Political Mercury

In Esquire, King finds company in Arnold


It is a rare instance in which conservative stalwart Congressman Steve King from western Iowa would cheer the close proximity of his name to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the liberal Republican governor of the economically beleaguered California.

But there they were, together in print, the right-wing darling from Kiron and the Hollywood icon, in the best men’s magazine in America, Esquire.

The mag polled GOP insiders, including current and former congressman as well as ex-cabinet members and state party officials, about many matters, one of which was this question:

“You’ve been given the opportunity to kick one person out of the party — his or her values … simply aren’t compatible with the Republican Party as you see it. Whom would you choose?”

Maine’s Olympia Snowe, the heretical moderate U.S. Senator, tops the list at 30 percent.

But the two people listed as “notable” mentions in the Esquire piece? Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve King.

Over the last decade, King has cultivated a national reputation for attention-grabbing remarks that delight his conservative supporters and appall liberal critics. The latter find his rhetoric fanatical. But even constituents troubled by the Congressman’s runaway mouth have to concede that that King has become something of a voice for western Iowa in the 24-hour news world.

Which is remarkable when you consider his platform: a western Iowa district with no central media and tough decisions to be made with an advertising budget as one has to hit the Sioux City, Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines markets to reach voters.

It is such a heavily rural district that my family’s newspaper, The Carroll Daily Times Herald, is actually a dominant media in King’s territory.

On the other hand, Schwarzenegger has California, all those action-movies with one-liners that jumped from the screen into our popular lexicon, as well as those family connections to the Kennedy dynasty.

King’s national profile as a firebrand who is so outspoken that he frightens many moderates in his own party (hence the Esquire mention) is good for King. But what about his district?

Last summer, while King was making headlines for being the lone vote in the House of Representatives against recognizing slave labor’s contributions to the construction of the capitol building, a behind-the-scenes Republican player, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa’s 4th District, was delivering big for the City of Jefferson.

King had his reasons in the 399-1 vote. Somehow, King thought the resolution disrespected Jesus Christ.

While King was wandering in the ideological wilderness, Latham was quietly going about bringing more money — and lots of it — to Jefferson.

Latham helped secure $4 million in federal funding for a $13.5 million railroad overpass on U.S. 4 in Jefferson. The DOT kicked in $8 million, and presto, within the next few years, the city will see a major makeover.

Latham, the only Iowan on the House Appropriations Committee, is not done delivering for Jefferson — a community of 4,600.

The Jefferson Herald reports Latham is on the job when it comes to a downtown restoration project in Jefferson.

In Carroll, a major city in King’s district, and the seat of swing county with deep Democrat roots and growing conservative sensibilities (the county went for both Barack Obama and King in the last election), we are not as fortunate with federal government funding as our Latham-represented friends in Jefferson.

Which reminds me of something my late grandfather, James W. Wilson, the conservative publisher of the Daily Times Herald, said about the Franklin Roosevelt Administration during the 1930s.

As signature public-works projects were taking place across the nation, the building of national parks and electric power Goliaths and some swell bridges around Iowa, all Carroll ever got from the New Deal, according to my grandfather, was a stone fence around the cemetery.

Some things never change.

At least we can read about our congressman in Esquire as we wait in our cars and trucks on Main Street for the increasing number of Union Pacific trains to pass through Carroll. CV


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.


Round Kick Gym

Best of Des Moines 2011

Fall Relish

Coupon Guide