Encountering Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley in Williamsburg, Iowa in 2010. Photo by the author.

Senator Chuck Grassley in Williamsburg, Iowa in 2010. Photo by the author.

The conventions dispersed and the road home was ahead as Blog for Iowa writers engaged with Senator Chuck Grassley last Friday.

Both Trish Nelson, in a chance meeting in Mount Pleasant, and Dave Bradley, at a town hall event in Columbus Junction, each encountered Grassley in eastern Iowa.

Both stories are worth hearing and indicate where our senior senator is regarding his life in the Republican party.

“News is sketchy while on RAGBRAI,” Nelson wrote in an email.

She was driving support for a team of veteran RAGBRAI riders and responding to Dave Bradley’s report from the Columbus Junction event.

“Speaking of RAGBRAI and Chuck, guess who I ran into checking out of our Super 8 this morning in Mt. Pleasant?” she wrote. “I even had a few minutes of face time with him.”

“I was like a deer in headlights at first but I managed to stay polite and we had a light, friendly conversation,” she continued. “I asked him what he thought about Hillary’s speech — he said he thought it was good and he fell asleep during it. He said she would just be more Obama.”

“I asked him his thoughts on Donald Trump and he said, ‘he needs to act more presidential,’ as if he was lamenting that he wouldn’t get elected because of that one small thing. I told him Trump can’t act presidential because he is so impulsive and that people are genuinely frightened that he could actually become president.”

Grassley asserted something positive about Trump, which Nelson countered.

“Chuck kind of backtracked and said, Trump ‘only’ has a 25% chance of actually being elected. He said the Republicans have too much ground to make up in the electoral college for him to win. It was weird, as as if he was trying to reassure me by acknowledging that Trump is probably going to lose anyway.”

I can’t believe I didn’t ask him about his obstruction of Obama’s SCOTUS appointment and the judiciary, and for awhile I was kicking myself, but at least I got to address concerns about Trump.”

Later in the day at a Columbus Junction town hall, Don Paulson of the Muscatine County Democrats asked Grassley the question about Merrick Garland.

“Grassley said 30 years ago some senators set a policy of no appointments in a president’s last year,” Dave Bradley reported. “What horseshit.”

Bradley assumed this was a variation on Grassley’s Biden talking point and nothing new.

During her campaign for state representative, Sara Sedlacek lost Louisa County, where Columbus Junction is located, by a significant margin.

“It was probably a 90% Republican crowd,” Bradley wrote. “All white except one. State Representative Tom Sands was there to give Grassley a big smack on the cheeks. Another guy praised Grassley for ‘standing up to Obama — you’re the only one that does.'”

This describes every Republican event I have attended — a venue for Republicans to vent. Dave ticked off these notes:

  • Several said leave the VA (or at least Iowa City) alone.
  • One woman had a prepared speech about puppy mills.
  • Another guy praised Republicans for defunding Obamacare and said they should pass the same bill every day.
  • Couple of other all praise to Grassley statements.
  • One college student did have some challenging questions on gun sales but of course Grassley had very well prepped responses rolled out in his folksy manner.
  • An anti-Grassley guy from Iowa City asked him about term limits — Grassley said he favored them, but you can also always vote me out.
  • Couple of questions on Social Security — Grassley claimed it has 17 more years (2033) but no one is willing to talk about it with everything on the table.
  • One guy claimed Obamacare took $900 million from Medicare — Grassley agreed and said it just disappeared from Medicare.
  • Damn it was painful not to just stand up and call him a f*cking liar.

“Unlike Muscatine much earlier this year (Grassley) is much better prepared and has his talking points down really well,” Bradley said. “Trying to get him to stumble will take an exceptional effort if someone is trying to. He even took pains to refute his not visiting all 99 counties — with a big sign on a stand proclaiming that he visits all 99 counties every year.”

Grassley doesn’t always hold public meetings on his 99-county tour according to a July 20 Des Moines Register editorial.

“Since 2011, he has held only three public, town hall meetings in Iowa’s 10 most populated counties, and there were no meetings of that type in eight of those 10 counties,” they said.

If you want to discuss an issue with Senator Chuck Grassley maybe you’ll randomly bump into him, or maybe you can speak for a couple of minutes at his public meetings. What is problematic about this type of accessibility is the unbridled forum — for Republicans particularly — to say just about anything.

In my experience at similar events, Grassley moderated the wackiest of the wacky. By enabling people to express themselves as he does Chuck Grassley encourages extremism and political spin. He helped create the party of Donald Trump even if he doesn’t think much of the mogul’s chances in November.

It is important to contact our elected officials, especially our federal representatives. However, when Senator Chuck Grassley talks about “representative government,” take it with a grain of salt. What you see isn’t always what you get.

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1 Response to Encountering Chuck Grassley

  1. Linda Thieman says:

    Hey, great job to all of you–Don, Dave, Trish and Paul–but the description of a robot-like Grassley is so creepy I want to go take a shower after reading this. It seems like there is no point in even asking him questions anymore. He has gotten away with this kind of thing for so many years, nothing will ever change. And then he says in such a smug manner that “you can always vote me out,” like that is a very real possibility. Well, hopefully, this will be the year it comes to pass, but I still doubt it.


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