Thirty-five Iowa republican delegates boarded a bus in Manhattan yesterday and got out in Harlem. The group volunteered to spruce up a park. Some sanded and painted park benches. Others worked on landscaping, spreading mulch. Keith Hunter of Des Moines has never been to New York City before and relished the chance to see another burrough. “It’s an opportunity to show the true heart of republicans, to give back to those in need,” Hunter said. Bernard Hayes of Cedar Rapids says he wanted to do something to “pay back” New Yorkers who’ve been so welcoming of the G-O-P, and that includes wielding a paint brush or broom. “I’m willing to tackle anything,” Hayes said just before boarding the bus. John Ortega of Bettendorf says he went the park to “accomplish something positive. Unlike the democrats, what they do is just tear things up and cause havoc and we’re going to give a little bit back to the community…leave a little goodness here.” Luana Stoltenberg of Davenport was also part of what the GOP billed as its day of “compassion in action.” “I guess we hope to let people know that republicans are very compassionate and we do love people and that’s why we’re involved in government,” she said. Ray Hoffman of Sioux City says it was a “remarkable” day, working alongside people from North Carolina and South Dakota. “Get out there and do something, rather than just taking all the time, give back,” he said. “I’ve been really, really lucky and I’ve kind of lived the American dream so for me it’s just kind of a natural to do something like that.” Several legislators were part of the group, including state Senator Larry McKibben. “Part of what we need to do as republicans is put a face on the party,” McKibben said. “Not only is the war on terror important, but our relationship to people and I think the ‘Compassion Across America’ (program) is a great way for the republicans to go out and say to folks, ‘Look, you know we care about your ordinary lives, your daily lives and we care about your communities and we’re going into your community to help,’” McKibben said. Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan who came prepared for hard work. “I brought my work gloves,” she said, holding a pair of leather gloves. “I don’t do any work outside without my glove.” And state Representative Dwayne Alons of Hull worked alongside. “I think it show people that republicans are compassionate people and want to help folks out…we want to extend our hand,” he said. Isaiah McGee of West Des Moines helped organize yesterday’s service project, and he was invited to sit in Vice President Dick Cheney’s box last night in the convention hall.
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is calling on the independent groups that have been running commercials critical of the new prescription drug benefit for seniors to pull those ads. Grassley also wants the groups to stop “bad-mouthing” the plan as he says some low-income seniors aren’t signing up for free prescription drugs.Grassley says the groups are making false accusations for political purposes. Grassley at one point pounded the lectern as he talked about the ads yesterday at a news conference in New York City. “It’s fair to say I’m a little incensed,” he said. Grassley says up to three MILLION poor senior citizens haven’t signed up for the six-hundred dollars worth of prescription drug coverage they are now due under the new law. Grassley conceeds the ads are not currently running on Iowa t-v stations, but he says he they have before and he expects them to air again sometime before the November election.
Two more potential presidential candidates of 2008 paid a visit to Iowa convention delegates this morning. The Iowans jumped to their feet the moment former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani walked in the room. Guiliani didn’t give a long speech, and spent more of his time answering questions. All but one of the questions were about September 11th, and afterwards, Guiliani said that’s not unusual, even though New Yorkers think the rest of the country didn’t “feel” 9/11 the way they did.
”It’s really interesting because the impression often is just the opposite,” Guiliani said. “The impression is that we’re closer to it and people outside New York maybe don’t feel it as much, but I’ve found in traveling that it’s actually maybe just the opposite. I think that people outside New York do feel it quite a bit and this is something that isn’t just New York, I mean this affected all of America. They watched it. They saw it. It was catastrophic for all of them and you can’t imagine how many people have connections to it – a relative or a friend and then they don’t get to see day in and day out the recovery that’s taken place, so many people will come here from other places and actually be shocked that the people of New York have recovered as well as they have.”
Guiliani told reporters he’s not ready to talk about the ’08 race. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I have no focus beyond 2004 right now. The only two things I’m thinking about in the future right now are the Yankees getting themselves into the World Series and President Bush being re-elected.” And for you baseball fans, Guiliani said Bush’s re-election was more likely. The other potential candidate of the future to talk with Iowans was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney made sure the crowd knew he had spent time in Iowa, working as a consultant for a Marshalltown company.
”I spent probably two years flying into Des Moines and then driving, about an hour a little over an hour to get to Marshalltown and then we’d go out to dinner at Rubes,” he said, mentioning an infamous steakhouse where patrons are allowed to grill their own steaks.
“You know Rubes?” he asked the Iowans, who began nodding and ahhing. “Ah, yea, we know Rubes. And so I feel like I know at least a corner of Iowa because I spent so much time there in Marshalltown and then over in Ames and back in Des Moines. And I know there are a lot more republicans in Iowa than there are in Massachusetts.”
Romney, who was head of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, spoke for about 20 minutes, and spent a few minutes attacking democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for flip-flopping.
“He’s conflicted on so many issues he sounds like and actually is a person incapable of coming down firmly on one side of a key issue,” Romney said.
Iowa’s delegation at the Republican National Convention was right next to the seat filmmaker Michael Moore sat in last night on the convention floor. Jerry Tweeten of Forest City took a picture. “Why? Just to see what his expression was, that’s all,” Tweeten said. “He was hiding for a while.” Tweeten isn’t impressed with Moore, and waved a George W. Bush sign in Moore’s face after he snapped the picture. Another Iowa delegate, Paula Dierenfeld, tried to take a picture of Moore with someone else’s camera. “As I’m trying to take the picture, one of the security guards came up and put his hand over my camera and said ‘You can’t do that, miss,’ and so I wasn’t able to take a picture of him,” Dierenfeld said. Dierenfeld, who’s no fan of Moore’s either, was outraged. “This is a public figure in a public place,” Dierenfeld said. “He has no right to privacy there.” The Iowa guys who got the snaps of Moore say they were just more persistent than Dierenfeld was. Dierenfeld says she didn’t want the security guard to take her friend’s camera. Moore, the maker of the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 which criticizes the war in Iraq, was roundly booed last night on the convention floor as Senator John McCain criticized Moore. The filmmaker is writing an opinion column for USA Today, and had a reserved seat in the press gallery on the convention floor.
The Republican Party has ratified its platform outlining the G-O-P’s stand on a variety of issues, and Paula Dierenfeld of Johnston was a member of the committee that reviewed and approved the document. Dierenfeld says she’s surprised the process went as smoothly as it did and there wasn’t a lot of controversy. Bush campaign operatives drafted much of the document, which calls for constitutional bans on gay marriage and abortion and limits on stem cell research as well language praising the President’s handling of the economy and the war on terror. Dierenfeld says there was a focus on what she called “the President’s accomplishments” and she says “generally, there was just a real commitment on the part of the people involved to get this president re-elected.” Dierenfeld, a former staff leader for Iowa Senate Republicans and now a lobbyist, is married to David Roederer, the Bush/Cheney Iowa campaign chairman. Each state had two members on the platform committee. Iowa’s other member was Reverend Morris Hurd of Marengo. Hurd says the document is consistent with past platforms “so I guess all of us understand what it means to be a republican.” Hurd says a big part of the platform spells out the President’s record on the war on terror. Hurd’s hoarse this morning as he thinks he had to talk louder than normal to be heard during the hours he was on the convention floor yesterday.
A few of the potential GOP presidential candidates of 2008 are meeting with Iowans at the Republican National Convention in New York City. Yesterday morning, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel spoke to the Iowans who’re in the Big Apple. This morning, former New York Mayor Rudy Guilliani will appear before the Iowa delegation. Iowa Republican Party executive director Gentry Collins says these potential presidential candidates of 2008 have to walk a tightrope.
“You’re talking about a group of people who have aspirations for 2008, but I think that they for a variety of reasons, including the fact that our party is focused on re-electing the president, need to be careful about being too upfront about what their ambitions may or may not be,” Collins says. “It forces every body to get this job done before they starting focusing on the next one.”
As a result, Collins says none of the presidential wannabes of the future has been overtly courting Iowans at the convention. Inside the tight confines of Madison Square Garden, there is one empty chair in the Iowa delegation’s seating on the convention floor, a spot reserved for Iowa Republican Party chairman Chuck Larson. Larson is on active duty in Iraq, and convention managers have placed a yellow ribbon on Larson’s empty chair.
“A very nice touch,” says Dave Roederer, the Bush/Cheney Iowa campaign chair.
State Senator Larry McKibben of Marshalltown and his wife have been photographing some of the protests at this convention. McKibben says he’ll give the snaps to his next door neighbor – Marshalltown’s police chief – to show him how they handle things in the big city.
Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel spoke to the Iowa delegation at the Republican National Convention this morning, delivering a speech which focused somewhat on the next four years of a potential Bush Administration, but Hagel did drop a few hints of Iowa ties he might exploit if he runs for President in 2008.
“I don’t pretend to have any direct lineage to all you influential people in Iowa, although I do have many, many cousins that live in Iowa…and of course being the shameless politician that I am, I call upon that connection all the time,” Hagel said as the Iowans laughed. “I don’t think any of ‘em are horse thieves. They’ve all paid their taxes.”
Hagel paid tribute to the role Iowa’s Caucuses have as the lead-off contest in the presidential selection process.
“How you put your imprimatur on the front-end of the process (is) absolutely important and it’s critical,” Hagel said. “I draw some sense of perspective from the fact that (the Caucus results) come from the Heartland.”
But afterwards, Hagel was cagey when reporters asked him about his aspirations for the White House. “I haven’t changed anything about who I talk to,” Hagel said. “If I’m invited to talk to the Iowa delegation or the New Hampshire delegation, I”ll do it.”
But Hagel did admit to a reluctance to any overt campaign-style speeches or events. “I think you have to be very sensitive to that,” he told reporters. “I’m a long way from making any decisions on what my political future is.” Hagel was re-elected to a second term in the U-S Senate in 2002.
Hagel was at ease behind the microphone during his speech, joking with the delegates on a variety of topics. But Hagel grew serious as he talked about the challenges of the four years ahead. And Hagel criticized the conduct of this year’s presidential campaign, not only lambasting the independent groups running critical ads but lambasting John Kerry and George Bush, too. Hagel, who is 59 years old, served in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts, before starting a brief career in radio. He’s been an investment banker, an entrepreneur, a lobbyist and he was appointed by President Reagan to be deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration
Many of the Iowa delegates at the Republican National Convention in New York City came face-to-face with protestors last night. This morning, Reverend Morris Hurd of Marengo opened the Iowa delegation’s morning meeting by praying for those protestors. “We pray for these demonstrators who seem so confused,” Hurd began. Hurd said the protestors are “putting so much energy into just hatred.” Hurd and the Iowa delegates prayed that there might be some way the protestors “could come to terms with feelings that they have and can support the country” the way he and the republicans at the convention want to do. Last night as Iowa delegates walked out of a Broadway they were shouted at by young demonstrators, chanting “just go home” and punctuating their protests with obscenities. Some of the Iowa delegates yelled back, and Iowa Republican Party co-chair Leon Moseley said they wouldn’t let the protestors divert the GOP from its main goal of defeating John Kerry.
Iowa Republican convention delegates and protestors in New York City came face to face last night. The Iowans attended a Broadway show, and afterwards, theater managers had Iowans wait inside while the majority of the protestors passed by on the street outside. The Republicans inside the theater started their own chanting. “Four more years,” they shouted, “Four more years.” Once the Iowans got outside, they were verbally accosted by a group of young protestors in a somewhat chaotic scene. Some obscenities were shouted. And some of the Iowans shouted back. Iowa GOP co-chairman Leon Moseley called the protestors an “appetizer” of what’s to come this week in New York, but he said the delegates wouldn’t be deterred from their main goal of re-electing Bush. “You gotta understand something about the devil. The devil will try to throw you off. The devil will try to keeps you busy. We’re not going to chase rabbits. Okay?” Moseley told two Iowa reporters Sunday night. “You don’t take a high-powered rifle and go shoot a rabbit. We are going to get the big one.” The Iowa delegation saw the Broadway show “Bombay Dreams” before the melee in the street and a handful of the Iowans were offended by the subject matter. One of the play’s main characters is a eunuch, what some called a cross-dresser. John Knudson of Sumner, an alternate Iowa delegate, left early to escort three Iowa women back to their hotel. “I was selected to come here to do a job with my moral beliefs,” Knudson said. “(The play) very well could be good for some people, but it wasn’t for us.” Others stayed, but were not impressed. Jerry Tweeten of Forest City would rather have seen “The Lion King” than a play featuring a cross-dresser. “I was offended a little bit,” he said afterwards. State Senator Larry Miller, a republican from Libertyville, said it wasn’t ‘Hello Dolly’ but still was “in pretty good taste. Us republicans are a little more broadminded than people give us credit for. You know, we just don’t like it thrown in our face,” Miller said. Miller said the play was done in “good taste and it had a good story to it.”
A good number of the Iowa delegates at this convention have been to conventions before, or they’re elected officials or even lobbyists. “Jaded” or “cynical” might be words you’d use to describe them. But you’d never use those words to describe Joni Scotter of Cedar Rapids. She is a delegate who gets tears in her eyes when she talks about attending her first convention. “It is going to be the most exciting convention ever,” Scotter said with a hushed voice. “I never dreamed that I could be part of it and I am so excited and so honored to represent Linn County. It’s just the most wonderful adventure and you come into New York City and it’s like, whew, isn’t it awesome!” Scotter and a friend struck out on the town Saturday night, with dinner at a famous bistro, music at an exclusive club, a trip to the top of the Empire State Building and a midnight ride on the Staten Island ferry. “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said. “Lady Liberty on our first night!” She was equally transfixed by Times Square. “We saw all these lights and all these people walking and I’m thinking ‘Oh my,’” she said. Scotter is almost overcome with emotion when she talks about the opportunity she’ll have here at the convention to see party luminaries like “The Governator” Arnould Schwartzenegger, former New York Mayor Rudy Guilliani and, of course, President Bush. Scotter will be sitting on the convention floor, in the front with the rest of the Iowa delegation, cheering her party’s big shots. “When you hear oooOOOOO, you’ll know it’s Joni from Iowa,” she said, laughing. Joni’s laugh is what distinguishes her from the rest of the delegates. You can pick Iowa GOP co-chair Leon Moseley of Waterloo out of a crowd, too, because he’s wearing a big old white cowboy hat. “Nobody will give me guff about my hat,” Moseley said, when asked about his signature headware. And on Sunday, Moseley was wearing a black marine t-shirt that read “Bad to the Bone.”