Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Gazette Blog
Three 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls scheduled to appear If a national movement coming to Des Moines as part of the Iowa Renewal Project is successful, Iowans may see many more conservative pastors and church leaders on their 2016 ballots. The movement — the Men and Women of Issachar — is the brainchild of David Lane, a politically-connected religious conservative, and was named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel — specifically the tribe that sent 200 men with the ability or vision to decipher the signs of the times and direct the actions of David’s army at Hebron. “Nobody is confused that politicians are going to save America,” Lane said in January when he announced the movement, which hopes to encourage and train at least 1,000 church leaders and…
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Too bad Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim

Too bad Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim

Gazette Column
The first U.S. visit by Pope Francis made clear that most Americans have finally sat aside anti-Catholic prejudice, a process that began decades ago. John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, knew what he was getting into when he began his 1960 presidential bid. Before him, only one Catholic, former New York Gov. Al Smith, had been a presidential nominee for a major U.S. political party. Smith’s 1928 campaign fractured under rumors that he’d construct a tunnel connecting the Vatican to the White House or that he’d amend the Constitution to make Catholicism the national religion. That year Iowa’s own Herbert Hoover, raised a Quaker, was elevated above Smith and into the White House. It was due to this history, I believe, that Kennedy chose to take his candidacy to the…
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Six months? Make your voice louder

Six months? Make your voice louder

Gazette Column
Six months have passed since federal authorities labeled an Iowa City pastor as one of the “worst of the worst,” devastated his family and deported him to Honduras. Friends and family of Pastor Max Villatoro marked the anniversary with a week of focused prayer, religious ceremony and advocacy activities. The Central Plains Mennonite Conference — the religious group with whom the Villatoro family identifies — continue to lead outreach efforts on behalf of the family. Church members have, for instance, launched numerous physical and online petitions calling for the return of Pastor Max. This past week, they’ve also encouraged supporters to phone the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Last month, private donations allowed the four Villatoro children to travel to Honduras and be with their father for the first time…
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The view from stage right

The view from stage right

Gazette Column
Imagine the Iowa Straw Poll in its glory days. Now pretend that no one there really likes or trusts each other. Pump up the humidity and temperature to the consistency of a bowl of soup. Finally, multiply everything you just imagined by 100. That was the scene Wednesday as I crossed the U.S. Capitol Complex. A highly publicized Tea Party Patriots rally, led by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and featuring former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was organized to oppose a nuclear diplomacy deal with Iran. Off the stage, a variety of issues were on display. Signs, T-shirts, hats and even lawn chairs offered messages regarding marriage, religious freedom, President Barack Obama, gun control, education, health care and assorted federal agencies. By the time the chorus of…
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Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Gazette Column
Young people with handmade signs and women wearing ankle tracking devices surrounded several members of Congress to relay their real-life horror stories. Congress did nothing. The women and young people were what was left following a massive 2008 immigration raid at a Postville meatpacking plant. They were destitute, relying on a local churches for food and other necessities. Husbands, fathers and brothers were either awaiting deportation, or had already been deported. Nearly all were also handed a criminal conviction, ensuring they would no longer have the option of entering the country legally. [caption id="attachment_1035" align="alignleft" width="300"] A marcher wears an ankle monitoring device during an immigration reform march through the streets of Postville on Sunday, July 27, 2008. The women fitted with the ankle devices wore them for roughly 19…
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Branstad, GOP hopefuls differ on local control

Branstad, GOP hopefuls differ on local control

Gazette Column
Education shortfalls are a manufactured crisis Spend a little time with the 2016 GOP presidential candidates and you’ll hear their plans to loosen government’s reins and provide local leaders more flexibility. If such goals are successful, however, its doubtful Iowans existing under the Branstad administration will experience relief. Debates about local control are as regular as general elections, and equally effective. But that hasn’t stopped all levels of politicians from sounding an alarm. For instance, in March 1953, then-U.S. House Majority Leader Charlie Halleck, an Indiana Republican who died in 1986, spoke before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on the risk of expansion beyond “the smallest unit of government capable of handling the job.” “With every transfer of responsibility from Des Moines or Indianapolis to Washington, there is…
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Binders full of … hypocrisy

Binders full of … hypocrisy

Gazette Column
Pardon the dust, but it’s time we brush off one of the Republican Party’s binders full of women. And, no, I’m not talking about Mitt Romney’s fictional debate binders, but the very real autopsy report commissioned by the Republican National Committee in the wake of the 2012 election. Romney garnered support from male voters, but experienced an 11-point deficit among female voters. And, when single women were singled out, the gap became a cavern of 36 percentage points. The report concluded women are not a “coalition,” and appealing to them should be integrated into all activities. GOP talkers “need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.” Among the findings was that women voters are interested…
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Carly Fiorina gives GOP an opening

Carly Fiorina gives GOP an opening

Gazette Column
Merit-based pay structures are key to lifting women up and closing leadership and pay gaps. That’s what Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, told the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference this week. “If you focus on a pay-for-performance system— a true meritocracy where people are recognized, paid and promoted, not on how long they’ve been there, but what they produced — women will rise to the top — not because women are better than men, but because they have half the human potential,” she said. Fiorina is expected to join the 2016 fray as the Republican Party’s only female candidate. It’s good optics for a GOP that has been ostracized for statements and policies that marginalize women, even if many pundits already have written off a Fiorina candidacy. Even with her anti-abortion…
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A ‘rock star’ caucus won’t serve rural America

A ‘rock star’ caucus won’t serve rural America

Gazette Column
If rumors are believed, this is the day Iowa Democrats have either been wanting or dreading: Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her entry into the 2016 presidential contest. The past few weeks have seen the official entry of Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, also to mixed emotions from the GOP faithful. Unfortunately, my concerns following the 2008 and 2012 contests are growing. I’m not convinced the new normal of Iowa caucus life as a string of mega-events, requiring tickets for entry and little time for truly critical audience participation allow for an adequate airing or thoughtful discussion on the complex issues surrounding rural communities. Campaign stops and events surged to unprecedented proportions in the 2008 contests. During his first trip into Iowa following a 2007 announcement, for instance,…
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Owning the political conversation

Owning the political conversation

Gazette Column
If feedback on my “caucus countdown” column is any indication, there is a lot of interest not only for a wider field of potential 2016 presidential candidates, but for the nation to have a broad conversation regarding the future of money in politics, the overall economy and, specifically, the middle class. And, as is usually the case, there is significant disagreement on how such conversations can be generated and spread. [caption id="attachment_216" align="alignright" width="300"] Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren celebrates on election night. (Elizabeth Warren/Flickr)[/caption] There is some thought a strong third party candidate on the left or right would be able to leverage the most influence; that those within either of the two large parties will be unable to rise above the star power of high-profile candidates. Some have pointed…
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