Political sins and atonement



Followers of Garrison Keillor will notice that his column no longer appears in The Storm Lake Times — or any other newspaper.

After he was accused by a woman of ungentlemanly behavior a week ago, the popular Minnesota humorist and creator of public radio’s popular Prairie Home Companion was dropped by the syndicate that distributed him.

No big deal for us. It will save us $5 a week and leave more room for my drivel.

All of the men in private life who have been accused of similar behavior in recent weeks have been dealt with harshly and quickly by their employers. But public employees — members of Congress, in particular — are a different story.

There’s the astounding case of Roy Moore, the Alabama judge who was removed from a district court and the state’s Supreme Court, for unethical behavior and refusing to enforce laws he disagreed with.

Out of work, he decided to run for the United States Senate. He had wide support by the voters of Alabama, who saw him as a candidate who would champion Christian ideals. Trouble is, it turns out that when he was a grown man in his 30s, this “Christian” had a fondness for romancing school girls, some as young as 14 years old. About a dozen of them have come public with their tales of him chasing them. It was so bad that he was banned from a mall in Gadsden, Ala., because he was annoying the school girls there.

You’d think that would be enough for Alabama voters to reject him out-of-hand. But they are such die-hard Republicans there that it looks like he’ll be elected nevertheless.

Decent Republicans across the nation have disavowed Moore because they don’t want to be associated with a sleaze like him. The GOP risks being known as the Grand Old Pedophile party, as Chris Matthews quipped on TV’s Hardball Tuesday night.

Moore’s biggest backer is Donald Trump, who was elected President despite evidence from at least 14 women that he too is a sexual predator.

As I said, private citizens would be ostracized for this behavior. But not politicians, apparently.

I have never much liked Alabama. When I was a young man I remember African Americans being beaten and murdered by police in Selma and Birmingham, and Alabama Governor George Wallace declaring that schools in his state would never be integrated. At his inaugural address in 1963 he vowed: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” That same year he stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to prevent the entrance of two black students. This isn’t ancient history. This is in my lifetime. (Well, my youth probably seems like ancient history to my children.)

My dislike for Alabama has been sustained by the Crimson Tide’s success in college football, particularly when they beat Notre Dame in the National Championship in 2012. There’s no doubt that their coach, Nick Saban, is one of the greatest in college football history, but he is thoroughly disagreeable. He never smiles, even when he wins the National Championship. I don’t think it would be much fun to play for him, but it would probably land you a pro football contract.

There are certainly good people from Alabama, and Patti Moore, our former city manager, is one of them. Now retired, she and Dick live in the Kansas City area near their daughter.

I hope all the good Alabamans turn out Dec. 12 and vote for the guy running against Roy Moore. If they don’t like the Democrat who is running, they can write in the name of an honorable Republican.

Iowa doesn’t have too much to brag about politically. Our congressman, Steve King, is one of the most disliked people in the House of Representatives. In 2014 Speaker of the House John Boehner famously called King — a member of his own party — a very bad name and strongly denounced King for racist remarks about Mexican immigrants. I know people who will not move to western Iowa because of King.

And this week Senator Chuck Grassley stepped into it when he said, in defense of eliminating the estate tax, that people who don’t have an $11 million estate wasted their money on “booze or women or movies.” He was roundly ridiculed across the country.

At first Grassley said his remarks were taken out of context, but I listened to the whole recording, which was to a group of reporters, and it was all in context. The only misinterpretation of the remarks was by Grassley, who should have thought before he spoke.

Grassley, who has been a senator since Lincoln was president, probably won’t suffer any political fallout from his insensitive remarks, but his wife Barbara might have something to say about being compared to a vice like booze. Chuck might be sleeping on the couch for a while.

Maybe he can watch some movies on TV.