Blood in the water



Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, set the Iowa political class to chattering Wednesday with his announcement that he will challenge Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in the Republican primary for Congress from the Fourth District. This is a serious challenge with a former Kim Reynolds staffer on board, and we have heard repeatedly in recent weeks that the GOP money was looking for someone to cure that migraine that King brings with his racist and idiotic comments.

Does King run again? He appears to be set. He claims he will do town hall meetings (his excuse for not holding them used to be personal safety, but apparently now we are safer despite what Trump says). King is raising money, something he hasn’t needed to do. And he is still foaming at the mouth to the delight of his base, which also is Feenstra’s base. Feenstra is known to foam at the mouth, too, to keep his fans engaged. Feenstra is the one who urged Northwest Iowans to boycott the malls in and around Des Moines because of the water works lawsuit over water pollution. Last we knew, Jordan Creek Mall is still drawing in shoppers; patriotism has its limits.

Feenstra promises to be less “caustic” than King, but in his announcement declared that he stands four-square with President Trump, himself a racist bloviator like King, who created a humanitarian crisis to keep the likes of Feenstra and King in line. Feenstra and King are cut from the same cloth. It’s just that King has no filter. Either will support the President as he locks up children in cages.

Feenstra might clobber King in Sioux, O’Brien, Osceola and Lyon counties in a primary. He has a nice Dutch name and teaches at Dordt, and is radically conservative. When traditional business conservative Rick Bertrand of Sioux City challenged King the base laughed him off. Not so with Feenstra, a Trump true believer.

The news rightly shakes JD Scholten to his boots. The Sioux City Democrat nearly knocked off King in November. Republicans were horrified. It wasn’t King’s language or voting record that scared them, but the fact that a Democrat could come within three points of him. Scholten understands Feenstra’s political strength in the district. Scholten might just try to run against Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, next year. Scholten could beat King, but Ernst doesn’t lip off every time she sees a microphone, works hard for veterans and sticks to the Farm Bureau line. Iowans love incumbents, even though they are tired of King. They are not tired of Ernst. Tom Vilsack probably could beat her. Rita Hart, maybe. JD Scholten, less likely.

Scholten should stand his ground and keep his Winnebago camper navigating around the 39 counties of Northwest Iowa. He scored the blows on King that counted, obviously, when the Republican powers smelled blood in the water. Feenstra hasn’t won the primary. The issue is Trump, not necessarily King. It was Trump who gave Iowa farmers and pork producers a scalding bath in these trade wars. It is Trump who wants to deport all the help in the Sioux County dairy barns. It is Trump who runs off our allies and consorts with fascist dictators. And Randy Feenstra is with him every step of the way. Trump is a liar. Feenstra is a fool for going anywhere near him. That is where Scholten finds the soft underbelly: Iowans will not support someone who stands by an inveterate liar like Feenstra and King do, if given an honest and friendly alternative like Scholten. Easy for us to say. Northwest Iowans will be as embarrassed by Feenstra, caustic or not, as they are by King.

Lapdog senators

Where to assign blame for the government shutdown? The US Senate Republican majority. The majority could end the shutdown today by again passing the bills the senators already approved in the last session. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to hold the troops together so minority Democrats can’t force the government to reopen. A few Republicans, like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, sound like they are ready to abandon that border wall and get airport security off sick call. They realize that there is no national emergency that a border wall can solve, since it will take 10 years to build. But there are air passengers to screen and Trump Bump farm checks to go out and …

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst could solve this problem today. They could say that we should open the government now, and debate border security after the airport workers get paid and the soybean growers get their Trump Disaster check. But they are dumbfounded by Trump. They are not leaders. They are confused followers looking over their shoulders.

It is not the fault of the Democrats. They voted with the Republicans to open the government. But when Trump threw a childish tantrum, Grassley and Ernst stood aside. They should own this pain. The Democrats have offered up to $1.6 billion more for border security. Trump wants that wall. What will it take for our Iowa senators to regain their good sense and call a halt to this madness? Lapdogs to power and chaos, they are.