We’ve said both nice things and not so nice things about Finance Committee ranking Republican on health care, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), most recently not-so-nice things. Things like calling him morally corrupt, a liar and a gold-plated hypocrite. Things like that. We know he hears us because his office complained to a colleague about it. Now, through several sources, we’ve gotten an email with this subject line sent around by someone in his office and containing a news article explaining why he’s not as corrupt as he looks:
Questions: why do journalists and arm chair pontificators always look at the money? Don’t they understand Iowa politics, or politics within the Republican party?
Since we’re not journalists we assume the arm chair pontificators include us. And it really made us laugh.
Because increasingly erratic and senile-sounding Chuck Grassley has made a career out of using the fact that academic doctors take money from drug companies to grandstand on the rampant conflict of interest in my profession (I’m a doctor in academia). For the record, the times we’ve been nice to him have been to commend him for calling attention to this practice and his championship of the Federal False Claims Act. It seems, though, that’s only OK for others. It doesn’t apply to him when he takes millions to represent the insurance industry while writing health care legislation (and using ghostwritten talking points in his demented-sounding speeches) or making his own False Claims (in other words, lying). Then the problem, as his email suggests, is that we are “arm chair pontificators” who don’t understand Iowa politics or the politics within the Republican party.
Let’s examine this interesting subject line to his email criticizing us. We’ve all seem him pontificating aplenty about health care in America. Has he ever treated anybody? Has he ever done any research or published a paper? No. All his pontificating on the subject of academic medicine has been from a chair (since he’s a Republican I’m sure it’s armed), since for sure he’s no stand-up guy. But the idea that the $2.9 million from the health and insurance industry he’s taken has had no effect on his opinions doesn’t pass the laugh test, since he’s been busy mouthing their talking points at every opportunity. Only 6 other senators have gotten more. In case you didn’t know it, Iowa’s main economic interest is agriculture, not the health care industry.
The Chairman of the Committee from Montana, Democrate Max Baucus (also not a state with a lot of workers in health insurance), is just as bad, also taking millions. With Grassley he’s worked hard to neuter health insurance reform. But at least Baucus doesn’t go around pointing fingers at others who do the same thing. Baucus is just a sleaze bag. Grassley is a sleaze bag hypocrite. He’s got a lot of company in his party: Vitter, Foley, Sandford, Ensign, hypocrites all, but they were just screwing mistresses, prostitutes or trying to screw senate pages. Grassley is screwing the whole country. He wins the hypocrite moral corruption award, hands down.
Maybe it’s true that my problem is that I don’t “understand Iowa politics, or politics within the Republican party.” That’s an interesting proposition. The Iowa Republican Party is full of bat shit crazies 25% of whom voted for Pat Robertson for President in the 1988 caucuses and another 25% for Pat Buchanan in 1992 (in each case they were the second highest vote getters). So, yes, I don’t understand Iowa Republicans. But I do understand when a politician is pandering to the worst segment of his party because he is terrified of a primary challenge. Courageous? Not. And what about representing the other Iowans, Republicans and non-Republicans who aren’t bat shit crazy?
The insurance companies Grassley represents and takes millions from and the drug companies he routinely attacks are different and have different interests. So do the citizens of Iowa. While Chuck Grassley did win statewide office in Iowa, lots of people there probably thought he represented them instead of the health insurance industry. Because of his erratic and looney behavior, they are getting the message:
Time for the Republicans of Iowa to dump this fraud and separate themselves from the radical Right who pull the strings on this 76 year old marionette.