This will probably annoy some of my Democratic friends, so let’s just get it out of the way: I once voted for Senator Chuck Grassley.
That’s right. In 1991, Grassley was one of only two Republicans in the US Senate to vote against the Persian Gulf War. I ran into Grassley a week later and told him I was so impressed with his courage and independence that I’d support him in the next election.
In the 1990s, I was also thankful that Grassley called out wasteful Pentagon spending — blowing the whistle on $436 hammers, $999 pliers, and even an $1,868 toilet seat cover. (Wow! Imagine nearly two grand worth of posterior comfort!)
While I disagreed with Grassley on most issues, I admired his independence and willingness to part ways with the leadership of his own party. I appreciated his bipartisanship, for example, when he and Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) teamed up to limit subsidies for large farm operators.
Unfortunately, that Grassley is a relic of the past. It’s hard to say exactly when the Senator abandoned his independent, non-partisan persona. But the transition came into sharp focus in 2016 when, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the US Supreme Court. Given his reputation and history, it was shocking to many Iowans that Grassley would choose partisan politics over the rule of law, over fairness, over tradition.
Now, as President Trump prepares to nominate a candidate to fill the seat left vacant last week by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’d hoped Senator Grassley would adhere to the position he staked out in 2016. The parallels today are so clear that I truly believed we might see a resurgence of the Grassley of the 1990s.
But no. Grassley’s painful contortions of reason and logic, justifying his intent to support President Trump’s nominee, were deeply disturbing and a crass betrayal of everything some of us used to believe he stood for.
Here is the direct message I sent to Senator Grassley today: “Senator, you and I have enjoyed a cordial relationship across three decades. We’ve spoken many times here in Iowa, and I have visited you often in Washington, DC. It pains me to say this, but you are not the leader I knew and respected years ago. You have become the worst kind of partisan politician. Your legacy will not be the statesman who voted his conscience on war, who challenged wasteful spending by the all-powerful Pentagon, who reached across party lines to partner with one of the Senate’s most progressive Democrats on farm policy.
“You’ll be remembered as just another career politician who buried his conscience deep in the back forty while succumbing to the flagrant partisanship of ambitious, self-serving men like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell — men who never had an ounce of integrity to start with.
“You, Senator, have become a hypocrite. Your descent is a shame, a real loss. Of course, the greater shame and loss is the extreme realignment of the US Supreme Court, which may soon be dangerously out of step with most Americans on climate change, environmental protection, civil rights, health care, reproductive rights, and so much more.
“You still have a chance to prove to Iowans that you’re the Grassley most of us knew and respected. Presuming Trump’s nominee comes to the floor of the Senate, you could vote no. If that happens, I’ll gladly write a new column, with an entirely different conclusion. For the sake of not just your legacy but of all that is reasonable and good in our system of governance, I hope when the votes are counted, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa will once again cast his vote for fairness.”
Here’s our line up with time stamps:
(02:06) Climate Report: Stupid vs. Brilliant;
(14:18) Trump lawsuit threatens Iowa vote-by-mail program, with Linn County Auditor Joel Miller;(29:19) Replacing RBG: How it might play out, with Charles Goldman;
(43:22) US Constitution is toothless by design, with Charles Goldman;
(56:20) Fall garden Q&A, with Kathy Byrnes, Birds & Bees Urban Farm.
CLICK HERE to watch our segment with Kathy Byrnes on Facebook.
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