The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Iowa Flashback: August 2011

Posted on | August 13, 2012 | 20 Comments

Intersection in a cornfield near Roland, Iowa

Paul Ryan is campaigning — and getting heckled — today in Iowa and I don’t know how many readers realize that today is the one-year anniversary of the Iowa GOP Straw Poll at Ames, which I covered under the headline, “Fear and Loathing at the Hilton Coliseum.”

In case you’ve forgotten, Michelle Bachmann won the straw poll, Ron Paul was second, Tim Pawlenty was a weak third, Rick Santorum was a surprising fourth and Herman Cain finished a disappointing fifth. Rick Perry was sixth at Ames; his write-in total actually exceeded Mitt Romney’s straw-poll vote. What reminded me of this anniversary was an e-mail I got today from an Iowa reader:

I’ve been following your articles since you interviewed me at Herman Cain’s stop at Denison, IA, in 2011. Keep up the good work.

Denison? Hmmm. That sounded familiar. So I quickly searched the archives and confirmed my memory — yes, that was the stop on Herman Cain’s bus tour with the overflow crowd at Crunk’s Cafe. And yes, I’d interviewed the lady afterwards:

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Lois Vanderbur drove 30 miles from her home in Mapleton to attend Herman Cain’s event Monday in Denison. When the event was over, she went to eat at a nearby McDonald’s, where I overheard her tell her friend Rose Wolden: “Obama was an hour late for his speech and promised to raise taxes, and then the Dow fell 550 points.”
Mrs. Vanderbur, 68, is a very well-informed grandmother. When I asked her about the stock market tumble, she whipped out her iPhone, called up the latest numbers and told me that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had, in fact, closed at 10,809.85 for a one-day loss of 634.67 points. Forget all that stereotypical talk about Iowans being a bunch of ignorant hicks from flyover country. Their state’s most famous product is still corn — and the cornfields here are better measured by the square mile than by the acre — but the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses have made politics at least the state’s second-most important export, and few Americans are more civic-minded than a politically active Iowan.
Mrs. Vanderbur and Mrs. Wolden were among more than 60 area residents who crowded into Cronk’s Café in downtown Denison for Cain’s mid-afternoon event, the second stop on his statewide “Common Sense Solutions” bus tour. . . .

You can read the whole thing, if you’d care to refresh your memory of where the campaign stood a year ago, although it seems like a million years ago now, doesn’t it?

There is, to my mind, nothing in journalism to match the thrill of covering the early stages of the primary campaign in places like Denison, Iowa: Candidates criss-crossing the state, speaking to crowds numbered in the dozens at little cafes in small towns, with barely a handful of reporters there to cover the occasion. It was exciting — and not just because I was always driving 110 mph on two-lane backroads in a desperate effort to keep up with the campaign schedule.

Ah, such memories of Iowa! My story that day was filed from Council Bluffs, where Cain ended the first day of his Iowa bus tour. I was tempted to do what’s called a “toe-touch” dateline. Dave Weigel was at the Council Bluffs rally, and he wanted to eat dinner at a Czech restaurant (The Bohemian Cafe) across the river in Omaha, Nebraska. So we went there and had a nice Bohemian dinner, but when I tried to write my story in the Omaha restaurant, the Gods of Dateline Integrity intervened: I couldn’t get a WiFi connection.

The Bohemian Cafe has great Czech cuisine but, alas, is not exactly in Iowa

Now, I actually had been in Council Bluffs, and the events I was reporting had taken place in Iowa, but the fact was that I was trying to write the story across the river in Nebraska, an attempted minor fib that clearly offended the Gods of Dateline Integrity. Unable to get a WiFi hookup, I was compelled to race back across the river into Council Bluffs and file my story from a McDonald’s, where the dining room closed before I hit my deadline, and I wrote the last couple hundred words with my laptop propped on the hood of my car.

Woe to he who offends the Gods of Dateline Integrity!

Stuff like that doesn’t happen when you’re just sitting around an office. And if my career ambition had been to sit around an office all day, I could have been an accountant or a banker or something like that. Instead, I became a journalist, and in this business there’s no substitute for actually going where news is happening and seeing it with your own two eyes. So that’s why I’m going to Ohio Tuesday for three events with Romney — Beallsville, Zanesville and Chillicothe — and thanks to those who’ve already contributed to the Shoe Leather Fund to help with the travel expenses: Paul in Wilmington, Mike in Hollis, Wallace in Houston, James in San Rafael, Jeffrey in Bolingbrook, Margo in New York, and Mark in Pennsylvania.




20 Responses to “Iowa Flashback: August 2011”

  1. jlwellfonder
    August 13th, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    Grrr….these hecklers are pissing me off :/ But glad to read about your happy memories 😉

  2. Adjoran
    August 13th, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    More classic Stalinist theory:  dissent must be silenced, it should not be allowed a hearing.

    It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Obama and the Democrats see no alternative.  After all, what are they going to do?  Run on their record?

  3. CPAguy
    August 13th, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    Herman Cain > Mitt Romney ~ Barack Obama

  4. Finrod Felagund
    August 13th, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    The Obama campaign must be worried, I haven’t seen web trolls out in force like this for a long time.

  5. jlwellfonder
    August 13th, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re paid to be there.

  6. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    August 13th, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    Stalinist is when they take you behind the barn and shoot you in the head.  This is an Alinski tactic, which is on the road to Stalinist.  

  7. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    August 13th, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    We need to push back against them.  

  8. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    August 13th, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    I think the better equation is:
     Herman Cain > Mitt Romney > Barack Obama.   

    At least on economic policy.  

    But ask Herman who he is supporting for President and he will tell you Mitt Romney.   

  9. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    August 13th, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

    That Bohemian Cafe sign is killer!  I love old neon signs like that.  Keep posting pictures like that and you will turn into  Lilkes!

  10. CPAguy
    August 13th, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    Didn’t say I was voting for Obama…(though I was planning to in a small effort to spite the GOP until that HC decision by John Roberts).

    Just keeping my eyes open.

    Mittens was the worst candidate who ran besides Newt Gingrich…though Romney’s fake “Conservative” comrade, Rick Perry, was also in the running (Perry bends to Conservative pressure, usually, however).

    All the other candidates were far superior to Romney.

    Although I am not the biggest fan of Ryan (balancing the budget in 28 years is not bold or even rational), it dors mean that Team Mittens is starting to look at the pools and starting to seem the same “DOOM” looming for them that everyone else sees.

    Paul Ryan was the bone Team Mittens needed to throw out to Conservatives to avoid the embarrassment that Mittens father endured and to gain any chance of beating Obama.

    ve” comrade was also

  11. Adjoran
    August 13th, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

     Stalin didn’t have anyone shot for disagreeing until he got full control, absolute power.  But his goons were good about “discouraging” the Trotskyites and  disrupting their meetings.

    Alinsky didn’t invent anything new, he just applied the Stalinist tactics to radical movements out of power.

  12. Adjoran
    August 13th, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

     Of course they are worried.  They know they aren’t drawing crowds and they aren’t raising money like they did last election.  Despite the phony media polls, the professionals with daily tracking show the race hasn’t really moved much at all since Romney clinched, despite Obama dropping over $130 million on attack ads.

  13. Wombat_socho
    August 13th, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    Hey, I’m an accountant without an office. 🙁

  14. Adobe_Walls
    August 13th, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    Correct. Ultimately this ends in damp basements, secret prisons and in front of adobe walls.

  15. Andrew Patrick
    August 13th, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

    Distinguishing between Stalinists and Trotskyites gives the latter too much credit. Trotsky was perfectly comfortable with crushing dissent and terrorizing the people when Lenin was doing it. The discovery of Trotsky’s conscience coincided with the discovery that it wouldn’t be Trotsky holding the whip after Lenin died.

    They’re all the same.

  16. Bob Belvedere
    August 14th, 2012 @ 8:04 am

    Alinsky didn’t invent anything new, he just applied the Stalinist tactics to radical movements out of power.

    And combined it with Mob tactics.


  17. Bob Belvedere
    August 14th, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    Electing Willard is merely a holding action.

  18. CPAguy
    August 14th, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    An 8 year holding action?

  19. Bob Belvedere
    August 14th, 2012 @ 1:11 pm


  20. aGrimm
    August 15th, 2012 @ 4:24 am

    I love this story, but it always cracks me up when I see big city reporters discovering how politically knowledgeable rural folks can be.  A big city, west-coast boy myself, I too got educated about rural folk with a 13 year stint in Nebraska.  What I discovered: most farmers are college educated, and they don’t go for worthless sociology degrees.  And guess what?  Living where there are not a lot of distractions, they read – copiously.  Along with today’s internet access, they are very well informed – plus they discuss.  Sitting in one of the local small town diners is highly entertaining listening to the political, sports and other discussions taking place.   There is good reason most of the mid-West States are conservative;  they get it.