Ethics Observations On Rep. Braley’s Anti-Farmer Insult

A farmer, a framer, a farmer (and law school drop-out), and a lawyer. Final Score: Farmers 3, Lawyer 1.

A farmer, a farmer, a farmer (and law school drop-out), and a lawyer. Final Score: Farmers 3, Lawyer 1.

You wouldn’t know it if you read only mainstream media sources (Translation of ” mainstream media sources”—“supposedly objective and neutral news outlets that edit the news to do minimal damage to candidates, parties and policies that their overwhelmingly left-leaning staffs support”), but the presumptive Democratic candidate for Sen.Tom Harkin’s soon to be vacant U.S. Senate seat in Iowa insulted farmers (this is Iowa, remember) in a speech and was caught on video.

In a private fund-raising appearance before Texas trial lawyers, Rep. Bruce Braley warned of the consequences of a  Republican Senate majority by saying

“You might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because, if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Some observations:

  • The insulting characterization of farmers (as well as  Grassley) is being compared to Mitt Romney’s infamous statement to some big money donors about “the 47%,” which was captured surreptitiously by Jimmy Carter’s son-in-law and used to stir up the Democratic base. As in the case of Romney, I will point out that surreptitious recording and publicizing of what is said at any private event is unethical, flat-out wrong, no matter who does it, or for what reason. Private functions should be respected, as should what is said there, unless there are criminal conspiracies afoot.

  • It is hypocritical and intellectually dishonest to criticize politicians in fundraising appearances for tailoring their tone, rhetoric and content to appeal to the audience they need to win over. Braley was speaking to lawyers, so naturally he appealed to their vanity and sense of superiority. I assume he would similarly suck-up to a group of farmers, maybe bashing lawyers in the process. Is this what he “really” thinks about farmers? I doubt it, but who knows? He’s a politician seeking money and votes. These “gotcha!” recordings are a dirty campaign tactic and inherently misleading. It is one step up from the unethical antics of James O’Keefe, and that’s pretty low.
  • Now that my general ethics condemnation of the bootleg recording is out of the way,  I will point out that what Braley said was quite a bit worse than what Romney said, which was impolitic but essentially true, and borne out in the election results: most of those who don’t pay income taxes and who depend on government checks and programs are never going to be properly responsible when it comes to scaling back government spending to affordable and responsible levels, because they aren’t paying for it.
  • What Braley said was decietful.  Grassley does not have a law school degree [NOTE: this is a correction; my original source incorrectly stated that he did, and I repeated the error], but he is not, as anyone who has listened to him knows (and that includes Braley) no uneducated hick in overalls chewing on a piece of grass with pig dropping on his shoes. He did post-graduate work on a political science PhD, and is an experienced legislator.
  • The Judiciary Committee’s responsibilities do not require a law degree; they require integrity, intelligence, study, diligence, critical thinking and common sense, all of which are well within the skill set of farmers and other non-lawyers.  Some of the tasks are very technical and specific, so much so that simply being a lawyer would be vastly inadequate. For example, the Judiciary Committee is responsible for considering legislation regarding patents and intellectual property, a complex and confounding area of the law that most lawyers not in the field are quite unqualified to handle. This is why committees in Congress relay on their legal staffs and testimony from experts.
  • Since Anita Hill is now back making appearances to hawk a book and accepting unqualified praise from journalists ( and whatever it is that Barbara Walters is these days…an embarrassment, maybe?) who have no idea if her disgraceful last-minute hit on Clarence Thomas was true or not (but want it to be true because they object to Thomas’s judicial philosophy and find it convenient to slander him as a sexual harasser), it is appropriate to reflect on the quality that lawyers and Democrats brought to the Judiciary Committee that grilled Thomas. It included Strom Thurmond, son of a farmer and a lawyer, as well as a long-time Democrat turned Republican, who was, at the time, senile. It included Ted Kennedy, who was charged with drunk driving and doing so without a license (Kennedys, at least in those days, were never convicted of anything) while he was in law school. Since he had been kicked out of Harvard for cheating, he probably would not have been admitted to law school (or perhaps even the Massachusetts Bar) if he were just a farmer (rather than a spoiled kid with a politically-connected and filthy rich father). Teddy, of course, negligently (or intentionally) allowed a young women to drown while he was Senator in another drunk driving escapade. Did I mention that he was a Democrat? You probably knew. The chair of that Judiciary Committee was Joe Biden…you know, the semi-articulate babbling dolt who somehow got to be a heartbeat from the Presidency. Here is the Wikipedia entry on Lunchbucket Joe’s law school career; it is accurate:

He then entered Syracuse University College of Law (where he would be near [his wife]), receiving a half scholarship based on financial need with some additional assistance based in part upon academics.By his own description he found law school to be “the biggest bore in the world” and pulled many all-nighters to get by. During his first year there, he was accused of having plagiarized 5 of 15 pages of a law review article. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, and he was permitted to retake the course after receiving an ‘F’ grade, which was subsequently dropped from his record. He received his Juris Doctor in 1968, graduating 76th of 85 in his class. He was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1969.

Impressive! What farmer could inspire more confidence that a chairman with that background?

  • Two of our three Presidents threatened with removal from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors” were lawyers (the other was a tailor.) No farmers ever faced that fate.
  • Of the ten U.S. Presidents who were bona fide farmers, George Washington,  John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Jimmy Carter, only Adams, Madison and Carter fail to make most historians’ list of great or near great Chief Executives…and Adams was also a lawyer. Madison is an especially interesting case, a student of the law who never got any kind of formal degree. He wrote a lot of the Constitution without being a lawyer, however. Maybe we need more farmers (an anagram for “framers,” you’ll note) on the Supreme Court.
  • We’ll see if Rep. Braley’s equally unfairly recorded but far less accurate gaffe gets anything approaching the saturation coverage Romney’s “47%” comment got.

Given that the news media is at least as invested in keeping the Senate out of GOP hands as trial lawyers, I think I can guess.


Pointer: Instapundit

Sources: National Journal; WSJ

12 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Rep. Braley’s Anti-Farmer Insult

  1. Would that the media be as derisive about a politician who can’t spell “respect” as they were about one who they thought couldn’t spell “potato.”
    There are no journalists any more, only propagandists.

    • Pure confirmation bias. Quayle was already a proven dummy in the minds of reporters, thus his minor goof was just proof of his mental deficiencies. Obama is presumed, despite all evidence to the contrary, to be a brilliant intellect, and thus such gaffes as the 57 states line and misspelling respect are not worthy of note. (And they aren’t, but neither was Quayle’s misspelling.

  2. To paraphrase Buckley I’d rather trust any branch of federal government to the farmers of Iowa than the entire government of the United States as it’s now constituted.

  3. Define “farmer.” Administering a farm and being a farmer are very different things. And I say that as a farmer’s daughter.

  4. Speaking of President Polk (and I know we weren’t), I just moved to his hometown! That’s why I haven’t been around…road trip and all…

    What’s worse than a farmer? You might have a career politician and “advocate”, who has never actually been in any sort of administrative job, never actually been in a position where incompetence had real consequences, never fixed or built anything, and almost never in his professional career been NOT reliant on taxpayer money, as President of the United States. That would be horrible…oh.

  5. Our biggest problem is lawyer and Constitutional professor Barak Obama, who, it seems to me, taught the Constitution without ever reading it. He has done nothing, created nothing, never run a business. He’s a face man who thinks he’s brilliant, and who slid into Congress because of a Chicago Democratic candidate problem. (How many people know that while in the Senate he abstained on every single vote but one? Now there’s conviction for you.

    Today’s farmer has to have science, business, law, personnel management and a host of other skills to be successful. All a lawyer has to do is get a J.D. degree, and all that proves is that you can skate through a second-rate law school and come out with… nothing. Go farmers!

  6. Jack, I understand you are an attorney, and I have no wish to insult you. However, here’s an interesting piece of trivia. I don’t know if it is still in effect or not, but a law in Delaware once made it illegal for a lawyer to serve in the state legislature. Good idea? Frankly, I don’t know, but the idea that only lawyers have the capability to make laws or chair committees is frightening to me.

    • They obviously don’t have that ability. Look at the laws. Look at the ACA. The best lawyers–there are exceptions, of course—tend to keep doing what they are best at and what makes the most money as a bonus.

  7. I might also be pointed out that Mr. Braley, a Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate from IOWA, was in TEXAS (where the money is and the Democrats mostly ain’t) trying to talk his way into some of that money from the least worthy bunch of Texans he could find. If the folks in Iowa want a senator propped up on the ill-gotten gains of bunch of trial lawyers who have (thus far) escaped legal retribution, that’s their call. But they ought to know where the money came from to keep Braley’s parade float rolling.

  8. I don’t know what “mainstream media” you follow, but this is all over the press everywhere I have looked. You are incorrect, Senator Grassley does not have a law degree. I agree that Braley’s comments were off-base, but I would also point out that Grassley has trashed lawyers as a drain on society and suffered absolutely no political repercussions for his comments. I imagine if he suggested that farmers, rather than lawyers, would better understand the issues raised in the Senate Ag Committee, no one would raise an eyebrow. Apparently lawyers are fair game, but farmers are a sacred cow.
    And by the way, it’s Harkin, not Harken.
    Also, I do know and respect Anita Hill and agree that the Judiciary Committee did a horrible job of handling her allegations. Grassley among them.

    • 1. Yup, I had a bad reference for the law degree, and have made the correction. It is not material to the post.
      2. I counted up the web links and traced them—few MSM outlets carried the story.
      3. “but I would also point out that Grassley has trashed lawyers as a drain on society and suffered absolutely no political repercussions for his comments.”—This is the old “but Bush did it too…” tactic, and it is memorialized on my Ratioanlizations list as #2. The “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse, or “They had it coming” What Grassley has or hasn’t said doesn’t make an unethical and frankly stupid comment about farmers less unethical. This betrays a s serious ethics deficit on YOUR part.
      4. It’s IOWA, which is the point. Yes, insulting one’s constituency is dumb, arrogant, and disrespectful.
      5. You can respect Anita Hill, why, I don’t know, if you want. She engaged in an unethical political ambush, produced no supporting evidence, and engaged in an unforgivably late accusation. She should not have been allowed to testify at all.

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