by Marty Ryan
I rediscovered a valuable lesson after Tuesday’s election. Don’t let the opposition determine the issue.
Bruce Braley’s campaign for the U.S. Senate was poorly run. That’s my opinion. It began when he spoke to a group of trial attorneys in Texas, stating that if the Democrats lost the majority in the U.S. Senate, “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” would become the next Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He apologized within a day of the tape being aired on television. That was his first big mistake. He didn’t need to apologize; he stated a fact.
At that point, he allowed the Republicans and media to define the issue.
Twenty years ago, I was studying to become a legal assistant. The class in Advanced Legal Research and Writing was given an assignment. I can’t recall the specific assignment, but I do recall the case associated with the assignment – State v. Lake. Kathy Lake, from Muscatine, took her case to the Iowa Supreme Court defending herself (pro se). Here are the facts in the case:
On June 23, 1990, defendant, Kathy Lake, was a passenger in an automobile being driven on a public street in West Liberty. A police officer stopped the vehicle based on his belief that the driver was operating while intoxicated. The validity of that stop is not challenged. The driver brought the vehicle to a stop in a public parking lot. The officer ordered the driver out of the car.
At or near the time that the driver exited the vehicle, the defendant also stepped out of the vehicle and spoke to the officer. The officer directed defendant to re-enter the vehicle and, when she did not, told her to stay in the vicinity. Based on the officer’s observations of defendant, she was charged with public intoxication in violation of Iowa Code section 123.46 (1989).
Notice that Lake was “outside” of the vehicle when she was charged with public intoxication. The issue in the case was whether “defendant [Lake] was in a “public place” even while she remained within the automobile.” Evidently, without knowing any more information other than provided in the written opinion, it appears as though Kathy Lake controlled the issue. There was an alternative question for the court to answer – “that she entered a public place when she exited the car.”
If you read this case, you will realize that Lake determined the issue. When I read this case almost 20 years ago, I had to read it more than once. It came in handy for two reasons. First, the State attempted for years to change the law so that “the interior of a motor vehicle is public place for the purposes of public intoxication”. Imagine how detrimental that law would have been if it were enacted? I did everything I could to stop that legislation from becoming law, and it seems like I had to do that for six or eight straight years. In the end, a couple of government entities quit introducing it – I won! Second, it taught me that I should be able to decide what the issue is for discussion, not someone else. That’s how I try to lobby.
Braley did not insult Grassley; he stated a fact. Yet, he succumbed to what the opposition considered to be an insult. Or, was that the game all along? Make it appear as though he insulted the senior senator from Iowa.
The media rose again to condemn a statement made by Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin said “that Ernst wasn’t fit to be Iowa’s senator just because she’s ‘really attractive and she sounds nice.’”
In addressing fellow Democrats in Ames, Harkin said: “I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.” Within a day Senator Harkin is saying that he regretted those remarks. Why?
In politics, the opposition always says unflattering things about you. How ironic that Senator-elect Ernst wouldn’t talk to media outlets in Iowa because they wrote negative editorials about her, but she used CNN to express her distaste for what Harkin said. She controlled the issue.
Besides, the double standard was very obvious in this campaign. Why is it that Joni Ernst did not apologize for her husband’s remarks on Facebook about Hillary Clinton being a hag? Or that he posted a supposed joke that displayed violence against women? Neither the campaign nor Joni apologized. These are instances in which an apology is appropriate. Again, she controlled the issue and the media allowed it.
What will happen now that Braley has been defeated and the Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate? A “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” will probably become the next Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s a fact.
I’m taking control of this issue. Should I apologize?