At least I got the ex-journalist, and the Irish, vote

I had no inkling that I was a man without honor in my own state until Bill Petroski from The Des Moines Register called last Thursday. I burst out laughing when the veteran reporter told me that a resolution citing me for winning the Pulitzer Prize has been held up by the Republican Senate majority since Feb. 14. Apparently the senators sat around the Bill Dix Memorial Roman Bath and cast their lots against me because we do not like Donald Trump, Steve King, river pollution or secret slush funds involving public officials.

“He is not one of our favorite newspapermen,” Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, told Petroski.


First, I would not want the support of a den of philanderers and oafs. My dead father, for one, would not approve. The Cullen name was ground beneath a bootheel long before we ever heard the likes of Segebart, by people who burned crosses near Sioux Rapids in 1960 when Dad was on the Kennedy ticket for statehouse. The 3,000 households that welcome The Storm Lake Times into their homes twice a week always have known who we are.

So yes, as Segebart says, local Republicans have nothing but thistles for me because we almost always go against the community.

His last legislative appearance was at King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort. We helped cook up that idea with Republican Gary Lalone. Russ Eddie donated to that project. Lorna Burnside supported it on the Vision Iowa board. So did Steve Kettering. He is a former state senator, a Republican of course from Lake View who has done more for natural resources than any Republican in state history. Kettering was not around for the toga party.

The one Republican who matched Kettering for his commitment to clean air, clean water and healthy soil was Sen. David Johnson of Ocheyedan, a conservative whose father ran for governor under the GOP banner. He abandoned the Republicans because they became so extreme in the Trump-King iteration. So the former newspaper publisher turned dairyman turned Independent. That took guts in Dutch country.

Johnson, a longtime friend of John’s and mine (with our ups and downs, for sure, but friends through all), got together with Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, a one-time TV reporter and anchor. They drafted the resolution honoring us for winning the Pulitzer for 10 editorials on the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit. That award, by the way, brought a rebuke from the leading Democrat in Buena Vista County, Supervisor Paul Merten of Storm Lake, who wrote a letter to the editor calling the series pretty much a pack of lies. We have watched the arrows fly at us from both sides.

I thought it was hilarious that the Republicans are such lapdogs for the Farm Bureau and the petro-chemical industry that they couldn’t even muster a half-hearted acknowledgement. If the resolution had passed, I am not sure I even would have heard about it, buried between resolutions for the Graceland basketball team and the Iowa Cemetery Association. I honestly do not care if I am ever honored by the Iowa Senate, the US Congress or any other institution of dysfunction and cynicism. We did not get into this business to win awards or receive resolutions. We got into the trade to proclaim, parody and preach, and sell, sell, sell.

But I do seriously care about this:

Segebart said I am in conflict with my community.

I was born here. I was graduated from school here. I waded the shallows of that lake when it was putrid with Hygrade runoff. We built a business here whose sole mission is to build Storm Lake, Iowa. We exhorted the state to care, finally, for our disappearing lakes and to embrace new neighbors and save our precious natural resources and make our schools the greatest in the land. Mark Segebart has done nothing, but he has done it politely until now, for Storm Lake. Absolutely nothing. Rep. Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia, never forgets Storm Lake or Buena Vista where he matriculated, or what we knew of the family farm.

Let’s just get that straight.

And this:

We have the Irish vote, along with the former journalist vote.

Sen. Mark Daly of County Kerry called Monday morning. He said he meant to call me last April when we won the prize, but in typical Irish fashion he procrastinated and forgot about it. With this little dust-up, Daly picked up the phone and called to say that he would be introducing a resolution on Tuesday in the Irish Senate honoring the Cullen family and The Storm Lake Times. “We are one nation, and you are of our nation,” Daly said as I started blubbering. “If your own state won’t recognize you, tell them that an entire nation stands with you. Tell them to put that where, well, you know where.”

That from the land that gave us writing and politics. They informed the Greeks, you know, and preserved the Bible. That’s another whole story, but I will take a resolution from the Irish Senate any day.