Sunday, January 4, 2009

Got Scandal?: Iowa’s Bottom Nontroversies of 2008

"That's it...say it...say it...don't be shy..."

Like our ancestors the Brits, Americans love a good scandal.

However, unlike the Brits, American journalists and the Sound-Bite Corporate Media Machine are willing to sacrifice real journalism for gotcha journalism, especially in the political realm.

Armed with pens, laptop computers, video cameras, crackberrys, cell phones, tiki-torches and temptresses – journalists, bloggers and concerned citizens have assumed the role of makeshift paparazzi and hit the campaign trail in search of their 15 minutes of fame.

Unfortunately a number of gotcha moments only became controversial when the media, like blood-deprived leeches, clung to the nontroversy and spun it through its continuous loop of 24-hours news, which only contains an estimated 30 minutes of new news according to a recent Political Fallout study.

At the national level John Ridley catalogued a number of the top Nontroversies in 2008.

Meanwhile in Iowa, here are some of the Bottom Nontroversies of 2008:

Muslim Statehouse prayer threatens Christian faithful (outside of Iowa). Iowa’s 2008 General Assembly appeared to start off fairly smoothly with an invocation by Imam Muhammad Khan of Des Moines on the first day of the session Jan. 14. Not until outside agitators, including conservative talk show hosts and anti-Muslim organizations stuck their self-righteous noses in did this become a nontroversy.

GOP voter challenge/suppression of Grinnell College student voters falls short during November election. Ironically, the seeds of this challenge were planted by GOP adversary Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Iowa Caucuses. The Clinton campaign feared, justifiably so, Sen. Barack Obama’s turn out of young voters. Where was Joe the College Student when Obama needed him or her?

Rep. Steve King’s Little Shop of Horrors (A Tone-Deaf Musical). Iowan’s have become accustomed to the 5th district earsore, whose only claim-to-fame is measured in cubic vitriolic spew units (cvsu). Most Iowans have managed to ignore our very own political Master of Horror, hoping that if we ignore him he will simply disappear. Poof! Unfortunately, the national media keep feeding his Napoleon complex by running his nontroversial statements to help bolster otherwise slow nontroversial weeks.

During his "Oh-the-Places-We-Can-Drill" tour of western Iowa, Rep. Steve King pulls out one of his trusty nontroversy props to illustrate why drilling is the best answer to our energy consumption crisis.

Iowa Democrat Party serves up new brand of McCarthyism to Des Moines Register. As if the media needed any help (although given the recent across-the-board layoffs in journalism, maybe they could use a little help from their “friends”) scouring court documents for juicy details of elected officials past foibles, Rep Kevin McCarthy and the Gang delivered a neatly-labeled binder exposing several Republican Iowa House candidates’ backgrounds. Opposition research or good ol’ fashioned Witch Hunt? You make the call, dear Reader. Either way this should help ease the divisiveness of the two sides come Jan. 12, eh?

Gov. Chet Culver’s condo habit. Okay, so the Big Lug has an addiction to vacationing in million-dollar condos in Florida that just happen to be owned by real-estate tycoon Bill Knapp, who in turn happens to be a contributor to Culver’s campaign and longtime family friend of the Culvers. At least Chet admits he has a problem and that he is paying the $1000/week fee for using the Knappster’s condo. I’m sure that ever since he won his gubernatorial bid, the Big Lug has been scratching his head, wondering: “Hmmmm…now that I work for the people of Iowa, does that mean I still get to keep my friends with benefits before I was elected?” Had Chet done what most state employees who went to the Outback Bowl did, cut lodging expenses by cramming 20 people into one condo, some folks may be a little more forgiving of the Big Lug's addicition.

Gov. Chet Culver: "I might as well face it, I'm addicted to heavily discounted million-dollar condos in Florida owned by a major campaign contributor and longtime friend with benefits."

And Iowa's bottom nontroversy of 2008?

“Smokin in the Guv’s Car”: starring First Lady Mari Culver. While the passage of the public smoking ban may have been controversial -- given Gov. Culver other addiction: gambling revenues (Hmmm…I wonder if gaming lobbyists get the same discount on the Knappster’s condominiums?) – catching his mate, Mari Culver, smoking in a state-owned vehicle is by no means as controversial as the media and some Republican lawmakers made it out to be.

Mari admitted to breaking the law, paid the fine and promised she would never do it again.

Admitted adulterer John Edwards unites with admitted smoker in public places Mari Culver during a campaign stop, both sharing the same thought: "God I'd kill for a cigarette right now."

But the nontroversy did not end there. The newly appointed Iowa House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen used the incident as a springboard to draw the line in the political sand, calling for a probe into whether the state should fund Mari’s police escort service.

As the economic crisis hits home, I’m sure this nontroversy will be a high priority when the legislative session reconvenes Jan 12.