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Topic: Tom Harkin

Rubio Gives Harkin a Lesson in History

Foreign affairs, when not involving American troops, are rarely prioritized by the public. But there are domestic issues that carry very strong foreign-policy implications as well as benefit those with broad knowledge about the world, such as immigration. A coherent foreign-policy outlook on the part of leading politicians also tells us much about the way they view America, and thus its place in the world.

The two–why people come to America, and why America goes out into the world–are often related. That helps explain Marco Rubio’s appeal to conservatives, and yesterday he offered a reminder, in the form of a fifteen-minute floor speech shaming those who accepted and regurgitated mindless and stale propaganda in defense of Cuban tyranny. Specifically, he took aim at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin–chair of the Senate’s committee on health, education, labor, and pensions–who gushed Michael Moore-like about Cuba’s health-care system.

Over at the Miami Herald, Marc Caputo set the scene and noted that although the subject was socialist totalitarian repression, this was no dated conversation:

Rubio’s speech was about current events: the protests in Venezuela, the Maduro government and the ties it has with the Castros, who repress their own people and helped inspire the suppression in Caracas.

Venezuela is becoming the new Cuba.

For 14 minutes and 16 seconds, Rubio gave the best oration of his political career, speaking largely off the top of his head and with only the barest of notes. Rubio sometimes dripped with sarcasm or simmered with indignation as he made the case to Congress that the United States needs to continue Cuba sanctions and punish Venezuela.

Indeed, Rubio came alive during the speech, and though the text doesn’t do the speech justice (Caputo has the video, which is also worth watching), here is the opening of Rubio’s response to Harkin:

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Foreign affairs, when not involving American troops, are rarely prioritized by the public. But there are domestic issues that carry very strong foreign-policy implications as well as benefit those with broad knowledge about the world, such as immigration. A coherent foreign-policy outlook on the part of leading politicians also tells us much about the way they view America, and thus its place in the world.

The two–why people come to America, and why America goes out into the world–are often related. That helps explain Marco Rubio’s appeal to conservatives, and yesterday he offered a reminder, in the form of a fifteen-minute floor speech shaming those who accepted and regurgitated mindless and stale propaganda in defense of Cuban tyranny. Specifically, he took aim at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin–chair of the Senate’s committee on health, education, labor, and pensions–who gushed Michael Moore-like about Cuba’s health-care system.

Over at the Miami Herald, Marc Caputo set the scene and noted that although the subject was socialist totalitarian repression, this was no dated conversation:

Rubio’s speech was about current events: the protests in Venezuela, the Maduro government and the ties it has with the Castros, who repress their own people and helped inspire the suppression in Caracas.

Venezuela is becoming the new Cuba.

For 14 minutes and 16 seconds, Rubio gave the best oration of his political career, speaking largely off the top of his head and with only the barest of notes. Rubio sometimes dripped with sarcasm or simmered with indignation as he made the case to Congress that the United States needs to continue Cuba sanctions and punish Venezuela.

Indeed, Rubio came alive during the speech, and though the text doesn’t do the speech justice (Caputo has the video, which is also worth watching), here is the opening of Rubio’s response to Harkin:

A few moments ago, the body was treated to a report from the senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. Sounded like he had a wonderful trip visiting, what he described as, a real paradise. He bragged about a number of things that he learned on his trip to Cuba that I’d like to address briefly. He bragged about their health care system, medical school is free, doctors are free, clinics are free, their infant mortality rate may be even lower than ours. I wonder if the senator, however, was informed, number one, that the infant mortality rate of Cuba is completely calculated on figures provided by the Cuban government. And, by the way, totalitarian communist regimes don’t have the best history of accurately reporting things. I wonder if he was informed that before Castro, Cuba, by the way, was 13th in the whole world in infant mortality. I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they’re not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore don’t count against the mortality rate.

I wonder if our visitors to Cuba were informed that in Cuba, any time there is any sort of problem with the child in utero they are strongly encouraged to undergo abortions, and that’s why they have an abortion rate that skyrockets, and some say, is perhaps the highest the world. I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba. I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States because they defected. Because in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population….

I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government.

Then he set his sights on Venezuela:

It is shameful that many members of Congress who traveled to Venezuela and were friendly with Chavez, some even went to his funeral, sit by saying nothing while this is happening in our own hemisphere. And this wonderful Cuban paradise government that we heard about? This is what they support. Just this morning, the dictator that calls himself a president — never been elected to anything, Raul Castro — announced he is there for whatever they need to help them do this. 

I listen to this stuff about Cuba and I listen to what’s happening in Venezuela, they’re very similar. Not just in the repression part, but the economics part. You know Venezuela’s an oil-rich country with hardworking people? They have a shortage — we don’t have an embargo against Venezuela. They have a shortage of toilet paper and tooth paste. Why? Because they are incompetent. Because communism doesn’t work. They look more and more like Cuba economically and politically every single day. 

Rubio showed pictures of the victims of Venezuela’s government crackdown, humanized them, and put the Venezuelan authorities on notice he would soon be outlining sanctions and other responses the United States government can take, setting Venezuela alongside Iran, North Korea, and, yes, Cuba.

There’s something amazing about having this conversation in 2014. There is of course a full discussion to be had on the virtues and effects of embargoes and sanctions. But you can detect a note of disbelief at the opening of Rubio’s response, before the intensity sheds it. Are there still those in the United States Congress so easily fooled by totalitarian propaganda? Yes, there are, apparently.

And that’s an important point. We’re not talking about the Sean Penns of the world. We’re talking about a five-term U.S. senator. Hopefully Harkin learned something from Rubio’s speech, though I doubt it. I imagine, however, many Americans learned something about Tom Harkin.

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Democrats and the Benighted American People

“I think we’re on a different kind of a news cycle than what I’ve been used to. … And a lot of that commentary is very inflammatory,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who supports Obama, told Politico:

It appeals to the emotional distress that people may have. Now, we’ve had people like that in the past, don’t get me wrong. We had our Huey Longs and our Father Coughlins and our Joe McCarthys — there has always been somebody like that — but they never had a big pulpit. They never had a big audience. Now, the Glenn Becks have a big audience. And so they stir up these passions in people. And if you’re hurting, you’re out of work, sometimes they can appeal to people like that, that are anxious and worried about their future.

This quote by Sen. Harkin reveals several things. The first is that there really is no end to the self-pity of many Democrats. I’m not great fan of Glenn Beck; in fact, I’ve criticized him several times. But are liberals really that obsessed with him? And have they forgotten that Democrats have control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate? Or that the media voted overwhelmingly for Obama?

Senator Harkin is offering a variation of the “we have a communication problem” excuse Democrats use all the time. It is frankly absurd — though it’s probably reassuring to Republicans, assuming Democrats like Harkin actually believe this narrative.

Beyond that, Harkin’s quote echoes Obama’s off-the-record comment made during the 2008 campaign about people in small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest who are frustrated by their economic conditions. “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter,” Obama told a group of wealthy donors in San Francisco on April 6. “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

It turns out these liberals really are elitist, and they really do look down their noses at a citizenry they consider benighted, childish, and bigoted. And they honestly believe that in times of difficulty, ordinary Americans cling to their Bibles, their guns, their antipathy toward immigrants and those who aren’t like them — and Glenn Beck.

This analysis is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. The public doesn’t much like being viewed in such condescending and paternalistic terms. But better they know about it than not.

“I think we’re on a different kind of a news cycle than what I’ve been used to. … And a lot of that commentary is very inflammatory,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who supports Obama, told Politico:

It appeals to the emotional distress that people may have. Now, we’ve had people like that in the past, don’t get me wrong. We had our Huey Longs and our Father Coughlins and our Joe McCarthys — there has always been somebody like that — but they never had a big pulpit. They never had a big audience. Now, the Glenn Becks have a big audience. And so they stir up these passions in people. And if you’re hurting, you’re out of work, sometimes they can appeal to people like that, that are anxious and worried about their future.

This quote by Sen. Harkin reveals several things. The first is that there really is no end to the self-pity of many Democrats. I’m not great fan of Glenn Beck; in fact, I’ve criticized him several times. But are liberals really that obsessed with him? And have they forgotten that Democrats have control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate? Or that the media voted overwhelmingly for Obama?

Senator Harkin is offering a variation of the “we have a communication problem” excuse Democrats use all the time. It is frankly absurd — though it’s probably reassuring to Republicans, assuming Democrats like Harkin actually believe this narrative.

Beyond that, Harkin’s quote echoes Obama’s off-the-record comment made during the 2008 campaign about people in small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest who are frustrated by their economic conditions. “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter,” Obama told a group of wealthy donors in San Francisco on April 6. “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

It turns out these liberals really are elitist, and they really do look down their noses at a citizenry they consider benighted, childish, and bigoted. And they honestly believe that in times of difficulty, ordinary Americans cling to their Bibles, their guns, their antipathy toward immigrants and those who aren’t like them — and Glenn Beck.

This analysis is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. The public doesn’t much like being viewed in such condescending and paternalistic terms. But better they know about it than not.

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LIVE BLOG: “We Don’t Allow Segregation in This Country”

“And yet,” says Tom Harkin, “we still allow segregation in America today on the basis of your health.” Now that‘s what I call a non-sequitur.

“And yet,” says Tom Harkin, “we still allow segregation in America today on the basis of your health.” Now that‘s what I call a non-sequitur.

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LIVE BLOG: “We May Be Closer Together”

Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, says he’s stunned to discover how Democrats and Republicans “may be closer together” than we thought. In saying this, he is echoing something Democrats, including Obama, have been saying all day. Indeed, when Republicans like John McCain and Eric Cantor disagree and say the differences are far more substantive, these are the moments that have triggered the president’s anger. Fascinating. Democrats are seeking to turn around their fortunes on health care by hugging the GOP. It’s one of the more peculiar political strategies in memory, but when you’re at 25 percent, it might be worth a shot. A long shot, but a shot. A very long shot.

Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, says he’s stunned to discover how Democrats and Republicans “may be closer together” than we thought. In saying this, he is echoing something Democrats, including Obama, have been saying all day. Indeed, when Republicans like John McCain and Eric Cantor disagree and say the differences are far more substantive, these are the moments that have triggered the president’s anger. Fascinating. Democrats are seeking to turn around their fortunes on health care by hugging the GOP. It’s one of the more peculiar political strategies in memory, but when you’re at 25 percent, it might be worth a shot. A long shot, but a shot. A very long shot.

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The Culture of Corruption

When it comes to the public outrage that will emerge based on the deals that took place to secure passage of the Senate health-care bill, the degree of tone-deafness among Democrats is nothing short of startling. Senator Tom Harkin calls it “small stuff.” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said, “Rather than sitting here and carping about what Nelson got for Nebraska, I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let’s get together and see what we can get for South Carolina.”

And Majority Leader Harry Reid has said, “I don’t know if there is a Senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them. And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”

These people strike me as hermetically sealed off from how most of the rest of the country view this subject. As these backroom deals become more and more widely known, anger will swell up among voters. It is bad enough to jam through a bill on a strict party-line-vote against overwhelming opposition from the public; for it to have happened only because various Members of Congress were (legally) bribed will magnify the intensity of the opposition. And for politicians to take such obvious pride in the pay-off will make things even worse. The populist, anti-Washington wave out there, which is already quite large, will only grow, and grow, and grow.

The Democrats are doing everything they can to make “the culture of corruption” a GOP campaign slogan in 2010. This week Democrats have added immeasurably to the Republican case and cause.

When it comes to the public outrage that will emerge based on the deals that took place to secure passage of the Senate health-care bill, the degree of tone-deafness among Democrats is nothing short of startling. Senator Tom Harkin calls it “small stuff.” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said, “Rather than sitting here and carping about what Nelson got for Nebraska, I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let’s get together and see what we can get for South Carolina.”

And Majority Leader Harry Reid has said, “I don’t know if there is a Senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them. And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”

These people strike me as hermetically sealed off from how most of the rest of the country view this subject. As these backroom deals become more and more widely known, anger will swell up among voters. It is bad enough to jam through a bill on a strict party-line-vote against overwhelming opposition from the public; for it to have happened only because various Members of Congress were (legally) bribed will magnify the intensity of the opposition. And for politicians to take such obvious pride in the pay-off will make things even worse. The populist, anti-Washington wave out there, which is already quite large, will only grow, and grow, and grow.

The Democrats are doing everything they can to make “the culture of corruption” a GOP campaign slogan in 2010. This week Democrats have added immeasurably to the Republican case and cause.

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Apology Time, Or Not

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

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The Democrats’ Rush to Recovery

Under the leadership of Democrats, the Congress has achieved something unprecedented: approval ratings that fluctuate between 18 percent (on good days) to 11 percent (on bad days). In the face of this massive unpopularity, what do they do? Why, they engage in a full-scale effort to smear the most successful radio talk show host in history.

It is quite a spectacle to behold.

I have written elsewhere on why Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment is a phony controversy. Any fair-minded reading will lead one to conclude that Limbaugh’s reference to “phony soldiers” had to do with, literally, phony soldiers—that is, those who had falsified their service records.

But Democrats, having watched the MoveOn.org attack of General David Petraeus blow up in their faces, were desperate to turn the tables. What it has led to are scenes that are almost comical, with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Tom Harkin taking to the floor of the Senate—the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body—to say things like this (from Harkin):

What’s most despicable is that Rush Limbaugh says these provocative things to make more money. So he castigates our soldiers. . . . More people tune in. He makes more money. Well. I don’t know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again.

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Under the leadership of Democrats, the Congress has achieved something unprecedented: approval ratings that fluctuate between 18 percent (on good days) to 11 percent (on bad days). In the face of this massive unpopularity, what do they do? Why, they engage in a full-scale effort to smear the most successful radio talk show host in history.

It is quite a spectacle to behold.

I have written elsewhere on why Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment is a phony controversy. Any fair-minded reading will lead one to conclude that Limbaugh’s reference to “phony soldiers” had to do with, literally, phony soldiers—that is, those who had falsified their service records.

But Democrats, having watched the MoveOn.org attack of General David Petraeus blow up in their faces, were desperate to turn the tables. What it has led to are scenes that are almost comical, with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Tom Harkin taking to the floor of the Senate—the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body—to say things like this (from Harkin):

What’s most despicable is that Rush Limbaugh says these provocative things to make more money. So he castigates our soldiers. . . . More people tune in. He makes more money. Well. I don’t know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again.

The whole thing—from the faux outrage to the ad hominem attacks to the willful distortion of Limbaugh’s comments—radiates desperation. But there is a pernicious element as well.

Members of Congress, no matter how juvenile they behave, exercise real power. They have the capacity to shred reputations. And their antics can trivialize an admirable profession (politics) and deepen cynicism among the polity.

Democrats in Congress may have thought they could steamroll the man from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but they are finding he fights back—and that he has a very large megaphone.

Rush Limbaugh is the target of their animus because he is an immense talent who has deep conservative beliefs. He single-handedly saved AM radio and has made the conservative movement stronger and more popular. It’s dawning on conservatives that this unfair attack on him is an attack on the movement, and that the effort to silence him is an effort to silence them.

Congressional Democrats, having remained (more or less) quiescent during the slander of the commanding general in Iraq, decide that the road to recovery is to smear a radio talk show host.

What a party.

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