The State of the Union

Tucked among the email from the folks in Paris who want to make my Valentine’s Day special and the lottery advisories about the big Powerball jackpot were a few "statements" from folks who want to be president.  There were just three.  I had expected a barrage from all the "hopefuls." Notably absent from the list of three was former Governor Tom Vilsack, but he did offer his "prebuttal" on Monday during a conference call with reporters.

Early on Tuesday evening, I found myself in a place where many presidential candidates will find themselves over the coming months:  at a Kiwanis Club meeting in Winterset.  Speeches before service clubs like the Kiwanians, Rotarians, Lions and a staple of campaigns for the courthouse, the statehouse and in this instance when it comes to the Iowa Caucuses, the White House. 

Northside Cafe

I was the evening’s speaker and the guest of Kiwanis president Richard Teig, who I should note is my brother-in-law. The meeting was held at The Northside Cafe in Winterset — a place that appeared in the movie "The Bridges of Madison County." The restaurant sits on the north side of the picturesque town square. It features booths and a long counter where folks sit on stools to consume their coffee and cherry pie.  On Tuesday at 6 p.m., though, the Winterset Kiwanis group was meeting in the back room for dinner and a meeting and that’s where I was, sitting right in front of the Kiwanis banner (all the service clubs in Winterset meet in that room, I’m told).

I handed out a quiz to the Kiwanians and their guests.  It’s a list of stuff that’s stuck in my brain and which, as a statehouse reporter, I know by heart — all of it more People magazine-type trivia than Poli Sci 215, however.  (The Radio Iowa staff got all of ’em right, except for #8.)  If you know the answers, you are an Iowa political junkie like me.  The first step is admitting it.  The next step is deciding whether to admit it to anyone else.  To do so means you will find yourself at cocktail parties trying to steer the conversation toward anything but politics, surrounded by people who have a beef with a politician and/or an entire political party. Since you — a political junkie — are there, they will unload on you in hopes you’ll pass along their views.

  1. Chet Culver was sworn in as Iowa’s 40th governor this month. What is his full name?
  2. Culver is now working out of offices in the second and first floor of the Iowa Statehouse.  In what year was the capitol’s construction completed?
  3. A couple of Christmases ago there was a huge flood at the statehouse.  A sprinkler in the fourth floor attic broke, sending hundreds of gallons of water cascading through the building.  That water would have come in handy back in 1904.  Why?
  4. Culver’s family plans to move into Terrace Hill, the governor’s mansion, in February.  What is his wife’s name?
  5. The Culvers have two children.  What are their names?
  6. Culver’s predecessor, Tom Vilsack, lived in Terrace Hill with his wife, Christie.  Their two sons stayed in the home sporadically.  What are the names of the Vilsack’s sons?
  7. Vilsack’s predecessor, Terry Branstad, lived in Terrace Hill with his wife, Christy.  They had three children.  What are their names?
  8. Branstad had a middle initial in his name.  What was it?
  9. Robert D. Ray ws the first Iowa governor to live in Terrace Hill.  His wife had a major role in restoring the mansion.  What is his wife’s name?
  10. Extra credit: what is my first name?

The answers:

  1. Chester John Culver. (John Culver, the governor’s father, was a US Senator and Congressman.)
  2. 1886
  3. A fire broke out in the House of Representatives — along the press bench.  I was not there.
  4. Mariclaire is her full name.  She goes by Mari, pronounced MAIR-ee (like Mary).
  5. John and Claire.  (Ponder answers to questions #1 and #4)
  6. Jess and Doug.  (Jess is now 29 years old.  Doug is 26.  Jess was in college when his dad got elected and Doug was finishing up high school.  Mrs. Vilsack spent much of her husband’s half-first year in office shuttling back and forth from Mt. Pleasant because Doug finished his senior year in high school there rather than move to DSM.)
  7. Eric, Allison & Marcus.  (Eric and Allison were grade schoolers when Branstad was elected.  Marcus was born after Branstad took office.  Eric and Marcus recently talked about living in Terrace Hill — here’s the Radio Iowa story.)
  8. E
  9. Billie
  10. Onette

Now, to those statements:  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romeny’s press staff was first to fire, with this advisory sent at 7:56 p.m. (central) — four minutes before the president’s speech.


Boston, MA – Governor Mitt Romney released the following statement regarding the President’s State of the Union Address:

"We are blessed to live in a country with the best medical system in the world.  However, for too many, private health insurance is often out of reach.  I welcome President Bush’s proposed initiatives to make health insurance more available and affordable.  He recognizes the answer is not more government but more innovation, harnessing the power of free market reforms.

"I am especially encouraged by the President’s initiative to help states find new solutions for individuals to buy health insurance.  I believe the states are our best laboratories to find the best policy innovations to our health insurance crisis.  As Governor, my state found a way to get all of our citizens covered without a tax increase and without a big government takeover."

Fast Facts On Governor Romney’s Health Care Plan:

On April 12, 2006, Governor Romney Signed Landmark Legislation Ensuring That All His State’s Citizens Are Covered By Private Health Insurance.  Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts now has access to affordable health insurance without higher taxes, an employer mandate or massive government takeover.

Governor Romney’s Plan Stresses Personal Responsibility While Helping The Lowest-Income Residents. Working with conservative groups like The Heritage Foundation, Governor Romney developed a plan stressing personal responsibility in paying for coverage and help for low-income residents.

Next up, Illinois Senator Barak Obama’s press team sent something via his senate office at 8:32 p.m. (during the speech):

Obama Response to the President’s State of the Union Address

“The President offered some serious proposals tonight on two issues – energy and health care – that we all agree must be addressed.  I’m glad he did and I think it’s important to respond in a constructive way.  But the last election proved that politics-by-slogan and poll-tested sound bites aren’t going to cut it with the American people anymore, and that’s why the real test of leadership is not what the President said to Congress tonight, but how he works with Congress to find real solutions to the problems we face.   

“The good news is that in the halls of Congress and across the nation, there is widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans on how to meet the major challenges facing America. 

“Most Americans believe that escalation will not bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, and that’s why I’ve proposed not just a troop cap, but a phased redeployment that will start bringing our troops home.  Most Americans believe that energy independence will come from using more biofuels like ethanol and making cars that actually use less oil, which is why I proposed a bipartisan plan that would raise fuel economy standards for the first time in decades.  Most Americans believe that the biggest domestic challenge facing the country is the high cost of health care, and that’s why incremental plans that do nothing to bring down costs or guarantee coverage are simply no longer sufficient. 

“The American people have been waiting for leadership commensurate to the challenges we face, and they’ll be watching to see if bold rhetoric is followed by bold action in the months to come.”

Next up, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.  Richardson’s press staff sent their document just after 10 p.m.

SANTA FE, NM- Governor Bill Richardson tonight called on President Bush to take meaningful action to help middle-class Americans and attack the serious problems facing the country. Governor Richardson, who on Monday filed the paperwork creating a Presidential campaign exploratory committee, was responding to the President’s State of the Union Address and specifically pointed to three critical areas of concern mentioned in the speech- energy efficiency and independence, healthcare, and climate change.

"Welcome to the party, Mr. President, the rest of the country and the world have been talking and doing something about these issues for years," said Governor Richardson. "In addition to being years behind, what the President is proposing doesn’t go far enough and isn’t realistic."

On energy, Governor Richardson pointed out that the President’s proposal on renewable fuels is not broad enough. "Ethanol is a critical part of the solution, but not the only part. Our approach must be comprehensive, exploring all opportunities with renewables, including solar, wind, biomass, fuel cells, and distributive generation, to name a few," said the Governor. "In New Mexico we’re requiring 10% of all energy produced must come from renewable sources, and we’re moving toward 20%. We’re providing tax credits for companies developing renewable energy and we’ve taken action to reduce and limit carbon dioxide emissions. It’s time for serious action, not lip service."

Governor Richardson agreed that the nation must dramatically improve vehicle fuel efficiency but noted the President’s plan does not provide enough specifics. It also leaves too many loopholes to achieve the kind of improvements necessary to wean the country off foreign oil and reduce vehicle emissions.

"Ultimately we need a ‘man-on-the moon’ effort focused on energy independence," added the Governor. "Anything less will not create the change necessary to make a lasting difference."

Governor Richardson applauded the President for addressing the healthcare crisis facing the country but believes the proposals don’t go far enough to help the tens of millions of Americans without health insurance.

"The burden of having so many patients unable to pay is crushing the healthcare system, and all of us are paying the price," said the Governor. "In New Mexico and in other states we are finding ways to provide our citizens access to affordable healthcare. We need leadership and funding from the federal government to make sure our working families, and especially our children get the care they deserve."

Another urgent area of concern where states are taking action in the absence of federal leadership or support is climate change.

"It is the gravest environmental threat the world faces. The administration has done little to reverse the effects or causes of global warming and time is running out. We must engage with the rest of the world in this effort, and we must implement a meaningful strategy that will make a difference. States like New Mexico and California, not the federal government, are leading the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the innovation in the states must take place on a national scale."

And finally, Governor Richardson reiterated his opposition to the President’s Iraq strategy and believes the United States can and must get our troops out of Iraq by the end of 2007.

"Our presence in Iraq is not helping anymore and we must begin to turn the security of the country over to the Iraqi forces and get our forces out," said Governor Richardson. "Our preoccupation with Iraq has caused a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan and more violence throughout the region. We must redeploy our troops into areas that will do the most good, and make a real impact in the war on terror."

"Americans expect the President and the government to get things done, to solve the problems that create positive change and improve their quality of life, but that hasn’t happened with this administration" said Governor Richardson. "The President has lost his credibility. People here and across the world are looking to the United States for leadership and action, not more promises."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.