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Guest Commentary

A ‘Monty Python’ approach to governing Iowa


“The Buck Stops Here” — so said the sign that famously graced the Oval Office desk of President Harry S. Truman.

If Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad had a similar placard in his office, it might say, “Bucks Passed or Evaded.”

Whenever opportunity or accountability rears its head in his office — and he could govern instead of just being governor — Branstad vows, “I don’t micro-manage.” “I don’t micro-manage” basically was his response when asked why he didn’t tell his state trooper/chauffer to keep his SUV under 80 mph.

That’s his response when asked to do something about how the State of Iowa ignores problems in the licensing of emergency medical personnel — an awful situation well documented by Clark Kauffman’s reporting in The Des Moines Register.

That’s Branstad’s response when it comes to putting some teeth into regulations about how Iowa oversees nursing homes or combats pollution that has turned Iowa waterways into toilets for industrial agriculture — as Bill Leonard characterized the disaster in a Register op-ed piece.

But it all depends.

Branstad saw nothing wrong with legislation — unique in the nation — that required him to rule on a case-by-case basis whether Medicaid funds should be used to reimburse the University of Iowa medical center for abortion services — in cases where pregnancies are the result of rape or incest, when there are fetal abnormalities or to save the life of the woman. (The issue became moot because the University declined to bill for the services, but Branstad had said he was willing to micro-manage the reimbursement process.)

Branstad sees nothing wrong with his one-man campaign to oust the well-regarded Chris Godfrey from his post as the state workmen’s compensation commissioner — even if the bill for private attorneys approaches $500,000.

Likewise, his appointments have politicized the Iowa Board of Medicine and Judicial Nominating Commission.

The “I don’t micro-manage” stance begins to resemble a Monty Python skit. And that tempts one to consider which Python skit or song might apply. Maybe Michael Palin’s rendition of “I’m a Lumberjack and that’s OK” could be rendered into “I’m Gov’nor for life and that’s OK,” complete with an a-b-c-b rhyme scheme (and the backup chorus). The Lumberjack Song is easy to find on Google/YouTube if you want to sing along:

I’m gov’nor for life and that’s OK.

I cut ribbons and campaign all day,

(He’s gov’nor for life and that’s OK.

He cuts ribbons and campaigns all day.)

I speed down roads, I sign some bills,

but never micro-manage.

OK, so I get involved

when it’s to my advantage.

(He’ll never micro-manage

except to his advantage.)

When it comes to ‘pointments,

I’ll stack and sway state boards.

It’s nice to have commissions

in step with churchy accords.

(And if some bug you? Hey!,

Can them! ‘specially if gay.)

The “watchdog press?” I don’t fret.

They are a docile group.

If you want to know what’s up,

check Skinny for the scoop!

(“Watchdog press?” Just a litter

awash with tweets and twitter.)

I’ve been elected five times

Have not been beaten yet.

Iowans want no gov’nor,

so I’m their very best bet!

(He’s gov’nor for life and that’s OK.

He cuts ribbons and campaigns all day.) 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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