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Political Mercury

Branstad ‘not concerned,’ but ‘cautious’ about Cleveland

7/20/2016

With the mercury rising on political and racial tensions in the United States, hitting levels perhaps not seen since 1968, Gov. Terry Branstad is in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, a national voice on police and justice matters, has said, “We are sitting on a powder keg.” Ramsey and others have warned of potential for mayhem at the Republican convention as well as Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

So will Branstad go beyond his usual security? Is he worried about safety?

“We’ll only have one trooper with me,” Branstad said in an interview last Wednesday in Lake City with this newspaper. “I’m not concerned about my own security. We’re going to be careful.”

Branstad is a frequent foreign traveler who has developed well-chronicled friends in Chinese leadership. He was also an early advocate for the presidential candidate of Marco Rubio, a Florida senator of Cuban descent.

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He’s product of rural Iowa, to be sure. But early on, well before politics, Branstad, a native of Leland, lived with diversity. His mother, Rita was Jewish.

“Well, that taught me a lot about tolerance and understanding because my mother shared with me some of the discrimination and things that she had felt in her younger age,” Branstad said.

Branstad is now a practicing Roman Catholic.

On Wednesday, during a tour of Scranton Manufacturing’s subsidiary Bowie International in Lake City, Branstad spoke of his friends in China, of the power of international trade for Iowa soybeans and pork.

Demographics are changing, and Iowans need to embrace that, said Branstad, who also told the newspapers that he’s spoken with Gov. Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat, dealing with racial unrest following a police shooting of an African-American suspect, Philando Castile, in a traffic stop in a Twin Cities’ suburb.

After an officer fatally shot Castile, Dayton said: “Would this have happened if … the driver and passenger would have been white? I don’t think it would.”

Branstad referred to Dayton, now embroiled in controversy over the remark, as a friend. The two talked about the situation in Minnesota, Iowa’s governor said.

“I think it’s important that we recognize our country is becoming more diverse,” Branstad said. “We need to be welcoming and accepting. But we need to expect other people to abide by the laws and rules as well. I had some great teachers that taught me about the rights we have as American citizens, but also the need to respect other people and their rights and the responsibility of being a good citizen.”

Instead of getting angry in these tense national moments, Americans should focus on healing, Branstad said.

“It’s a challenging time for everybody,” Branstad said. “It’s tragic what happened down there in Dallas, and I feel like the whole country has been hurt by this.”

On to the politics of the convention …

The benefit Indiana Gov. Mike Pence brings as Donald Trump’s running mate, Branstad said, is that he’s served in legislative and executive roles as a congressman and now governor.

“I think he’s done a good job as governor of Indiana,” Branstad said, adding that he’s worked with Pence in the National Governors Association, which met at the downtown Des Moines Marriott and other places in the Iowa capital city this past weekend.

For his part, Branstad had advocated U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa for the vice presidential slot.

“I think she would have been a great choice,” Branstad said. “She’s got experience in local and state government as well as a military background and experience.”

He also thinks having a woman on the ticket would be an asset for Trump.

On Sunday, Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake left for the Republican National Convention, where she is a delegate. She spoke with this newspaper on Saturday during a fundraiser outside of Carroll.

Upmeyer did not publicly support a presidential candidate during the Iowa caucuses.

“There’s a really big voice right now that says, ‘People in Washington aren’t listening to us,’ ” Upmeyer said. “And they want somebody who is going to say, ‘Stop and listen. Stop and pay attention to the people.’ I think Trump will do that.”

When asked if she was headed to Cleveland as a fully committed Trump supporter, or someone with questions, Upmeyer said, “I think I always have questions all the time. But I will absolutely be supportive of the candidate.”

The big issues in her view: national security and the future of the Supreme Court.

“I believe the choices that Hillary Clinton would make in the court system would crush this country in the long term,” Upmeyer said.

What Republicans will have break-out moments at the convention? Who are the people to watch?

Upmeyer said she is looking forward to hearing from Trump’s children.

“This is a really talented family,” she said. “The children all seem thoughtful and bright. I loved watching him with his grandchildren. I think that’s a sign of a really good person, if they have good children, and the way they act with their grandchildren.”

Of Trump’s children, Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. are scheduled to speak.

(My prediction: the biggest star to emerge from the convention will be Ivanka Trump. In fact, she’ll do so well, that conspiracy theorists will spool out the suggestion that Donald Trump is running primarily to set up his daughter for a future bid herself. Candidates have run for worse reasons. I think Ivanka will do for herself something close to what President Obama did for his shooting-star career in 2004 in Boston. She speaks Thursday, the same night as her dad.)

Upmeyer said Pence will earn trust with Americans with a speech this week showing foreign policy chops.

“This is a team that can be very thoughtful, lead in the right way, much like Reagan did. Peace through strength,” she said.

Upmeyer also said her former colleague in the Iowa Legislature, Ernst, is poised for a break-out moment.

“Joni does have a great opportunity, and I’m looking forward to that because she’s very talented and does a really good job of communicating, I think,” Upmeyer said. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.burns doug 12-10-25

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