Palin in Iowa on 11/21? Um, not

The Iowa Family Policy Center tried (in my estimation) to smoke Sarah Palin out this week, releasing a public statement about their quest to get the former Alaska governor to speak at a big deal political event in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday, November 21. That’s the same evening Vice President Joe Biden is confirmed as the headliner for another big deal political event in Des Moines, Iowa.

Here’s a key quote from the IFPC news release: 

“We have reached out to Governor Palin through both official and informal channels and extended an invitation for her to keynote our annual fundraising event.” — IFPC president Chuck Hurley

Holly Bailey from Newsweek posted on The Gaggle today a bit about the public pleading for Palin’s presence.  Here’s a  key quote from a Palin spokesperson that’s aimed directly at Hurley:

“We don’t believe she will be able to attend with her tightly scheduled book tour, and the group has been told that through formal and informal channels.” — Meg Stapleton, Palin’s spokeswoman

Jonathan Martin of The Politico wrote a piece about this as well.

Trying to smoke Palin out?

At 11:05 p.m. last night, the Iowa Family Policy Center’s Bryan English emailed a news release, revealing the IFPC’s “ACTION” arm is trying to land former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a speaker for an event in four weeks.  (You can read the news release below.)  For those of you who don’t have your calendar/daily diary handy, November 21, 2009 — the date on which the IFPC ACTION folks would like to have Palin speak — is the same night that Vice President Joe Biden will be in Des Moines to speak at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.

It means Palin would be sharing the spotlight with Biden that night, as most stories would be written about what each had to say about the other — or that they failed to acknowledge in their speeches that the other “personage” was in the same area code.  It means reporters would compare the crowd for Palin and the crowd for Biden: Which one was bigger?  Which one was more enthusiastic?  Which one exhibited/highlighted greater schisms in their respective party? It means the “roll-out” of a new Democratic contestant for a possible race against Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley would be overshadowed.

But this preemptive news release also means the folks at IFPC ACTION are having as difficult a time in landing a Palin appearance as the folks at the Republican Party of Iowa did.  The RPI’s annual fall fundraiser is scheduled for November 7, 2009, and the “keynoter” for that event is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  I’m sure “T-Paw” is well aware that the RPI’s first choice was Palin, but she would not commit.

Palin, as you may know, will be selling a book in November and it’s anybody’s guess how a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 21, would fit into the game-plan for selling that book.  Mikc Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is selling a new book, too, in November. He plans to visit three Iowa bookstores on November 8, 2009.

On Saturday night in November of 2003, former Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton — New York’s junior senator at the time — came to Des Moines, Iowa, to serve as emcee for the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2003 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner which featured all the Democratic presidential candidates in that cycle.  The next day, which was Sunday, Clinton did an afternoon book-signing event at a West Des Moines bookstore.  People stood in line for hours to get her autograph.

So, perhaps the Palin folks are considering a Saturday night speech in Des Moines, followed by a Sunday after-church booksigning at a bookstore in the Des Moines metro.  They’d have to decide which church Palin would attend that morning.  Would the event be open to cameras?  Would Palin speak to the congregation? Would she sell and sign books at the church, too?

So many questions, unanswered today.  Read the IFPC ACTION news release below.

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Biden is keynoter for big IDP fall fundraiser

News out this morning: 1988 and 2008 presidential candidate Joe Biden — the nation’s current vice president — will be the keynoter for the IDP’s fall fundraiser.  Biden did not speak at the 1987 Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, as he had dropped out of the race before the event was held.  Biden was the keynote at the 1985 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner according to online accounts of the ’86 dinner which featured then-Congressman Richard Gephardt as the keynoter.  I can find no reference online to the Biden speech in ’85.  The Iowa Democratic Party’s internal records on Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners only go back as far as 1998.)

Biden served as the keynote speaker at the 2000 Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.  In 2007 — the biggest night ever for Iowa Democrats’s annual fall fundraiser — Biden opened his speech at that J-J Dinner with a slap at the Obama supporters in the room.  Here’s the text from my blog post that evening:

“Hello folks, how are you?” Biden said when he reached the stage and then he turned to the Obama fans in the audience.  “Hello Iowa and hello Chicago.”  A direct shot at the Illinois senator, suggesting his legions of supporters in the hall are not Iowans.

Biden was last in Iowa in September of 2008, campaigning as Obama’s running mate. 

Read today’s news release from the Iowa Democratic Party below.


DES MOINES – Vice President Joe Biden will headline the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2009 Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, to be held Saturday, November 21 in Des Moines.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have the Vice President back in Iowa,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan said Thursday.  “There is a great deal of admiration for Joe Biden among Iowa Democrats.”

The Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner is traditionally the party’s largest fundraising event.

In his role as the nation’s 47th Vice President, Joe Biden has a broad and critical portfolio, dealing with some of the most important issues on the president’s agenda. This includes oversight of the implementation of the $787 billion stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; chairing the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families; and overseeing the administration’s Iraq policy.

As a Senator from Delaware for 36 years, Biden was a leader on some of our nation’s most important domestic and international challenges. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, Biden was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues including the landmark 1994 Crime Bill and the Violence Against Women Act

As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 1997, Biden played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. He has been at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.

Ticketing information for the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner can be found at

Harkin: Biden’s comments “unfortunate”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) spoke with Iowa radio reporters this morning via a telephone conference call.  Listen to Radio Iowa's Matt Kelley ask Harkin about Vice President Joe Biden's comments on The Today Show this morning.  (Biden was asked on Today what advice he'd give his family about the flu outbreak, and Biden said he'd tell them to avoid "confined spaces" like airplanes and subways. "When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft," Biden said.)

Here's what Harkin had to say:  "Well, I think that's a very unfortunate statement by the vice president.  We just don't need that type of misinformation going out.  I wish the vice president had checked with the center for disease control and preparedness before he made that statement….As far as not riding on subways or planes, we're not going to shut down our system and that doesn't get to the nub of the problem anyway, so I think that's very unfortunate that this kind of misinformation got out."

Harkin is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education & Related Agencies.  The panel oversees/drafts spending plans for the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Public Health Service.

Biden talks about Specter with “regional reporters”

Vice President Joe Biden held a telephone conference call earlier this afternoon with "regional reporters" and Biden was asked two questions about Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's decision to jump from the GOP to the Democratic Party. Click here to listen to Biden.  The first question is about Specter's role in Employee Free Choice debate.  ("I don't know," was Biden's main point.) The second comes from a reporter from Pennsylvania who asked about Biden's role in Specter's switch and there is some reference to spaghetti sauce from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

"I start out with a bias," Biden said after the exchange over spaghetti sauce. "He's been my friend and confidant for well over 30 years. We've worked together on a wide range of really critical issues from Supreme Court nominations  – the Bork nomination and we disagreed on the Thomas nomination — I mean, we have been together for a long, long time. 

"One thing I walk away with knowing about Arlen (is) one, he has more courage than most people I know. Number two: he is absolutely independent and he decides on a course and he takes it and he usually is able to sustain an incredibly rigorous intellectual rationale for the positions he takes.

"Having said that, I believe Arlen became convinced that the Republican Party left him."

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Former Iowa Congressman Leach an ambassador?

The Washington Post reports former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach (R-Davenport, Iowa City) is a top contender for a key diplomatic post: U.S. ambassador to China.  Leach, as you may recall, endorsed then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in August of 2008.

I recently read a speech Leach delivered at Princeton in December of 2007 — on the eve of the January 3, 2008 Iowa Caucuses.  Here are the pertinent parts:

"But for whatever reasons, it is the youngest and perhaps least seasoned candidate who provides the best chance on the Democratic side to change America’s image in the world.  Unlike the Democratic front runner and the majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, he opposed from the start the war in Iraq and he opposed two months ago the resolution to give the President authority to use force against Iran.  Uniquely, he isn’t afraid to negotiate with adversaries.  He recognizes the wisdom of Prime Minister Rabin who noted after he was criticized for speaking with Yasser Arafat:  “You don’t make peace with friends.”

Other Democratic candidates such as Joe Biden and Chris Dodd also wisely did not bite on the resolution authorizing force against Iran, but for reasons (some perhaps unfair), the leading Democratic candidates other than Barack Obama represent continuity with today’s politics while he represents new ideas, new energy, a new generation of leadership.

One of the reasons Obama makes his case for change so compelling is that he recognizes that if a legislator votes for conjectural wars of choice, his or her case as a social reformer is compromised.  Where is the money?  And if a candidate takes special interest money to advance personal ambition, how is independence of judgment not compromised? How can the public have confidence that governmental decisions will be fair to all? 

The question of following the money, of candidate indebtednesses, cannot be ducked, whether the issue is foreign policy or health care. Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich should be recognized for holding some of the same campaign values as Obama, but as one of the leading candidates Obama is risking the most with his refusal to take money from the myriad of special interest groups.  For him it means loss of ability to project, something far more consequential to a lesser known candidate attempting to make a mark than an established figure.

As far as I am concerned, campaign reform should be considered one of the great civil rights issues of our time, one of class rather than race.  The issue is opportunity. Can a citizen have a fair crack at the American dream if he or she is neither wealthy nor inclined to become indebted to those who control campaign resources?   We have a quality dilemma in American politics in no small measure because many of the best and brightest are foreclosed from the process.  Given a political system divorced from the public in many ways, symbolized less by party division than by moneyed influence, the case for giving the benefit of doubt to a candidate who not only supports campaign reform but runs his own campaign in a conflict-free way would appear compelling.

As director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, I am disinclined to endorse any candidates.  While I have favorites in my party, it is interesting to note that JFK’s most trusted confidante, Ted Sorensen, has suggested that Barack Obama is more poised to re-create an American Camelot than anyone he has seen in his lifetime."

But eight months later, Leach changed his mind to "inclined" and endorsed Obama. Leach won 15 terms in the U.S. House representing parts of eastern and southeastern Iowa.  He lost his bid for re-election in 2006 and soon joined the faculty of Princeton, his alma mater.  When former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen decided to run for the U.S. Senate, she gave up her post as head of Harvard University's Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School, Leach stepped in as interim director to fill out her term.  Leach is now back at Princeton, perhaps enroute to Beijing.

Here is a detailed biography of Leach. You will see that he has an advanced degree from the London School of Economics and was a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department from 1968-1969. As a high school athlete, Leach was a state wrestling champion in 1960.

Leach would be the second Iowan to serve as the chief U.S. envoy to China.  Edwin H. Conger — a decorated Civil War veteran, politician, banker, and lawyer from Dexter, Iowa — served as U.S. Ambassador to China from 1898-1905.  Conger, by the way, earned his law degree from Albany Law School in 1866. That's the same law school which granted former Iowa Governor/US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack his degree in 1975.

Grassley casts 10,000th vote in U.S. Senate

Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has sort of become the Cal Ripken of the U.S. Senate. Grassley (R-IA) today cast the 10,000th vote of his senate career and there was apparently a celebration on the senate floor.  (Just more "Disneyland on the Potomac" stuff?) It must be a senate tradition, because senators had a little fun when Joe Biden cast his 10,000th vote in 1999.  Iowa's other U.S. Senator, Tom Harkin, a Democrat, was in on today's fun.  Read his remarks below as well as Grassley's.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor today as Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) cast his 10,000th vote.  Following is the text of his remarks, as prepared for delivery.

“Mr. President, I join with the entire Senate family in congratulating my good friend, the distinguished senior Senator from Iowa, on casting his 10,000th vote here in the Senate.  This is a remarkable milestone.  But even more remarkable is the fact that Senator Grassley has cast nearly 6,000 consecutive votes without missing a single one.  The last time he missed a vote was in 1993, when he was obliged to be in Iowa during the catastrophic flooding of that year.

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SEIU member at statehouse arrested, charged with theft

I just got off the phone with Lieutenant Mark Logsdon, head of the security detail at the Iowa Statehouse.  A man in handcuffs was led out of the statehouse over an hour ago, and Logsdon confirms the man is accused of theft.

According to Logsdon, 38-year-old Marshall Clemons of Cedar Rapids was at the statehouse today, part of a "contingent" of union members who're lobbying legislators.  Lobbyist Jim Henter confronted Clemons, according to Logsdon. I'll let Logsdon tell the story:  "A lobbyist on the second floor of the capitol noticed an individual later identified as Marshall Clemons, had reached in and taken a ladies' billfold out of a purse.  He followed this individual on the first floor of the capitol and found the money on this person and the billfold had been discarded into a recycling bin.  The suspect reached into the recycling bin and retrieved it. 

"At that time, the lobbyist told (Clemons) he needed to leave and basically never do that again, but (Clemons) proceeded down to the bathroom on the ground floor — the men's room — where he was corner by one of the capitol security officers, our blue coats we call them, who called for a trooper and this individual was later discovered to have discarded another lady's billfold in one of the toilets of the men's rest room," Logsdon said in a telephone interview.

According to Logsdon, Clemons was "part of a contingent of SEIU folks that had come to the capitol from Cedar Rapids." Clemons has been charged with two counts of fifth degree theft, a simple misdemeanor.  He's been booked into the Polk County Jail.  Clemons is a custodian at a school in Cedar Rapids.  During the Democratic National Convention, he was invited to sit with then Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden and his family.  Biden and Clemons had been partners in one of SEIU's "walk a day in my shoes" events with presidential candidates. Clemons is on the executive board of SEIU's Local 199.

The two women and their billfolds have been reunited.  "Actually, crime did not pay today.  The long arm of the law came down and basically rained a little justice," Logsdon said. Phone calls to SEIU headquaters in Cedar Rapids and Washington, D.C. have not yet been returned.

My purse, by the way, is under lock and key right now.

Vilsacks with the new boss

The New York Post, um, posted a slide show of some photographs the official White House photographer took during the first days of the Obama Administration. Here's a picture of Vice President Joe Biden taking a picture of former Mount Pleasant Mayor/former State Senator/former Iowa Governor/current U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie, with President Obama.


For those who regularly check out the blog, you may have noticed posting has been sporadic lately.  Sorry.  I could list the reasons, but that'd be a waste of time.  Instead, here are six items that could have been posted in the past few weeks.

****The ever-vigilant Cedar Rapids Gazette political team emailed a tip:  Earlier today, Senator Tom Harkin's website advised folks who wanted to attend the Inauguration that Harkin's office was no longer "excepting" ticket applications.  It's been corrected to advise Harkin is no longer "accepting" requests for tickets.

****Former State Representative/unsuccessful 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate/unsuccessful 2008 third district congressional candidate Ed Fallon (D-Des Moines) submitted an application last week, hoping President-elect Barack Obama names him the "White House Farmer."  Fallon, as you may recall, endorsed John Edwards before the Caucuses, then endorsed Obama shortly after Edwards dropped out of the race. Read Fallon's news release below.

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