Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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Guest Commentary

Branstad, Iowa both need intervention


“Iowans don’t want a governor and Branstad is as close as they can get.”

That characterization of Gov. Terry Branstad was offered decades ago by then Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul.

Now, after Branstad is back in office after a 12-year hiatus, an update would be: “Branstad likes being governor; he just does not like governing.”

Branstad’s tenure in office is the price that he and Iowans have to pay for his enjoying campaigns and the perks of office so much that he cannot help himself. He’s addicted to running for office.

The Democratic Party over the years has been a co-dependent in feeding Branstad’s addiction for office. The perceptive Ian Binnie — another witty voice from years ago — once characterized the Democratic nominee to run against Branstad as the party’s “Death Wish IV.”

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Perhaps it is time for an intervention — you know “intervention,” the step that a family or friends take to rescue an addicted person from a cult or delusional belief system.

Even Branstad knows he needs help.

He is leaving signs all over for us: “Help me! I don’t want to govern.”

He vetoes legislation that deals with good public policy because it smacks of governance, and he is driven blissfully in his SUV at 85 to 90 or more mph because being governor is just a kick, except for the governing.

Let’s deal with the SUV episode and its cry for help.

Branstad and his supporters say it was all right for the governor not to object when his NASCAR-wannabe state trooper drove him at a speed reported as “a hard 90.” That’s because (a) the governor was in the backseat and was clueless that the car was going that fast and (b) he does not micro-manage.


For one thing, regardless of where one sits in a vehicle, you know when it is going 85 or 90 mph. For another thing, can you imagine a parent saying to a teenager: “Now if your friends drink and drive or go way too fast, I don’t want you to micro-manage and tell them not to.”

No. The SUV episode, unconscious or otherwise, was a plea for help, intervention if you will. (The plea almost went unheard because the State Patrol, to its disgrace, ignored the violation, apparently content to hope no one would be killed.)

Likewise Branstad showed his frustration with having to govern in his vetoes of legislation to make nursing homes safer, emergency medical care better and university research stronger.

Those bills, the governor opined, were just more governance — you know, like setting speed limits.

Perhaps that approach will draw applause from those who say “That government is best that governs least.”

But how about what James Otis and James Wilson — among our lesser-known founding fathers — pointed out way back in the 1760s? They said, in essence, “It is not a question of whether a government governs least or most; rather that government is best that governs most justly.”

Whether it is least, most or just, Branstad, many Iowans believe, has served the state well. Even his critics would have to admit that in his total of 18-and-counting years as governor he must have done some things right.

But the recent episodes are pleas to end his addiction to office.

Intervene in the 2014 election. The governor wants you to. The state needs you to.

And, with some luck, maybe the Democrats won’t offer the electorate Death Wish V. 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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