Steve King doesn't understand American Jews. The feeling is mutual

Representative Steve King is making national news again, but in a new twist, for offensive comments about Jews rather than Latinos.

Speaking to Boston Herald radio on Friday, King said, “I don’t understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president.” Over the weekend, apparently unaware that he had just validated a classic anti-Semitic trope about divided Jewish loyalties, King claimed that he was defending Israelis.

As my grandmother might have said, what King doesn’t know about Jews could fill a book. But after reflecting on the matter, I realized that King’s worldview is just as inexplicable to a typical American Jewish Democrat as mine is to him.

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House approves anti-abortion bill: How the Iowans voted

On the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade, the U.S. House approved a bill that could make abortion an unaffordable choice for many women. Emily Crockett reported for RH Reality Check,

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

The bill, HR 7, would also go much further than Hyde by prohibiting women or small businesses from using tax credits or subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to pay for any health insurance plan that covers abortion care.

The bill has no exceptions for a patient whose health is endangered by her pregnancy. […]

The effect of the bill could be to cause the entire insurance market to drop abortion coverage, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Traditionally, health insurance policies have covered abortion services, because doing so is much less costly than covering prenatal care and labor/delivery.  

The bill passed by 242 votes to 179 (roll call), with only one Republican opposed and three Democrats in favor. Iowa’s U.S. representatives split on party lines: Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted yes, while Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted no. I enclosed King’s statement below and will update if I see any other official comment from the Iowans in Congress.

House leaders had originally planned to pass a 20-week abortion ban on the Roe v Wade anniversary, to coincide with an annual March for Life in Washington, but that bill was pulled at the last minute “following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape.” The bill would have allowed abortion in the case of rape only if the victim had reported the alleged crime to police. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise says the bill will come back to the floor at a later date. On Wednesday, fifteen of the sixteen Republicans who spoke in favor of the 20-week abortion ban were men.

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Democrat Gary Kroeger may run for Congress in IA-01

What better way to launch a new blog than with a scoop? Pat Rynard delivered that when his Iowa Starting Line website came online yesterday, with this post about Gary Kroeger considering the Democratic primary in Iowa’s first Congressional district. On his own blog, Gary Has Issues, Kroeger describes himself as follows:

First and foremost, I am the father of two wonderful boys.  I am also a son, a brother, and the creative director at an advertising agency in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I write an Op-Ed column for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, and in my past, present and future, I have been an actor, a writer, television host, announcer, voice over artist, producer, restaurateur, emcee, activist, and fundraiser.

Judging by his comments to Rynard, Kroeger would position himself as the progressive candidate in a Democratic primary:

Born in Cedar Falls, he moved back to his hometown in 2003 to give his two young sons a more stable life. At 57, he says he’s kept himself involved in local politics by hosting coffees for candidates, lobbying a bit on some statehouse legislation, and writing the left-leaning column for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. That got him thinking about taking his passion for politics to a bigger stage.

“I have a strong voice and a capability to persuade people to listen better than most in the political arena,” Kroeger says of what advantages he thinks he’d bring to a campaign. “I believe I have something that may be missing. I’ve been watching politics my whole life. It’s a whole lot of dull. Legislators are not persuading, not convincing people, not getting people to think.”

As for the issues he would run on, civil rights would anchor his platform. “Civil rights and justice for all, for gay marriage, for women, for minorities. It’s what defines progressivism. And then you go out from there. It touches on the right to breathe clean air, it lends itself to environmental justice, to economic justice.” On where Kroeger thinks his party goes wrong, he says, “Democrats tend to get soft to win. No one draws a line in the sand. The Constitution guarantees civil rights to all. A woman should have domain over her body. I’m not going to go away from these ideas. It defines being a progressive.”

Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon rolled out her campaign in IA-01 last week with endorsements from some liberal Democrats in the Iowa legislature, but others have expressed doubt over whether she is committed to progressive values. For the most part, I believe competitive primaries make parties stronger, so I welcome a good, clean debate between Vernon, Kroeger, and anyone else who wants to make Representative Rod Blum a one-termer. May the best Democrat win.

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Q: When is an awkward comment worse than an outright falsehood?

A. When it happens in a campaign debate.

Since last night, I’ve been thinking about a ridiculous unwritten rule of our political culture.

On the one hand, we have former State Senator Staci Appel. While debating her opponent in Iowa’s third Congressional district, she expressed herself in a slightly inarticulate way. Later, she and her campaign staff clarified her position: she supports going through the existing system for revoking passports of people affiliated with terrorist organizations. But what she thinks doesn’t matter to her opponents. They will keep twisting the meaning of her awkward phrase over and over on television.

On the other hand, we have State Senator Joni Ernst. While debating her opponent in the U.S. Senate race, she misrepresented a constitutional amendment she co-sponsored, which calls for recognizing and protecting “the inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development.” Ernst insisted the “personhood” amendment would not threaten access to birth control or in-vitro fertilization, even though independent fact-checkers have confirmed that yes, it would. This wasn’t some offhand comment on a topic she wasn’t expecting to come up. Ernst agreed to co-sponsor the “personhood” amendment. Four of her fellow Iowa Senate Republicans and more than two dozen Iowa House Republicans chose not to co-sponsor similar legislation, because they understood its implications. In yesterday’s debate, Ernst stood by her support for “personhood” as a statement of faith. She also stood by her false claim that it wouldn’t affect birth control or fertility treatment options for women.

At best, Ernst’s comments reveal stunning ignorance and a failure to research bills before signing on to them. At worst, she knows what “personhood” would mean if enacted, and was lying during the debate. Neither option is acceptable.

Yet for some reason, the smooth way Ernst spoke during the exchange over abortion rights is not considered a “gotcha” moment. Today, she’s probably more worried about news emerging that her husband sued a house painter over unfinished work, when she has spent months depicting herself as willing to resolve conflicts “the Iowa way” in contrast to “litigious” Bruce Braley. I’m sick of trivia dominating our political discourse and elections being about everything but the candidates’ real stands on real issues.

LATE UPDATE: Lynda Waddington wrote a good column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Ernst’s “personhood” comments during the debate.

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Weekend open thread: Church and state edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The non-profit advocacy group Secularity USA brought world-famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to Des Moines on Saturday. I couldn’t make it to the event; if you were there, please share your impressions. The mission of Secularity USA is to raise public awareness “of the dangers of religious bias in government and promoting the traditional separation of church and state.” While Dawkins is a well-known atheist, Secularity USA seeks to unite “religious and nonreligious supporters of church-state separation.”

Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation this week inviting “all Iowans who choose to join in thoughtful prayer and humble repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14 in favor of our state and nation to come together on July 14, 2014.” I wouldn’t go so far as one blogger, who declared that Branstad “signed away separation of church and state,” but it does seem inappropriate for the governor to lend his support to such a specific religious movement. The “Prayer 7-14-14” group, which is calling for the national day of prayer, sounds pretty far out there. Endorsing this project is different from routine appearances by governors at prayer breakfasts, or the prayers that typically open daily sessions in the Iowa House and Senate.

I wonder whether the governor’s staff sensed that he crossed a line, because I didn’t see any announcement of this event on the governor’s official news feed. Normally that feed highlights several proclamation signings each week. It mentioned more than half a dozen other documents Branstad signed this past week–including, ironically, a proclamation for Muslim Recognition Day. Perhaps Branstad viewed inviting Iowans to pray on July 14 as nothing more than empty pandering to the FAMiLY Leader contingent, which is promoting the national prayer day. The governor hasn’t elevated social conservative goals in most of his public speeches or in his legislative agenda.

Former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan headlined an Iowa GOP fundraiser in Cedar Rapids last night. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. As usual for Ryan, he said little about social conservative priorities, focusing instead on federal budget and tax issues, Obamacare, and the need for Republican unity. But he did nod to his religious heritage by urging his audience to give up “infighting,” “tunnel vision,” and “acrimony” for Lent.

Last month I never managed to post a thread on one of this year’s biggest news stories related to church-state separation: the U.S. Supreme Court considering what has become known as the Hobby Lobby case. After the jump I’ve posted six links on the oral arguments in that case, which will determine whether two corporations are entitled to a religious exemption from the 2010 health care reform law’s contraception mandate.  

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