Iowa Fair

Trump copter

Trump helicopter

One advantage of America’s long presidential campaign is that, eventually, each candidate’s character, intelligence and fitness to be president (or lack thereof) emerges. That process is currently on display at the Iowa State Fair. Thanks to C-SPAN, we can see and hear the candidates in Iowa, in long form.

Donald Trump showed up in his TRUMP-badged helicopter. No stranger to branding, Trump spoke with his helicopter in the background, a symbol of power and status similar to a president standing in front of Air Force One. In a bright red hat with his slogan “Make America Great Again,” Trump aggressively addressed or swatted away reporters’ questions, attacking his rivals, especially John Ellis Bush, in the process. Then Trump handed out helicopter rides to local kids and their moms, posing for selfies. Trump may know more about what the American people want than anybody in this presidential race.

Hillary Clinton held an informal event under the trees with Iowa’s beloved former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, who followed up his endorsement of Hillary with more praise. Clinton answered detailed questions on Iraq and ISIS with long-form answers, which all but assures that the cable news channels won’t play it, opting for more digestible phony shiny objects instead.

Bernie Sanders drew his customary large crowd. Sanders’ message about taking back America from the wealthy corporate elites is very popular with the Democratic Party’s progressive base. However, many of Sanders’ promises, such as expanding Social Security, stopping the distribution of wealth to the top one percent, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and “Medicare for all” single payer healthcare, would require progressive majority votes by Congress. Perhaps realizing this, Sanders then said that “we need a political revolution in this country.” Democratic voters will decide whether Sanders’ “revolution” is realistic, and whether they are ready to work to flip both houses of Congress to the Democrats, which would be necessary to achieve even a fraction of Sanders’ promises.

The Iowa State Fair may prove unfair for some candidates. “Jeb” Bush stepped in it again on Iraq, saying that “the Iraqis want our help. They want to know that we have skin in the game and are committed to this.” A heckler in the crowd then flummoxed Bush by yelling:

We had to get out in 2011…. Your brother signed the deal! …. Your brother signed a bad deal!

Bush’s heckler was referring to George W. Bush‘s 2008 Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, which required all U.S. forces to leave Iraq by December 31, 2011. As Donald Trump pointed out about Jeb Bush in his comments linked above:

We’ve spent two trillion dollars, thousands of lives lost, wounded warriors, who I love, all over the place, and he said “we have to prove that we have skin in the game.” I think it may be one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard…. I think his brother [George W. Bush] said, “hey, you’re killing me,” that was his war, and he looks very bad, so Jeb Bush tried to push back. But when he said, “we have to prove to Iraq that we have skin in the game,” and we’ve lost all of those lives and all of that money, I think he should apologize to the families of the people.

In response, Bush criticized Trump without naming him, saying about the fair, “you can’t helicopter in and leave.” Bush is looking more and more like the hopelessly out-of-touch Willard Mitt Romney, who furthered the elitist narrative against himself at the 2011 Iowa State Fair when he told a heckler, “corporations are people, my friend.”

Lincoln Chafee didn’t fare so well at the fair either. Chafee drew a modest-sized crowd, and admitted he’s short on money compared to some of his rivals. Perhaps that’s because Chafee keeps harping on his vote against George W. Bush’s 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, when some of today’s young voters were still in Garanimals. Nevertheless, Chafee did pile on Jeb Bush regarding Iraq, saying: “he’s just drinking some kind of Neocon Kool-Aid to think that Iraq was secure” in 2009.

Chris Christie, who plans to visit the fair later this week, joked that he might ride in on a pony. Even assuming that was physically possible, Christie may become the first casualty of the 2016 presidential race. Christie may have realized that his in-your-face insulting style plays even worse in places like Iowa than it does in New Jersey, where a majority of Christie’s constituents want him to resign as Governor. Moreover, if voters want a Northeast, in-their-face, self-proclaimed “truth teller,” Trump is more fun.

Most Americans likely didn’t see much of the candidates at the Iowa State Fair. Instead, maybe they got a few seconds of the most controversial remarks from the leading candidates, courtesy of the cable news networks. However, even those of us who tuned into C-SPAN surely miss Michelle Bachmann at the 2011 Iowa State Fair, making crazy statements and gobbling that corn dog.

Photo by Bill, used under Creative Commons license.

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