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Guest Commentary

Jerry and Casey had it right about 2012 campaign

10/31/2012

Those looking for a way to summarize the 2012 political campaigns from the local to the presidential level could do worse than to quote President Gerald C. Ford when he took the oath of office Aug. 9, 1974: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”                

If you prefer a more homespun analysis, consider Casey Stengel as manager of the New York Mets 50 years ago: “Can’t anyone play this here game?”                

Even then, it is unlikely our 2012 nightmare will be over with next Tuesday’s election; we’ll still be lacking officials, a public and a press that play democracy well.                

Unfortunately, it will stay that way so long as most of us forfeit the field to the big spenders and to religious zealots who want to take control of the nation as they have taken control of Iowa.                

President Ford’s “nightmare” reference was to Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon — but we’ve had our share of other nightmares since including the quagmire of Iraq-Afghanistan and the 2012 campaign where Stengel’s question is one to plague us.                

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The few days leading to Election Day offered no relief.                

A GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, Richard Mourdock, declared, “…even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Mourdock, of course, subsequently explained whatever he really meant. But it was dumbfounding that anyone would enter such waters after another Senate candidate, Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri, had said if a woman was “legitimately raped” her body “has a way of trying to shut that whole thing down.”                

Even more bizarre and troubling than Mourdock’s and Akin’s comments is that GOP voters in Indiana ousted an outstanding U.S. Senator, Richard Lugar, to have Mourdock carry their banner.                

For his part, President Obama approved an ad that says the nation had more than 5 million new jobs under his administration; others put the figure at less than a 10th of that. (Obama may have taken a page from Gov. Terry Branstad’s 2010 campaign and his promises to bring 200,000 new jobs to the state and a 25 percent increase to Iowa family incomes. If the Iowa rubes bought that, why wouldn’t they buy 5 million jobs nationally? Or Mitt Romney’s vow of 12 million?)                

Back in the summer, ads for GOP candidate Romney heralded how he single-handedly saved the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Well, you can accomplish a lot if you’re supported by almost $2 billion in federal tax dollars and have no opposition from the likes of John Boehner in the U.S. House and Mitch McConnell in the Senate.                

Here is what U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said about the ’02 Olympics: “What the Olympic games supposedly hosted and funded by Salt Lake City… has now turned into is an incredible pork-barrel project for Salt Lake City and its environs.” Romney himself said the 2002 Olympics could not have succeeded without “enormous spending and services of the federal government.”                

Small wonder we will welcome a respite from political ads on TV and bombast from candidates and news analysts.                

Sad thing is, our suffering will not be rewarded with much in the way of relief from a dysfunctional Congress and, in Iowa, a GOP driven by the religious right and a Democratic party that sometimes seems to be driven by no one in particular.                

Somehow Iowans have to resurrect an honest-to-goodness state GOP and revive a Democratic party with the commitment and vitality of U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley and candidate Christie Vilsack.                

The bellwethers on Tuesday include the vote on retention of Justice David Wiggins to the Iowa Supreme Court, the welcomed effort by Christie Vilsack to unseat the bellicose Steve King and — closest to home — whether a fine person and good public servant like Democrat John Forbes can win in a heavily Republican House district in Urbandale.                

It would be nice to see a couple of people able to “play this here game.” CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

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