid to Ukraine.


In Trump’s final year as president, his record on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was awful. Gathering statistics on mortality rates and causes of deaths on an international basis is fraught with pitfalls. Nevertheless the World Health Organization reported in 2022 that the U.S. “remains a long way above the global average” of deaths attributed to the virus, “and it’s also one of the worst performing among the most developed nations.”, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, reported that at a May 2020 meeting with Republicans. “Trump said, without evidence, that the coronavirus ‘is going to go away without a vaccine.’”

To compound the problem, Joshua Cohen reported for Forbes magazine last week that Trump

repeatedly promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine in the spring of 2020, as both a preventative against and treatment for Covid-19. He did this despite the drug not having proven effectiveness or safety. According to a study published in the February 2024 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, the pharmaceutical has now been linked to approximately 17,000 deaths.

The drug known as an anti-malarial for decades, hydroxychloroquine, was prescribed to patients by some doctors during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic “despite the absence of evidence documenting its clinical benefits.” Authors of a new study—a meta-analysis of randomized trials involving 44 separate cohort studies—estimate that 16,990 Covid-19 patients in the U.S., France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Turkey died as a result of taking the drug. This translates into an 11% increase in the mortality rate among Covid-19 patients. According to researchers, the toxicity of hydroxychloroquine in patients with Covid-19 is partially due to its severe cardiac side effects.


Let’s go back almost 35 years to start this one — back to “The Truth About Lies,” a November 1989 public affairs program by Bill Moyers in which he asked “Can a nation die of too many lies?” Moyers examines the deception involved in events including the 1963 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. The transcript is worth a read, because as Moyers said, “Public lies diminish your power and mine as free men and women to make informed choices.”

Fast forward 32 years to the end of Trump’s presidency. The Washington Post calculated that, as president, Trump made more than 35,000 false or misleading claims — nearly half of them in his final year. The Post reported,

Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen — the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.

Although the certified results show Joe Biden received more than 7 million more votes than Trump, as many as a third of Americans still believe the stolen election lie.

I’m letting Trump have the last word in this post. Here are ten of the former president’s self assessments, taken from nearly 40 compiled by NowThis News.

  • Nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do.
  • Nobody knows more about construction than I do.
  • Nobody knows more about taxes than I do.
  • Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.
  • I know more about ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] than the generals do. Believe me.
  • Nobody knows more about environmental impact statements than me.
  • I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.
  • I know more courts than any human being on Earth.
  • Who knows more about lawsuits than I do? I’m the king.
  • I know a lot. I know more than I’m ever gonna tell you.

But we should know enough to be wary of the Ides of January.

About the Author(s)

Herb Strentz

  • didn't more Americans vote to reelect Trump then voted for any other presidential candidate before that race?

    “Trump’s forsaking what the U.S. aspires to” ignores history: