Pandering next to whiskey, mighty risky

Bruce Braley gets plenty of criticism for his "farmer" remarks, and deserves it.

Todd Dorman
Published: March 26 2014 | 9:31 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:09 am in

So God made a farmer. And politicians make really stupid mistakes.

Add U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa to the infamous list, along with Mitt “47 percent” Romney and Barack “cling to guns or religion” Obama. The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate thought he was speaking to a group of Texas trial lawyers in the comfort of privacy. But, news flash, privacy no longer exists with a TV studio in everyone’s pocket.

So now there’s a video of Braley (below), in a dark suit and open collared shirt, speaking and gesturing next to a tray brimming with bottles of liquor. It looked like he might stop to mix up a high ball at any second. Instead, he went with a fat pour of pandering, with a sneer chaser.

“If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee — or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley said.

And with the words “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” Braley instantly became a very big fish in a very small barrel. Republicans seeking the same Senate seat pounced swiftly and gleefully on the talkative trial lawyer who scoffed at two Iowa icons. Farming and Grassley.

“I don’t care if Bruce Braley thinks his education makes him better than the rest of us. Bruce Braley can have more degrees than a thermometer for all I care. He’s still clueless,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker, picking the “elitist” card form a large deck of choices.

I doubt Braley, who apologized, really disdains farmers. And I don’t think it’s all that surprising that he doesn’t think Grassley will make a great judiciary chair.

But he deserves what he’s getting. We can stand the smell of a lot of garbage in politics, but watching a candidate pander to a room full of donors, behind closed doors, saying things he would never say to the rest of us, is particularly galling. It’s unseemly, even in this era of bucks-begging on steroids.

And like Romney’s dubious claim that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government, Braley’s pander doesn’t hold up. Grassley’s been on the Judiciary Committee since 1981, so the notion that he’d be a lousy chairman simply because he once farmed in Iowa and never went to law school is laughable. You may disagree with him, but you can’t disqualify him. And the judiciary panel doesn’t belong to trial lawyers any more than transportation belongs to highway engineers.

So how much does this hurt Braley’s chances? It’s going to leave a mark, but it’s way too soon to know how long-lasting. And we’ll see how Republicans capitalize.

Will GOP Senate hopefuls use this as an opportunity to outline some bold ideas on boosting agriculture and the rural economy? “Repeal Obamacare!” is a swell applause line, but it’s hardly a broad economic vision for Iowa. This would be a good time to hang some policy on all those affectionate rural platitudes.

God made a farmer, but senators still make farm policy.


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