For those of us who have a humor impairment because of a long-term career covering politicians, there were many comical moments at the Wednesday afternoon public hearing held in Governor Branstad’s office. Ed Rethman was the last person to testify at the event, but he turned out to be the high point on the humor scale.
Rethman is a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a group that had hoped to flood into the governor’s office for the public hearing on the state budget, only to learn there were just 20 speaking slots available for the hour-long event — and only 10 people would be allowed in the governor’s office in the first half hour. Rethman was part of the second batch of 10 people who were allowed in during the second half hour.
“Governor and lieutenant governor, thanks for this opportunity. My name is Ed Rethman. I live in West Des Moines, Iowa, and I’m also a member of CCI,” said Rethman — the sixth member of CCI to testify. “And on a personal note, governor, you may remember we met — your wife and I and my wife — on this boat off the coast of Norway in October.”
(Iowa Governor Terry Branstad recently explained during a social event that the family name is Brandstad back in Norway, which is a great relief to those of us who sometimes accidentaly add a second D to his last name.)
Rethman had chuckled when he revealed he, his wife, Branstad and Chris Branstad had been cruise-mates, then he continued: “At that time I did not express the fact that I was involved in CCI. I was asked by CCI friends why I didn’t talk about this, this and this (during the cruise) and I said: ‘Well, I didn’t want to ruin his vacation and mine.’”
There was a relatively high level of chuckling at this point — remember, this is a budget hearing and chuckling is not among the things one expects at such events. Branstad, smiling, replied to Rethman’s comment about not ruining their respective vacations with a political debate.
“Thank you for that,” Branstad said.
Rethman continued: “However, on the boat, if you would have expressed some, you know, desire, or reluctance or missing of the spotlight you get here as governor, I would have volunteered to parade around your dinner table with a sign.”