Editorial: Karl Rove for once good for Iowa politics


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Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced last month that he will not seek re-election in 2014, leaving the seat up for grabs in a state in which neither party dominates. The conversation about who will fill the vacancy has already begun.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, has announced his candidacy. The outlook is considerably hazier for the Republicans.

Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, is reportedly considering a bid, but a bigger question looms out west. Will Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, make a run at the Senate?

King, the controversial tea-party favorite from Iowa’s 4th district, hasn’t said whether he will run, but the mere specter of his candidacy has injected some intra-party conflict into Iowa’s political scene.

A New York Times report indicated that GOP strategist Karl Rove plans to leverage his Super PAC’s resources to oppose King in a Republican primary, should the congressman choose to run. In response to the failures of such controversial Republican candidates as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock to win Senate seats in strongly Republican states last year, Rove has pledged to weed out potential problem candidates in 2014 party primaries.

Gov. Terry Branstad and King have both taken umbrage with Rove for his alleged tampering with democracy in Iowa. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board, however, takes a softer stance. We’re all for a healthy statewide democracy where the people choose their leaders independently, but King has been an abject embarrassment to the state since he took office. Anyone willing to oppose his candidacy in any legal capacity is welcome to do so.

Our rationale for such a stance is simple: In word and in deed, King is appalling. Even the partial list of his political transgressions below reads like parody.

Last summer on CNN, King weighed in on the attitude and lifestyle of America’s unemployed.
“There are more and more people that are looking at others saying they shouldn’t be making that much money because I’m not,” King said. “And they don’t feel as much guilt about the 72 different means-tested welfare programs that we have. Today it’s almost a government guarantee of a middle-income standard of living from all these [government safety net] programs we have.”

In 2009, after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, King went on the radio and warned that the decision would turn Iowa into “the mecca of same-sex marriage.” The interview concluded with a puzzling bit of fear-mongering in which King called gay marriage a “purely socialist concept” that would hasten the coming of a socialist society.

This type of fear-mongering has long been King’s weapon of choice. In 2008, he infamously said that if Barack Obama was elected, ¬†Al Qaeda “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”

In 2010, King told yet another talk radio host that he believed President Obama had a “default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race on the side that favors the black person.”

A year before that, King was the lone opponent of a resolution to formally acknowledge and apologize for slavery. King said that an apology amounted to “white people wallowing in guilt.”

King was one of 11 representatives to vote against the federal aid bill for Hurricane Katrina; he has hailed Joe McCarthy as an American hero without a shred of irony.

There is some reason to believe that he may be moving a few micrometers closer to the political center, however. Normally an immigration hawk, King said in a late January statement that he agrees with “most of the language in the very broad guidelines” of the Senate’s proposed immigration reform bill.

This shift represents a considerable softening on immigration from King. Last May, he told the crowd at a campaign stop that the United States should choose immigrants like hunting dogs.

“You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive?” he said. “Pick the one that’s the friskiest, the one that’s engaged the most, and not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner,”

In 2010, King told Congress that racial profiling is an important component of immigration enforcement and that a person’s accent, grooming habits, and “what kind of shoes people wear” are important indicators of citizenship or a lack thereof.

Iowa deserves better than Steve King, today and in 2014.

Mr. Rove, in this case, gouge away.

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