Lynn Heuss, a longtime friend and colleague, attended the Harkin Steak Fry yesterday and offered this review:
Democratic Party events don’t often appeal to me, but it’s much easier to go when the event is in support of someone like Senator Tom Harkin. He was, in my opinion, one of a small number of very bright spots at this year’s Steak Fry.
His speech was one of the shorter ones, but also one of the better ones. He often interjected humor, and unlike some of the other candidates, he did it intentionally. He’s a team player – with something positive to say about each of the candidates running for statewide or national office. I’m not certain how he pulls that off, in light of the stand some of them take on issues of importance to Iowans, but he makes it work.
Selden Spencer actually gave the most passionate speech and one that drew the most legitimate emotional response from the audience. He turned the usual generic fear-mongering rhetoric into a litany of actual domestic and foreign policy issues that we should truly be concerned about. It worked. I believe he really does feel it’s his duty to step up to run against Latham and his message presentation about why he would actually be a better representative for Iowans is getting better.
With only 2 minutes, Denise O’Brien didn’t really have time to give a speech, it was more like an extended introduction, and that’s a shame. When I first met her over a year ago, I thought she had great ideas but a less than clear or dynamic presentation. But after taking the time to talk to her at length over that same length of time, I found her vast state, national and international agricultural experience, innovative spirit and passion to restore diversity and opportunity in farming very compelling. I was lucky enough to be with her last week when she was grilled by a board who embraces a “production agriculture only” mentality. They generally support a strictly conventional, “scientific” approach to farming, but would probably disagree and claim diversity by claiming support of recent biotechnological advances. She, on the other hand, refuses to limit the possibilities. She offers creative solutions that would allow young farmers to enter the industry, provide profitable results for all kinds of farmers, and encourage diversity in products. Not only would this be good for Iowa farmers, it would be good for all Iowans. Better environmental practices, more opportunities to have locally grown, healthy produce and a number of different economic benefits, including jobs and more tax revenue. Check her out.
Mike Mauro is another candidate (for Secretary of State) that got little time in the spotlight, but who should be wholeheartedly supported. He truly is the first candidate in a good long while who comes highly qualified for the position and has no higher political aspirations.
I’m not interested in giving a play-by-play of the whole day, and frankly, I’ve already given you the best of the event. With all the press in attendance, I imagine you can get that if you want it.
Gov. Warner, Gov. Vilsack, Secretary Judge, Secretary Culver and even Senator Obama all seemed to spout the same general political rhetoric that we, as the electorate, are willing to accept. They each said things we expect to hear at large Party gatherings, and things that are supposed to elicit an emotional response, but just once it would be great to be surprised with more than political rhetoric. I doubt that anyone would fail to recover from some substantive discussion of issues.
Senator Obama did offer a very articulate, sincere and interesting speech, and in his defense, as the keynote speaker, he’s probably expected to entertain and motivate more than educate. That’s sad, but true. However, he did make one serious error and one I intend to write to him to address. He made a statement that was absolute and comprehensive for the entire audience and it was a not true. He said he was certain there was not a single person at the event who would not take up arms to protect and defend this country and our rights. I know that what he said was not true, because I am a pacifist. Regardless of what he, or you, feels about my position, in the current climate of dishonesty and misguided trust, I think it’s important to be say only what can be validated.
I listened to Senator Harkin share his values – faith, family, opportunity, community, common good for every person – and I want to believe that those are the values of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, it’s often hard to find them anywhere but in a stump speech.