Sunday Grab Bag: GOP’s Keystone Conundrum, Hillary’s Immigration and ISIS


Good morning readers! As always, a lot happened in the political world this week. Enjoy our Sunday Grab Bag of shorter takes on a number of Iowa and national political topics:

The Catch-22 of Keystone and Eminent Domain

The most interesting exchange I’ve seen so far from the 2016 trail happened Thursday night at a Carly Fiorina event in West Des Moines. A younger man asked Fiorina whether she supports eminent domain laws. Somehow by the tone in which he said it, I just knew exactly where he was going. Fiorina did not. Of course I oppose it, she responded, saying it’s government overreach that imposes on personal property rights. “Then you don’t support the Keystone Pipeline?” the man immediately followed up with. Fiorina was flummoxed and notably paused for several seconds. A couple audience members chuckled.

After collecting herself she gave an incredibly weak reply, criticizing President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL and arguing that the American public supported it. Then she added this: “But I think what the point is – where I thought you were going with that question – was that eminent domain is another abuse of the federal government.”

Those two sentiments do not compute. For the Keystone Pipeline to be built, TransCanada and the government must exercise eminent domain procedures across multiple states to acquire land along the proposed pipeline route. So you can’t have it both ways, even though anti-eminent domain and pro-Keystone positions are both very popular within the Republican Party’s base. Fiorina completely avoided the heart of the man’s question and came off looking foolish and unprepared.

Don’t be surprised if you see this question come up more often. It highlights the hypocrisy of several of the candidates who rely too much on red meat topics and one-liners. You can’t pander to the crowd on both of these issues, at least not in the same answer. More serious candidates should have a decent explanation thought out as to why the Keystone Pipeline is necessary and the eminent domain laws to make it happen aren’t an abuse of power, even if those laws are abused in other situations. Be cautious of those who can’t reconcile the two issues, yet still try to advocate for both.

Hillary Clinton’s Immigration Boldness

Progressives who decry Hillary Clinton as insufficiently liberal have increasingly fewer examples to point to. This week while in Nevada, Clinton staked out very progressive views on immigration, calling for a full pathway to citizenship, supporting executive actions that are to the left of President Obama’s stances, and signaled strong protection for DREAMers. Immigration activists were absolutely ecstatic with her remarks. Some in the party’s left who distrust Clinton won’t believe it, but her words and the forcefulness in which she delivered them is a big deal.

It’s also a fascinating look into Clinton’s electoral strategy. If she wanted to, she could play it safe on certain issues and run a centrist campaign to win over what’s left of America’s swing voters. This is clearly a play at building upon the same coalition of young and ethnically diverse people that Obama used for his victories. Her immigration stance could rejuvenate Hispanic support for Democrats, many of whom have felt burned by Obama’s presidency, a time during which his administration has deported more people than any one before him. All of this is very, very good news on both the policy side of things, but also on the electoral side of the future of the Democratic Party.

Homegrown ISIS Attacks

Last Sunday two gunmen unsuccessfully attacked a poorly-thought-out Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas, raising fears that ISIS or their independent supporters might have more attacks planned throughout America. Surprisingly – to me at least – the attack didn’t immediately become a political hot potato in the Republican primary the way other attacks have. Only Ted Cruz mentioned it at a South Carolina GOP cattle call yesterday. Perhaps that’s because the organizers of the targeted attack carry a lot of questionable baggage with them, with many people labeling them provocateurs who use “freedom of speech” as an excuse to trash Muslims.

The two men’s actual ties to ISIS are unclear. It seems so far that they were more inspired than actually directed. Regardless, it’s incredibly worrying that such small-scale attacks could become more common in America, with some disaffected youths in this country turning to Islamic extremism after being lured by online propaganda. More worrying to us in Iowa is this: can’t you imagine a situation where an ISIS-inspired American terrorist thinks a campaign rally could be an interesting target? Let’s hope not.

The Week Ahead

It’s a busy week for Republicans in Iowa. The Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner/fundraiser is on Saturday, with ten candidates scheduled to attend. That includes Jeb Bush, whose Iowa appearances have been scant, and Donald Trump, who will probably find a way to cancel a day beforehand. Starting Line will have an even better slew of report cards ready to go for the speeches. This week we’ll also look at parents’ reactions to the education funding debate at the Legislature, have up a new travel guide post, and do another “Keys to Winning X County.”

See you around!

by Pat Rynard
Posted 5/9/15

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