Saturday, October 16, 2021

How the halls of government have turned to sponges for Grassley | Richard A. Posner

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There’s nothing like the heat of the summer in Iowa, home of the country’s first presidential caucuses. And there’s nothing quite like having your ass handed to you by a bitter partisan in Washington – the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, for instance, who sows such a lather of contempt for and contempt for the people’s representatives in this small state that they are forced to shut their eyes when he does his scowl.

Senators have other things to do when the sun is blazing on the plains of the world’s first caucus state, for those who haven’t found the time to do their country’s business, and none more so than the senior senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley.

Grassley is 69, and he has been up there since 1973, when he was elected to represent the people of Iowa in the Iowa senate.

Now he is running for an eighth term in the senate, and in all likelihood will win, which means that, as of now, he will be the longest-serving senator in the history of the US.

The only reason he won’t hold on to his seat until 2049, and serve until he’s 90 – and yes, his office is well aware of this – is that in this political moment, at a time of disorientation and confusion about how to move forward and make hard and important decisions, Grassley is more wise and the more qualified man to lead.

At that moment, his seniority over the 150-member Senate committee that makes law for America, will make him the head of the Watergate committee. We will find out if Democrats in the senate take up one of their best ideas to restore credibility to the body: if they do not use the golden years of Grassley’s chairmanship to subpoena those yahoos who took the nation to the brink of economic ruin, and ruin at that.

Grassley’s own face goes up when he is talking about Donald Trump, who chooses the senator as his personal hero.

Grassley once told a Jewish newspaper that he had been diagnosed with “probably more charm and more talent than almost anybody in history”. It doesn’t take a hagiographer to discover that that is not an admittance of brilliance or excellence but an affirmation of Grassley’s intrinsic failings.

“By accident,” he once said, “me and Donald Trump share the same haircut.”

Nothing about Grassley suggests that he does not share Trump’s ignorance of the basic facts of American constitutional law, or his mistaken conclusion that taking away a woman’s right to choose is the “one of the worst injustices in American history”, or his comprehension of the value of putting all United States citizens at risk when he stands next to Trump, who forces this nation and the people of Iowa to be as irrelevant as possible to its own government.

But the Iowa senator knows how to polish his image and push it even further right. In recent months, the number of people who live in the third district of Iowa (Grassley’s home turf), exceeds the number of Iowa children that could have been vaccinated against polio if instead the vaccine had been used, according to government statistics.

Since 1988, Grassley has helped push through laws and executive orders that have protected polluters and done nothing to protect America, at the cost of thousands of lives.

We might be wise not to elevate the ghost of Mitch McConnell and his Wisconsin pals, but if we’re talking about someone who is forever adding and subtracting, how about the glorious but forever empty chambers of the United States senate?

I asked one of Grassley’s Democratic opponents in the race to replace him, former senator Tom Harkin, if there was any justice in the Senate that would give Grassley another term. He said he’d been senator too long, didn’t really care about the presidency, and didn’t care about the judiciary committee, as he thinks the Republicans who led that committee have gone down this unsavory path as well.

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