Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charles Grassley

Not All Political Gaffes Are Created Equal

With this year’s Senate races starting to heat up, the media (and opposition research trackers from the campaigns) are going over anything said or released by anyone running for the kind of gaffe that can turn a race around. Examples, like former Senator George Allen’s weird “macaca” insult thrown at a Democratic operative in 2006 or Todd Akin’s obtuse comments about rape and pregnancy, keep staffers searching for mistakes like ’49ers panning for gold.

This week, we had two major gaffes by senatorial campaigns that left the candidates—Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley—with egg on their faces. But while both got considerable and deserved coverage, a close look at the two demonstrates that not all political gaffes are created equal. While McConnell was embarrassed by the error made by the people who produced a campaign video, Braley’s taped comments dismissing Iowa Senator Charles Grassley as a mere “farmer from Iowa” may well rank with Allen or Akin’s gaffes. Even worse, like Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” line, also made at a fundraiser to what he presumed was a friendly audience, Braley’s indiscretion may transform him from a likely winner to a candidate who may turn a blue seat into a red one in November.

Read More

With this year’s Senate races starting to heat up, the media (and opposition research trackers from the campaigns) are going over anything said or released by anyone running for the kind of gaffe that can turn a race around. Examples, like former Senator George Allen’s weird “macaca” insult thrown at a Democratic operative in 2006 or Todd Akin’s obtuse comments about rape and pregnancy, keep staffers searching for mistakes like ’49ers panning for gold.

This week, we had two major gaffes by senatorial campaigns that left the candidates—Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley—with egg on their faces. But while both got considerable and deserved coverage, a close look at the two demonstrates that not all political gaffes are created equal. While McConnell was embarrassed by the error made by the people who produced a campaign video, Braley’s taped comments dismissing Iowa Senator Charles Grassley as a mere “farmer from Iowa” may well rank with Allen or Akin’s gaffes. Even worse, like Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” line, also made at a fundraiser to what he presumed was a friendly audience, Braley’s indiscretion may transform him from a likely winner to a candidate who may turn a blue seat into a red one in November.

The two mistakes in question were the kind designed to generate coverage. In the case of McConnell, it concerned a campaign video posted on the Internet that featured a montage of images while the voice of the candidate is heard promising what he will do if he takes over as majority leader of the Senate next year, something that requires not only major Republican gains around the country, but also his reelection in what promises to be a tough race against Alison Lundergan Grimes. One of the final images seen is a brief glimpse of basketball players wearing blue and white jerseys celebrating a victory. But unfortunately for McConnell, the players on the court are not members of the University of Kentucky’s 2012 NCAA champions but those of Duke University’s 2010 winners of the same title (who wear the same colors but with a different name on their shirts). Suffice it to say that McConnell will never hear the end of this in basketball-mad Kentucky.

But there is a difference between a video montage created by a staff—and which appears for approximately two seconds on the screen—and the sort of elitist contempt displayed by Braley. As Tom Bevan wrote on RealClearPolitics about the incident, it’s hard to understand why a candidate in this day and age doesn’t assume that the “camera is on” no matter where they are and to whom they are speaking. It is also astonishing that someone running for office in an agricultural state would disparage a farmer in any context.

The context in question, which Democratic apologists have cited, is that he was discussing the fact that if the Republicans take control of the Senate, Grassley, the state’s senior senator, will become the chair of the Judiciary Committee. This is something that Braley, a trial lawyer by profession who was speaking to a group of trial lawyers at a Dallas fundraiser, regards with horror not only because Grassley is a Republican but because he isn’t a lawyer. Perhaps most lawyers feel the same way, but the odds are, most voters in any state view the matter differently. If anything, the fact that Grassley isn’t a lawyer would probably be an argument in favor of the GOP since most Americans think lawyers already have too much influence in Congress. And it’s probably a given that most Iowans think there’s nothing wrong with having a farmer—even one that’s served on the Judiciary Committee for many years—telling the lawyers what to do.

Thus, rather than just an embarrassing gaffe that could be viewed as an insult to the honor of Iowa and made up for by enough groveling tributes to agriculture by Braley, the video of him showing disrespect for Grassley’s qualifications is the kind of mistake that voters understand gives them an insight into the candidate’s character. That’s something the Republican candidate will take full advantage of, especially if it turns out to be State Senator Joni Ernst, who has been stumping the state bragging that she will make Washington squeal the same way that the pigs she castrated back on her family farm did. Interestingly, that line seems to have Ernst, who was widely seen as more a favorite of establishment Republicans than Tea Partiers or social conservatives, Sarah Palin’s endorsement this week.

Unlike McConnell’s blooper, Braley’s mistake could help cost the Democrats a seat (currently held by the retiring Tom Harkin) they can ill afford to lose.

Read Less

What is the Obama Administration Hiding, and Why Are They Hiding It?

Attorney General Eric Holder has a problem with the accuracy of his congressional testimonies.

For example, on May 3, 2011, Holder – when asked when he became aware of the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal, told the House Judiciary Committee, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” But as CBS News reported, “Internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.” This forced Holder to confess to Senate Republicans that the Justice Department had provided “inaccurate” information to Congress during his May 3 testimony.

Now comes Retraction Number Two.

Read More

Attorney General Eric Holder has a problem with the accuracy of his congressional testimonies.

For example, on May 3, 2011, Holder – when asked when he became aware of the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal, told the House Judiciary Committee, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” But as CBS News reported, “Internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.” This forced Holder to confess to Senate Republicans that the Justice Department had provided “inaccurate” information to Congress during his May 3 testimony.

Now comes Retraction Number Two.

In a memo today from Republican Senator Charles Grassley, we’re informed, “The Justice Department has retracted a second statement made to the Senate Judiciary Committee. During a hearing last week, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that his predecessor, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had been briefed about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver. Now, the Department is retracting that statement and claiming Holder ‘inadvertently’ made that claim to the Committee. The Department’s letter failed to apologize to former Attorney General Mukasey for the false accusation.”

Grassley went on to make this statement:

This is the second time in nearly seven months that the Department has gotten its facts wrong about gunwalking. Attorney General Holder accused Attorney General Mukasey, without producing any evidence, of having been briefed on gunwalking in Wide Receiver. The case Attorney General Mukasey was briefed on, Hernandez, is fundamentally different from both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious since it involved cooperation with the Mexican government. Attorney General Holder’s retraction should have included an apology to the former Attorney General.

In his eagerness to blame the previous administration, Attorney General Holder got his facts wrong. And his tactic didn’t bring us any closer to understanding how a bad policy evolved and continued. Bad policy is bad policy, regardless of how many administrations carried it out. Ironically, the only document produced yesterday by the Department appears to show that senior officials in the Attorney General’s own department were strategizing about how to keep gunwalking in both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious under wraps.

So let’s consider where we are. Congress has been misled several times by the Attorney General. We don’t yet know if Holder committed perjury or was simply incompetent in making the claims he did. But we do know that President Obama, who was once a harsh critic of executive privilege when it came to his predecessor, has suddenly discovered a real fondness for it. Obama, in fact, is now invoking executive privilege in order to prevent Congress for getting the documents it needs in order to investigate a program that was, by any measure, a scandalous failure that led to the deaths of innocent Americans and Mexicans.

Which raises these questions: As Alana noted earlier, what is the Obama administration hiding? And why are they hiding it?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.