Harkin: Gingrich as GOP nominee would be “heaven sent” (audio)

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) held a telephone conference call with reporters this morning.  The topic of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was raised, and Harkin started swinging (rhetorically).  Here’s the AUDIO.

“I was in the House with Newt, as a matter of fact, years ago. I can remember him being a bomb thrower at that time. One of those people always lobbing things around. I thought at that time, in his early career in the House, he was irresponsible at that time. I kind of got to know Newt later on, (he’s an) intriguing individual, but perhaps I’ve never met a more undisciplined person in politics in my life and if you’re going to run for president, you have to have discipline. Believe me, I speak from experience on that one and if you’re going to be president you have to have some discipline in how you approach things and how you assess situations.  Newt has never been one to engage mind before opening mouth. He engages mouth before engaging his mind sometimes, most of the time. That doesn’t bode well for him at all. I think there’s some, what I’m picking up around here is there’s a lot of quiet, silent cheering in the Obama Administration and the Obama campaign for Newt to get the nomination. It would be just be heaven-sent if he got the nomination.”

“…Someone once described the prospect of Newt getting the nomination, saying that, ‘Imagine that you’re standing in front of a door and behind that door all these suitcases are piled and you open the door and all the suitcases come tumbling out.’  Of course, I didn’t know what they were talking about. He said, ‘Baggage, he has a lot of baggage and once he gets up there all that baggage comes tumbling out.'”

Harkin was asked to share his thoughts on Romney. Romney seems to be “plodding along” with a “very cautious” game plan, according to Harkin.

Harkin, Begala @ the Fry

Senator Tom Harkin and political consultant/TV pundit Paul Begala spoke with reporters shortly before the program began at the 34th annual Harkin Steak Fry on this soggy Sunday afternoon.

Begala’s message to Iowa Democrats? Begala boiled his initial answer down to bumper-sticker size: “Fight like hell.”  According to Begala, “Democrats are in the fight of our life and they need to act like it.”

Begala compared the 2012 election to 1996.  “(Obama’s) right where Bill Clinton was when I was working for him and Clinton was up for re-election and people were freaking out then and (Obama) needs our help,” Begala said. “….It’s time now for Democrats to stand up.  This guy’s been fighting for us. Now we’ve got to fight for him.”

As for the restiveness among Democrats about Obama, Begala chalks that up to the “nature” of being part of his party. “It’s one of Clinton’s laws of politics that Democrats want to fall in love and Republicans just want to fall in line and, you know, so now’s coming the time when we need to fall in line,” Begala said of his fellow Democrats. “And we will.”

Begala suggested he would not bet against Obama’s reelection.  “I do see my Republican friends and they’re all full of themselves and I kind of like that,” Begala said. “I think overconfidence is an occupational hazard on their side.”

Harkin, when asked whether he’s concerned the U.S. Senate may flip to Republican control after the 2012 election, responded initially with one word: “No.”  After prompting with a “Why?” from a reporter, Harkin elaborated:  “Yeah, I’m concerned. Obviously I don’t want to lose the senate,  but I look at all the races out there and we’ve got great candidates. Our incumbents are all looking very, very good and even those that they thought would have tough races, some of them don’t even have opponents yet, and in some of the seats that the Republicans have to defend, we have some vulnerabilities out there on the Republican side, so I think we’re looking pretty good.”

Harkin, in answer to the next question, addressed what it might take to get some Democrats to set their reservations aside and work for Obama’s reelection. “Look, we’re in tough times now. I mean there’s a lot of people out of work. The economy’s in the doldrums, you know, and people want some answers and we’re an impatient people, Americans are. We want our answers yesterday and our solutions yesterday,” Harkin said. “But I think as time goes on and as the Republican field narrows down to one or two persons…People don’t vote for the past. They vote for the future…and when it comes to that, I have no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama is going to win reelection.”

Harkin did say the unemployment rate needs to be “coming down” by November of 2012.

“I wouldn’t put an absolute number on it, but it’s got to be shown that it’s coming down,” Harkin said. “At the least, I think, President Obama has to show that he has a plan, which he’s put forward…and if the Republicans block that, I think the people will know that.”

The crowd for Harkin’s event gathered around tables under the protection of a large tent, as a steady drizzle fell on the field which serves as a launching pad for hot air balloons during Indianola’s annual summer balloon festival.  It’s the same field where Sarah Palin spoke a few weeks ago at a Tea Party rally.

Iowa senators react to bin Laden’s death

Iowa’s two U.S. Senators have issued statements about Osama bin Laden’s death.

From Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA):  “On a sunny September 11, 2001 our nation learned of Osama bin Laden and the organization he lead which killed 3000 innocent people on that fateful day. His death is a symbolic victory and a significant achievement in the war against terror, but it isn’t an end. Al Qaeda and radical terrorists around the globe remain a grave threat to our country and its people. We must remain vigilant in our fight to maintain the security of the United States. As the memories of 9/11 come flooding back with the death of Osama bin Laden, we remember and honor the families of those who lost their lives that day, and we pay special tribute to the men and women of our military and national security teams who continue to protect this nation and have led the effort over the last 10 years to bring justice to bin Laden. More work remains and we must remain vigilant against possible retaliatory attacks.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement upon learning that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“Just a few months short of the tenth anniversary of the worst attack in our nation’s history, U.S. forces brought to justice the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.  This victory is a testament to the quality of our intelligence service and the courage and precision of the Navy SEALs.  I commend the Obama Administration and thank the servicemen and women who carried out this operation.”

Loebsack fundraisers in the “new” second district

Wagons are already circling — way before the state legislature takes a vote on a reapportioned map of Iowa’s congresional districts (as well as districts for Iowa House and Senate seats).

As you may recall, the first map unveiled last week would pit two Democratic congressmen (Bruce Braley of Waterloo & Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon) in the new firt congressional district.

Senator Tom Harkin & Congressman Bruce Braley are co-hosting a fundraiser for Congressman Dave Loebsack in the middle of May….in Scott County.  Scott County is currently in Braley’s first congressional district, but Scott County would be in Iowa’s new second congressional district if legislators approve the redistricting plan.  (Loebsack is likely to move into Johnson County/the Iowa City area — which is in the newly-proposed second district — to avoid a head-to-head match-up with Braley.)

Congressman Leonard Boswell also has agreed to host a fundraiser for Loebsack in…wait for it…Jasper County.  Jasper is in the current third congressional district, which Boswell now represents, but it will be in the new second congressional district if the redistricting plan is approved. 

Eric Witte, an aide to Loebsack, says these two fundraisers should erase “any doubt about people’s efforts to help Loebsack in the new Second CD should the map pass…Both Scott and Jasper are in the new 2nd CD as are 14 of the 15 counties Dave currently represents.”

Iowa delegation reacts to Obama’s speech on Libya

Three of the seven members of Iowa’s congressional delegation emailed me responses to President Obama’s speech last night.  Read them below, in the order they were received.

Braley Responds to President’s Speech on Libya

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement following President Obama’s speech on the conflict in Libya:
“I’m concerned, and I know many Americans are concerned, that tonight we didn’t get a clear and accurate accounting from the President on how much this conflict in Libya is going to cost American taxpayers. We’ve got two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and Americans deserve to hear from our President what this third conflict is going to cost us. I look forward to meeting with Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton later this week and hearing their explanation of the costs of this operation and their strategy for moving forward in Libya.”
Last week Rep. Braley sent a letter to President Obama asking for a full accounting of the Libyan conflict and the costs to taxpayers. Speaker Boehner sent a similar letter to the President. Rep. Braley has previously called for a full accounting of the human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A copy of Rep. Braley’s letter is available here: http://go.usa.gov/2K2
Below is a statement from Senator Chuck Grassley regarding the President’s speech tonight about U.S. military involvement in Libya.

“I was an early advocate of a no-fly zone.  Today, despite the President’s delay in offering this help, the Libyan opposition has made progress in defending itself against the brutality of Gadhafi, thanks to the strength and capability of U.S. military forces.

“The burden remains on the President to convey how he sees the mission of the United States going forward.  What is the long-term commitment of the United States in supporting the effort that now is NATO led?  If America’s armed forces are put in harm’s way, what is the objective, if not regime change?  How long does President Obama envision our involvement, should Gadhafi hold on?

“It’s unclear when our involvement will end and under what terms.  Debate in our system of government is necessary.  Congress needs to be involved regarding the way that the United States is to continue making a commitment to this military action.  The President needs to speak with the kind of passion that shows that America is credible as a world leader, and the speech didn’t go as far as it should have to do that.”

Harkin Statement on the Situation in Libya

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement on the situation in Libya and the President’s national address this evening.

“It is tragic to see Colonel Gaddafi continuing to ignore the will of his people and continue his brutal crackdown.  Based on those humanitarian atrocities, I was supportive of the initial UN-backed military strikes.  But with the U.S. ongoing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have concerns about an open-ended engagement in Libya. 

“Tonight, President Obama rightly addressed a skeptical public about this mission.  I believe that while there is merit in handing over operations to NATO, ultimately, a political solution is needed to end the conflict in Libya. 

“As we move toward that goal, I would like to commend and thank all of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been carrying out this operation.” 

Harkin “appauled” by Wisconsin action

US Senator Tom Harkin (D-Cummings, IA), chairman of the Senate committee with authority over labor issues, issued a statement this evening about the action in Wisconsin, where Republicans in that state’s legislature pushed through a bill that “strips away nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers.”

Harkin Statement on Wisconsin Senate Vote
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), tonight issued the following statement after the Wisconsin State Senate passed a measure that restricts the collective bargaining rights of public workers.

“I am appalled by the actions of the Republicans in Wisconsin.  They trampled over the democratic process, ramming through legislation taking away a fundamental right of Wisconsin’s public servants – the right to organize.  The law has nothing to do with budgets.  It is blatant political scapegoating, and it is shameful.  Our elected leaders at every level of government should be focused on helping working families succeed, not tearing them down.”

A Tuesday night potpourri

I’ve been “away” from the blog for a few days.  Here are some of the stories, events, happenings I should have/could have blogged about:

Babies:  Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R-Council Bluffs) and his wife, Zola, have a new son — Jacob Isaac.  State Senator Roby Smith (R-Davenport) and his wife have a new daughter — Natalie Ruth.

Baby kissers: Former Arkansas Governor Huckabee is “trying to be smarter” about 2012.  President Obama has named Iowa Governor Terry Branstad co-chair of Council of Governors.  Branstad has named former state legislator Libby Jacobs to be chair of the Iowa Utilities Board.  Branstad has named another former state legislator, Jeff Lamberti (the business partner of Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn), to the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.  And Branstad wants his #1 campaign fundraiser to serve on the Board of Regents.  Governor Culver appointed Ruth Harkin (wife of US Senator Tom Harkin) and Bonnie Campbell (former Iowa Attorney General, Branstad’s Democratic opponent in 1994) to the Board of Regents during his term, and Democrats in the Iowa Senate foresee Bruce Rastetter will be confirmed to the Board, too.   Which Minnesotan — Bachmann or Pawlenty — would win Minnesota’s Caucuses on February 7?  Branstad talked with David Chalian of PBS about the field of potential GOP presidential candidates.  A HuffPo story jokes that Iowa’s Caucuses may be held on Halloween.  Newt Gingrich has signed up to speak at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event next week.  The Gingrich camp is giving mixed signals.

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Former party chair, Obama ’08 backer, now “independent”

A Des Moines lawyer who served as chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party posted on Facebook last night: “I am a registered independent.” Several “friends” have questioned whether he’s serious, but he hasn’t responded.

Gordon Fischer was Iowa Democratic Party chairman for the 2004 cycle and he was a backer of Obama ’08 during the Caucuses. He had a blog called “Iowa True Blue” which he took down around the time he applied to be a U.S. Attorney.  (Senator Harkin suggested someone else to President Obama, who appointed Harkin’s pick — as is the custom.)

Harkin doubts about Boswell/Vilsack primary

Senator Tom Harkin said this weekend he doubts former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack will challenge Congressman Leonard Boswell in a primary next year.  Harkin was the guest on this weekend’s Iowa Press on IPTV (watch the episode here) and — brace yourself — Harkin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich agree on ethanol policy.  Subsidies can be phased out/end under certain conditions.  Gingrich said in January that carmakers should be required to make every vehicle that rolls off the line a flexible fuel vehicle.  Harkin adds another caveat: subisides can end when all vehicles are flex-fuel and there’s a pipeline, plus pumps to dispense the stuff. Here’s the transcript:

Hsrkin: Well, I think we have reached the point now in ethanol as a liquid fuel where I don’t know that we need the price support so much anymore but what we need is market access, market access.  I have been trying for some time, again, with Senator Lugar, so we have had a bipartisan approach on this, to expand the market for ethanol.  That means we need more blender pumps, we need more flexible fuel cars and we need dedicated pipelines to carry the ethanol from the Midwest to the east.  Let me expand on that just a second.  We called in some of the auto companies just a few years ago and met with them to ask them why they weren’t building more flexible fuel vehicles because they build them in Brazil, Ford every car they build in Brazil is flexible fuel or GM or Honda or Toyota.  So, we called them and we said, why aren’t you building more flex fuel cars here?  Well, their answer was because there’s no blender pumps.  There’s no pumps out there.  So, we called in the oil companies and we asked them, why aren’t you putting in more blender pumps?  Do you know what their answer was?  Because there aren’t any flexible fuel cars out there.

Henderson: So you would support requiring the auto makers to make flexible fuel vehicles?

Harkin: Absolutely, I have a bill in to do that.

Henderson: And get rid of ethanol subsidies?

Harkin: Well, a gradual reduction in the ethanol subsidies but to get the — and we’re going to have to confront that this year, by the way.  But we have to mandate flexible fuel vehicles and we have to mandate, I believe, blender pumps and I worked a couple of years ago to get some changes in the tax law to make it easier to build a pipeline and I believe that is going to happen in the next few years, a pipeline that will go from Iowa to New York City and so we’re going to be able to deliver ethanol to mass markets. That is what ethanol needs, market access.

Back to Gingrich, The Wall Street Journal wrote an opinion piece responding to the statements Gingrich made in Des Moines about ethanol.

Harkin calls repeal “wrongheaded stunt”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Cummings, Iowa) is chairman of a key senate committee and he issued a statement tonight after the Republican-led U.S. House voted to repeal the health care reform plan President Obama signed into law last spring.

Harkin:  Republicans Vote to Put Insurance Companies Back in the Driver’s Seat
HELP Committee to Begin Series of Health Reform Hearings Next Week
WASHINGTON – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), spoke out against today’s vote by the House Republicans to repeal the health reform law.  As HELP Committee Chairman, Harkin played a critical role in passing the Affordable Care Act, and, next week, he will convene the first in a series of HELP Committee hearings to examine how the law is benefitting Americans.  

“By voting to repeal health reform today, House Republicans have voted to allow insurance companies to once again deny coverage to Americans with preexisting conditions, cancel coverage when people get sick, and raise premiums to protect CEO salaries,” said Harkin.  “If House Republicans had their way, insurance companies would be back in the driver’s seat, taking away the freedom, choice, and control over health care that the Affordable Care Act offers every American.  Rest assured, this wrongheaded stunt will not make any headway in the Senate.   

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