Since then, I've been debating how much of that meeting I should or should not blog about. The meeting was held behind closed doors for a reason, certainly the entire conversation wasn't meant for public consumption, but there really wasn't much there that I would define as "negative," so certainly some of it could and maybe even should be shared. I've also delayed my reaction to give things a bit of time to sink in: there's nothing worse than jumping to a conclusion and then ending up opposing it over time.
As it turns out, the anonymous commenter in this post helped me make up my mind.
TANGENT: I really dislike anonymous comments. If you're writing something that you wouldn't want people to know you're writing, maybe you should re-think your motives. Even when I comment on blogs where I don't have a username (LiveJournal, for example), I sign my name to my posts. Standing behind what you say is a key part of being a responsible adult. I'm not saying I'm going to remove anonymous comments from my blog, I'm just saying...y'know, think about it before you abuse the privelege. END TANGENT.
I think the easiest way to show the results of my meeting with Culver may be to show the question we asked, the answer I was afraid we would get, and the answer we received.
ISSUE: Would you support and advocate for a Clean Elections Law?
FEAR: "That's just sour grapes on your part because you didn't have the connections or willingness to raise money."
REALITY: Chet was unapologetic about the amount of money he's raised, and we didn't press him on where it had come from. His line on the issue, though, rang of truth: "I can't let Jim Nussle buy this election." I saw in him someone who's tired of having to spend half his campaign searching for money, someone tired of being forced to do something entirely irrelevant to politics to continue a career in politics. I laid out some specifics on a Clean Elections system in place in Maine, he showed interest. I sent more info to the other staffer in the meeting and heard back almost immediately. I have hope that he will see the need to eliminate the connection between special interest money and politics. I think he's tracking with it.
ISSUE: Civil rights, civil unions in particular.
FEAR: "I don't think there's support for it right now, so I don't want to fight over it."
REALITY: I've heard a lot of politicians talk about the need for civil unions. I think Culver is the first politician I've ever seen lay out groundwork for how to get there. Before making a move on same-gender marriage, he wants to get sexual preference added to the anti-bullying and anti-discrimination laws in Iowa, so that, when making an argument for same-gender marriage, the proponents have solid footing to stand on. It made sense to me in a "if you'd said it this way all along, it wouldn't have been an issue" kind of way.
FEAR: I think we've all seen this.
REALITY: While I didn't specifically ask questions like "Chet, what's your IQ?" or "Chet, what's the biggest word you've used today?", over two hours, he didn't have a single moment where I would've been embarassed to have him as my governor. Most politicians wouldn't live up to that. He's not polished or a rocket scientist, but I think he's smart enough to handle the job.
ISSUE: Death Penalty
FEAR: "This is flatly a case where the Republicans are right."
REALITY: I think he realizes he's far away from the crowd on this one. He favors the death penalty for extreme situations like the abduction and murder of a child, murder of a police officer, etc. He realizes that his stance on the death penalty puts him at odds with both his party and his church, but says he's not interested in having a purely political "change of heart" on it. All in all, I would rather have a candidate who's against the death penalty in ALL cases, but I'm pretty sure Culver is as close to that as you can get without being there. He was willing to hear the argument against it, which I'm sure he's heard a million times since coming out in favor, but he left with his same position.
This is where the anonymous commenter I mentioned before comes in. This first quote was addressed to Chris Woods:
Chris, Culver's stance on executing people is just as two-faced and weasely as Blouin's stance on abortion. Do you recognize that?
And I responded with:
Actually, for once I'll step up on Culver's behalf here.
I've never heard Culver say anything but the fact that he supports the death penalty in exceptionally limited cases. His position isn't two-faced, in fact it's remarkably consistent.
I, along with some other Fallon staffers and the candidate himself, met with Culver today, and while I disagree with him on some issues and don't feel he's exceptionally bright, I do respect his stances, largely. They don't look contrived for political gain. In fact, I don't think Chet COULD fake a stance for political gain.
Also, I'd like to stress that this argument isn't about Chet. Again.
The anonymous commenter wasn't done:
Still not buying it. Two-faced doesn't mean he's flip-flopped. It means he's trying to have it both ways. The weasely part is saying you'll support ending abortion/bringing about state executions and also saying you'll do nothing to make it happen.
Both Blouin and Culver talk out of both sides of their mouths hoping the red-meaters hear the "pro-life" or "pro-state-execution" and the more enlightened voters concentrate on the "but I won't lift a finger to bring about my desired result." This is weasly and two-faced.
You could say that Culver has been consistantly weasly and two-faced on the death penalty issue, much more so than Blouin was with abortion. But he's still a weasle.
This argument is weak when it comes to Culver. As I've mentioned before, and in the comment, while I don't always agree with his logic, I'm struck by how often and how well Culver sticks to his stances on issues: there's been minimal to no deviation from him in a very long time.
The second problem with this argument is the "but I won't lift a finger" part. While Culver has said that passing a death penalty law would require:
a) A legislature, almost certainly Republican led, willing to pass a death penalty bill, which isn't a certainty, and
b) Said legislature passing a bill narrow enough in scope to meet Chet's specific requirements concerning the types of crime involved, amount of recourse available, etc.
If, IF, these conditions were met, he would sign the bill. Hence, he's not two faced on the issue. Given the opportunity to do what he feels should be done, he'd do it. There's just a very narrowly defined situation where that could occur.
Personally, I feel like leaving anonymous comments spreading misinformation is "weasly" too.
With that covered, allow me to clarify my new position on Culver:
I plan on voting for Chet Culver on November 7, actually probably before, as I tend to vote absentee. I'll vote for him because I think, at the very least, the gears in his head are turning in the right direction on the issues I care about, more so than the gears in Jim Nussle's head. I think others, including those who supported Ed Fallon in the primary, should take the time to look at the candidates, and once they do, I'm betting they'll consider Chet the better candidate, as well.
I don't intend to use this space to write glowing endorsements of Culver's candidacy. I still have concerns about the origins of his money, the outside chance his running mate will become governor, the people he surrounds himself with (Bill Knapp, specifically, but there are others), and his intelligence. I don't intend to work for him at this point. If someone writes a comment about Culver's weaknesses in regards to one of those issues or others I may have forgotten, I'll probably agree.
But with that said, when I read misinformation, I do intend to stand up and correct it. It's part of being a responsible blogger.