The Iowa press saw Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-IA) comments slamming “farmer” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) as more like President Barack Obama’s guns and religion comment during his first presidential campaign or Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment in 2012 than a “Todd Akin” moment.
It didn’t help much when Braley’s campaign misspelled two Iowa farming terms in a press release a little while after his original comments first came to light. Below is a roundup of editorials on Braley’s comments.
We didn’t hear any insult.
We heard a disastrous campaign strategy.
Grassley is more apt to describe himself as an Iowa farmer rather than a career politician. But anyone who’s met with Grassley knows the aw-shucks demeanor masks a dogged legislator who has proven himself an able negotiator, taxpayer defender and probing interrogator during his 33 years in the Senate.
Braley was crazy to suggest to anyone that a lawyer, by training alone, is more capable on that committee. We’re not sure even Texas attorneys bought it.
Here’s what Iowa farmers do, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture: Its 92,200 farms in 2012 produced $13.5 billion in corn, $5.92 billion in soybeans, $3.84 billion in cattle, $6.98 billion in hogs, $990 million in eggs and $849 million in dairy production. A study in 2009 said one in six Iowans was employed because of agriculture, and ag-related industries were responsible for 27 percent of Iowa’s economic output and $1 in every $10 of personal income.
The editorial concluded that “Americans all know how productive Congress has been lately. A few more farmers might help.”
Braley’s campaign rightly points out that the comments were not meant as an insult to farmers. Instead, they were a warning cry that, if Republicans take control of the Senate this year, Grassley will become the first non-lawyer ever to head the committee charged with vetting judicial nominees. But it’s hard not to hear Braley pandering to the stereotype of a “(dumb) farmer” in his denunciation of a senior Iowa senator who is not even running this election cycle. And as with the gaffes of Obama and Romney before it, Braley’s comment was made all the more damning because of the setting in which it was uttered.
That’s why Braley’s comments also are a timely reminder of how the race to replace Harkin is one that will be watched as closely by out-of-state interests as by the people who will be represented by the winner in November. And regardless of which candidate wins the Republican primary in June, Iowa voters will soon find themselves drowning in the sea of negative advertising that will collect around all the national money pouring in from groups on both sides of the aisle.
Why shouldn’t Grassley’s service of more than 30 years on the Judiciary Committee qualify him for its chairmanship? Does Braley believe all members of the Judiciary Committee must have a law degree? By this logic, shouldn’t the president, the commander-in-chief, have served in the military? Finally, what exactly was the larger message Braley sought to convey with the comment?
As we said, Braley apologized “to Sen. Grassley and anyone I may have offended.” In the same statement, he spoke of his “tremendous respect for Iowa farmers.”
He might hope the statement puts an end to this discussion, but the nature of politics tells us he’s wrong.