I stumbled across a statistical tidbit the other day that probably will surprise many people. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that between 1900 and 2000, the state that grew the least in population, on a percentage basis, was Iowa. Read that again. No state had smaller population growth between 1900 and 2000, as a percentage, than Iowa. Not North Dakota.
Typically, in the days leading up to the start of a new session of the Iowa Legislature, the attention is on lawmakers’ goals and priorities — and on the pledges they make to work together for the good of the people of Iowa. This year, however, Republican leaders who control the Iowa Senate announced a controversial decision that erases more than a century of openness — evicting journalists from the floor of the Senate chamber. This ill-conceived action makes Iowa an outlier among the legislatures in the 50 states. You could count on one hand those that do not allow journalists on the floor of their legislative chambers. Nowhere in their decision do Senate leaders pretend this change will better inform the people of Iowa about the important work the Senate does.
The death Sunday of Robert Dole was a potent reminder of what we have lost as a nation. Another member of the Greatest Generation has left us — another of those Depression-era kids who came together to save democracy in the dark days of World War II. The career of the 98-year-old Kansas Republican reminds us how diminished our nation’s political system has become in the past 25 years. Far fewer supposed leaders are willing to put their nation ahead of their political party. Of course, Bob Dole was no shrinking violet when it came to politics.
Here is one of the persistent questions rattling around in my head: Why are some well-educated people seemingly so lacking in common sense and good judgment? I’m thinking about Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor for the past 10 years. Cuomo is hanging on to his job by a thread. His job security is so precarious I wouldn’t recommend buying any green bananas for the governor’s mansion.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, herself a Democrat like Cuomo, issued a scathing report last week that found he had created a toxic work environment inside the governor’s office. Specifically, she concluded he sexually harassed at least 11 current or former state employees, all women, since 2013.
Plenty of stray thoughts have been swirling through my noggin lately. Thoughts like: What would Americans and members of Congress think today if the federal government decided against creating the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John Kennedy? What would we think today if the House and Senate two decades ago rejected an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the aborted airliner attack on either the White House or Capitol? What would Americans and members of Congress think if the government refused to convene a special commission after World War II to investigate the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor?
One of my co-workers at the Des Moines Register was Gene Raffensperger, an excellent reporter with a delicious sense of humor. When Raff was working on a dull story, he often would announce to colleagues, “We’re going to need another tanker of Murine. I’ve got an eye-burner here.”
Raff is no longer with us. But if he were, he would be telling us we need another tanker right now, this one filled with Maalox – because there will be lots of upset stomachs in the coming weeks. Americans already are dealing with tremendous amounts of stress, thanks to the worst epidemic in a century, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and the most contentious presidential election in our lifetimes.