Questions piling up for Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst seems to be disrespecting quite a few folks.

You may have read in our U.S. Senate endorsement that Ernst, Republican candidate for the office, “failed to make time in her schedule” to meet with the Editorial Board at The Gazette.

But while Ernst staffers merely strung us along, never agreeing to a meeting time or openly refusing the invitation, we learned Thursday morning Ernst reneged on her promise to The Des Moines Register. She also snubbed The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, the Quad-City Times and the CBS television affiliate in Sioux City. Even more await an answer.

She did meet with the board of the Sioux City Journal and, according to Bloomberg Politics reporter David Weigel, the Omaha, Neb. World-Herald as well. I’ve not heard chatter from the Nebraska interview, but there was noise following Sioux City when Ernst doubled-down on support of “personhood,” saying she would support a national push.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joni Ernst campaigns outside Gilmore Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Oct. 22.
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Joni Ernst campaigns outside Gilmore Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Oct. 22. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

“I am a pro-life candidate,” she told the SCJ Board. “I support that. However, if you look at any sort of amendment at the federal level — amendments … come together through consensus. And, honestly, we don’t have a consensus.”

Ernst used the same flawed reasoning regarding a federal amendment that she applied to sponsorship of a state “personhood” amendment. Her answer was essentially, “Yes, I’ll support this ban on all abortions and most forms of birth control, like the pill, but no one needs to worry about it because it won’t become law.” And no one in that particular room questioned it, just like none of the moderators of the debate questioned it.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I believe Ernst is cherry picking who she will engage in real conversation.

I’m already on the record in relation to the “personhood” amendment and Ernst’s steadfast refusal to answer the basic questions at its root: A “personhood” amendment provides fertilized human eggs, before implantation, the same legal rights as people, so doesn’t it ban procedures, devices and chemicals that can result in their demise?

Since this would be the legal reality of your amendment, are you being disingenuous when you say that you will protect a woman’s access to birth control, or does your definition of what you’ve termed “reliable and affordable birth control” already exclude the pill and other methods that would come under legal scrutiny?

Similar questions need to be asked about Ernst’s position on abolishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in favor of state-run systems. Ernst says states know best how to use resources, but hasn’t explained what will or should happen when one state decides its resources are best spent on Problem A while Problem B runs amok and impacts neighboring states. In the simplest terms, if my neighbor neglects a tree that later falls on my house, who do I turn to if higher governing authorities have washed their hands of oversight?

Maybe Ernst knows. Maybe she has a plan. But it’s difficult to have confidence in her when it does not appear she has enough confidence in herself or her ideas to sit down for a conversation.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on Oct. 25, 2014. Photo credit: Adam Wesley/The Gazette