Going for sixteen. Incumbent third district Congressman Leonard Boswell seeking an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. State Senator brad Zaun wants to begin a republican hold on the congressional seat. We’re questioning Boswell and Zaun on this edition of Iowa Press.
Borg: This election in Iowa’s third congressional district is getting national attention. The district includes 12 counties extending from Des Moines in central Iowa, eastward and southeastward to Marshalltown, Tama, Grundy Center, Vinton, Grinnell, Newton, Oskaloosa, and Pella, to say a few. The republican and democratic candidates are both from Polk County. Republican Brad Zaun, former mayor of Urbandale, now a state senator. The incumbent is democrat Leonard Boswell. He’s a former state senator now completing fourteen years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and wants to go back for an eighth term. Gentlemen, welcome to Iowa Press.
Thank you very much.
Borg: And across the table, Associated Press Senior Political Writer Mike Glover and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson. And like so many other campaigns in this election cycle, attack ads are flying freely. We’re going to show you some in this campaign, first a couple questioning Congressman Boswell’s record.
Zaun: I'm Brad Zaun and I approved this message.
Boswell: There are strong signs that the economy is beginning to recover.
This is Leonard Boswell’s recovery: Unemployment is up; home foreclosures are up; job losses are up; and our faith in the federal government is down. If Leonard Boswell thinks we're in a recovery, it's clear he just doesn't understand. Leonard Boswell says the country is headed on the right path. Try telling that to the 114,000 Iowans that are out of work. Boswell voted for billions in failed stimulus spending, Wall Street bailouts, and then voted to gut Medicare for Iowa seniors. This might be the right path for Congressman Boswell and his Washington friends, but Iowa families are the ones who pay the price for his votes.
Borg: Mike Glover?
Glover: Congressman Boswell, it's a pretty tough ad against you. The economy is down. How do you respond?
Boswell: Well, you might want to read the editorial in USA Today, today. It says that it's actually working. That’s lots yet to do. We all know that. But where we would have gone if we wouldn't have done some of the things that we had done, I didn't want to go there.
Glover: So things are bad but they could have been worse.
Boswell: Oh, could have been much worse.
Borg: You said you didn't want to go there. What do you mean?
Boswell: Well, I mean when the situation happened on Wall Street, for example, and Secretary Paulson from the Bush administration came to us wanting 700 billion now with no oversight, no nothing, I said no. My first gut reaction -- I need to finish this point -- this point here. And the point is that, you know, the rascals did it, just let them suffer. Then I remember -- I went down and walked through that FDR memorial and thought about it a little bit and I thought about the things that my father and my grandfather and different ones said. And I said, you know, if we're at that precipice that we're about to go over, which they say we were, I don't want to go there without putting up a fight and trying. So that's what we've done.
Borg: There was something -- a couple of other commercials currently running are attacking the opposite candidate. Let’s take a look.
Boswell: I’m Leonard Boswell and I approved this message.
What did brad Zaun say about protecting 20,000 biofuel jobs?
Zaun: Farmer said what are you going to do for me and the biofuel industry, and I said nothing.
Zaun said he'd do nothing.
When the floodwaters rose, Iowans came together, and when they receded, we worked hard to rebuild. But on flood emergencies, Zaun said Iowans forgot personal responsibility. Zaun would have denied over 4,000 Iowans emergency assistance.
Zaun: -- is personal responsibility. Personal responsibility.
Iowans needed a hand. Brad Zaun gave us a lecture. The democratic congressional campaign committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.
Henderson: Mr. Zaun, what's your rebuttal to those ads?
Zaun: Well, Kay, I’ll tell you, on all these ads, which I think are very unfortunate and have been taken out of context, in regards to the ethanol, what I was communicating was the mandates that I will not support. Those are the two mandates that tell you what kind of fuel mix you have to buy at the pump and, secondly, how Detroit has to build their cars.
Borg: Congressman Boswell, I see you shaking your head.
Boswell: Well, the mandates, it wasn't taken out of context. He said it. If you want to see the whole thing, well, we can show it to you. It wasn't taken out of context at all.
Henderson: the question that you were answering in that tea party debate was about farm subsidies, and you brought up biofuels.
Zaun: Right. And I was communicating that I’m not going to support -- I’m going to do nothing for the mandates that the biofuels industry wants.
Henderson: At the state fair you said you do support the ethanol tax break, but yet you said you didn't know whether you supported the tax break for biodiesel in August.
Zaun: Well, in regards to the biofuels and the soy mix, I think that industry needs to grow. What I really have a problem with is the $100,000 to $600,000 per new job that was spent by the taxpayers of Iowa for a new job that was created. And I think every industry needs to stand on its own two feet. I recognize that the ethanol industry is very important with a lot of benefits to the state of Iowa, and certainly we're less dependent on foreign oils. and I think that's great and I will do whatever I can, I will if I’m elected united states congressman, support that 45-cent blender fee tax credit that they have. And I think we need to have a long-range energy plan, and that's -- in the United States, and I think that ethanol needs to be part of that plan.
Glover: Congressman Boswell, the core argument against you is you're a seven-term member of a congress that polls tell us voters just don't like and you stand next to Nancy Pelosi, who polls tell us voters just don't like. How do you deal with that?
Boswell: You know, when you've got a situation -- majority when you gotta lead, it's kinda like going off and leading the troops. Sometimes you've got to make hard decisions, and I’ve been wanting to do some of these hard decisions for some time. So if people want to talk about Pelosi, go to California and run against Pelosi. But the fact is it seems to me on some of these things, we need to go involved in, the economy, alternative energy, which we were just talking about a little bit and we could certainly talk a lot more because I’ve been involved in this for years -- and it's very important to get out of bondage to OPEC. The farmers of America can do a lot of that. We need to talk about health care. We didn't just learn that health care was coming up the last twelve months. We’ve been doing it for years. We went through eight years of doing nothing, just kicking the can down the road. And so we've finally come to a point where we're going to take these things on, and I was ready to do it. There’s risk involved but you've got to do what you've got to do, but you've got the leadership responsibility. And so I was willing to get into that, and whoever the speaker was, it didn't matter to me. I worked across the aisle for years. My record is there. I wanted to tackle those issues, and we did pretty good in the House of Representatives. The senate didn't do quite so good.
Glover: Mr. Zaun, is there anything to your campaign other than you're not a member of congress, you're not part of this congress that polls say the voters don't like? What do you bring to the table other than I’m not in that congress?
Zaun: Well, real-life experience, common sense. I was mayor of Urbandale for seven years, and what we did is we drove down the tax rate. We cut a lot of red tape. Owning a hardware store. I’ve signed the front side of a paycheck, and I’ve had struggles like a lot of people have had in the third congressional district. I’m being accused of not being personally responsible in some of these attack ads, and the fact of the matter is I am personally responsible. You know, I have done what I was raised to do, and that's be responsible for the debts that you have. And so many people are going through tough times right now. I’ve paid all my debts back, and I think it's unfortunate the way this campaign went.
Borg: Mr. Boswell, Mr. Zaun accuses you of voting 98 percent of the time along with Nancy Pelosi. I’m going back to Mike's question here on Nancy Pelosi. She represents a portion of San Francisco. Are you saying there that the views of the people that she represents views are closely aligned with those of people in the third district?
Boswell: You know, Dean, I’m a blue dog moderate democrat. You know that. We all know that. When she became speaker -- and I don't want to spend a lot of time on that, but somebody said she wouldn't be supportive of Paygo, and my response to our group was that you don't know that. Let’s just ask her. Who knows! So we did. She came. She came over and we put the question to her and we explained to her we thought, you know, it was working in the Clinton administration and the bush administration threw it out, didn't continue it. The Wall Street debacle took place. A number of other things took place. So we said would you support this. And she said it makes a lot of sense, yes, I would support that, and she has. So there's just a lot of effort to politicize something that's really not -- we’ve got a lot of important things we need to be doing.
Borg: But you're saying it's a give and take. She gives to you. You take --
Boswell: Well, we work together to tackle the things that needed to be done and then kicked down the road, and this time take it on.
Henderson: Mr. Zaun, in the ad that the viewers saw at the beginning of the program, bailouts were mentioned. Is there an instance in which you think the government should be involved in bailing out the auto industry or some other part of the economy, or are you blanket opposed to all government bailouts?
Zaun: Every business has to stand on its own two feet. We cannot afford to continue the spending that we're doing, which is partially the stimulus, which is rewarding bad behavior. In regards to the companies that are out there and the schemes that are done Wall Street, we can no longer afford as a country. We’re bankrupt. And I would not support going out there and bailing out businesses. I think this is a market driven economy that we have, and I think that in the example of General Motors, I know that there would have been some investors that would have came in and acquired general motors for the name -- the Corvette name, just to be able to -- and it would have been back on its feet. And I think that would have been the proper way to do it.
Henderson: Earlier in the program, you addressed bailouts. Let’s address the auto bailout specifically. Did the government -- or getting involved in the auto industry to the extent that it did?
Boswell: Well, we didn't just give them, Kay, cash, and say, here, hope things get better. -- was involved and took some interest in that. can you imagine what the unemployment rate would have been if hadn't have done that, what it would have done to our country, all the extra thousands of thousands of unemployment, auto industry, steel mills, the ore mills, and so on. It would have been devastating. And they're paying it back. And I think as it says today in the editorial and other reports coming in, it looks like there's a possibility that the taxpayers will gain on this because they've got shares, they're selling them off. The government doesn't want to own them, but they just didn't want to hand them cash.
Glover: Mr. Boswell, let's go to some of the core arguments that are used against you in this campaign. One of the core arguments that's used against you is you're simply too old, you've been around too long, you were retired from the army, you were in the legislature for a long time, and now you're in congress for fourteen years. How do you respond to that?
Boswell: Well, don't discriminate against us because we're lucky enough to ...
Glover: Well, I’ve got some gray hair too.
Boswell: Well, I noticed that. Anyway, there's an experience factor. He wants to talk about running a small business. I don't think that Mr. Zaun thinks that running a farm is a small business. It takes a lot to do. Besides the risk of the thing, the investment, you have to deal with weather and pesticide and all kinds of things. It’s a big deal. It’s very much a small business. And I went through the farm crisis. I’ve still got it and it's still working and I’m very proud of it. And I like to take people to show them how I’m a good conservationist and the things that we do. But anyway, I think that I bring a lot of experience to the table. I’ve been to war. I know what it's like to send our men and women off to war.
Borg: Mr. Zaun, it you who's alleging that he's too old to be in congress?
Zaun: Absolutely not. I’m glad you brought that up because I would never ever talk about that. I think what you've done -- and I’ll tell you, Leonard, I salute your service to our country. I think that being in business and agriculture is a great business to be in, and it's no different than the hardware store I had.
Boswell: I make -- the implication that you're the only one that's been in business, when I certainly have been too.
Zaun: Well, I certainly am not trying to imply that. I’m certainly implying that I have business experience. I’m trying to sell myself to the voters.
Glover: Mr. Zaun, the core argument to you is you are a key knee-jerk conservative, you want to privatize social security, and you don't care much about the rights of workers. How do you respond to each of those?
Zaun: First of all, I’m not -- I’ve broke party ranks. I don't have a -- you know, I know Congressman Boswell talks about being a blue dog democrat and 98 percent is not a blue dog democrat. In regards to how I operate, I always try to figure out what is best for the people I represent. I did that as a mayor and I’ve done it in the state senate. I’ve told the republicans when they're wrong and I’ve acted that way and voted appropriately.
Glover: Give me a couple of examples.
Zaun: Well, I will tell you that the car title loans -- I mean there was a lot of pressure on me from the republicans in regards to shutting down the car title companies in the state of Iowa. I broke ranks there. And I will continue to do what I think is right. And I will do what I think that the people that sent me in Washington, DC, or sent me to the capitol in Des Moines what they think is best. Certainly I will listen to all of them.
Boswell: It doesn't match up with what he's saying about bringing people in to talk with him. Take a page of out the play book that put us in the ditch and go back to the same policies. That doesn't make a lot of sense. I can't connect that --
Borg: Well, one of the things you're saying about him is that he hasn't managed his personal finances well. Do you stand by that?
Boswell: Well, here's the thing --
Borg: Do you think it's fair?
Boswell: Well, let me respond to that, Dean. I appreciate that question. You go ahead and preach personal responsibility and say this is what you've got to do. Well, you ought to be practicing it and you ought to be kind of sympathetic. You ought to realize that you get in those situations and sometimes you've got to go to -- like going to the neighbors. when we was raised on the farm down there, if something went wrong with one of the neighbors, we stopped what we were doing and went to help. So it's okay to ask for some help and give somebody a little lift up and particularly if you've been through some of it. So I don't understand where your sympathy is or your understanding is coming from, because it's not connecting.
Borg: Mr. Zaun --
Boswell: It sounds like a disconnection to me.
Zaun: My personal response was this. I’ve been through tough times. I talked about this when I made my announcement. There was a time when 2001 came along and I owned that hardware store and Home Depot and Lowe’s came in and then 9/11 hit and I had to make some adjustments. My business went down. I had to pay my employees before myself. But what I did is what my parents taught me. And personal responsibility is taking care of the bills that you have, and I did that. I’ve struggled like so many people in the third congressional district. There’s 114,000 Iowans that are unemployed right now.
Borg: Talking about struggling, Leonard Boswell, you have a farm background as well as a political background.
Boswell: That's true.
Borg: Tom Vilsack, Federal U.S. Agriculture Secretary, said that this week that -- defended farm subsidies even though crop prices are high right now because he says we as consumers benefit from inexpensive -- relatively inexpensive food. Do you think that farm subsidies can be defended as being relevant in this contemporary price society?
Boswell: Something needs to be connected together. You know, people live downtown New York or downtown Des Moines or LA or wherever. We all have a vested interest in having successful food production and processing and so on. We do have the most available, safest, least expensive food in the world because we all invest in it through the farm bill. However, getting to your point there about the direct payments and so on. That’s one of the reasons we started the hearings way in advance across the country which -- I chair a very important subcommittee that has a lot to do with farmers when it comes to commodities futures and risk management and so on. We’re going to have to do some draw back, it seems to us. That’s our prediction. So let us get out there to the producers and the processors and say, if we do this, what do you need the most. And they need that safety net. And we have got to be sure that it's accessible and it's available and it's affordable. And that's where I’m putting my concentration.
Borg: Mr. Zaun? On farm subsidies.
Zaun: Well, I’ll tell you what I see. I definitely think we need to go through the process and see if it's a benefit to the taxpayers of the state of Iowa. I see -- of course, the farm bill surprised me with their coming out and saying that they're really close to saying no, stop the farm subsidies. But the fact is I see a lot of big, large corporations, corporate farms getting this money so I think it's something we need to look at.
Borg: Kay, you had a follow up.
Henderson: Back to the beginning of the program and biodiesel. Could you tell us whether you support the tax break for biodiesel, which is also a farm issue?
Zaun: Well, it expired here a year ago, and certainly I think that the biodiesel industry needs to grow, and at this point I would not support that.
Henderson: To put a finer point on farm subsidies, if you're elected, would you vote to get rid of them?
Zaun: I think we need to go through the process and look through what the benefit is to the taxpayers. We’re all interested in lower cost of food. But I think when there's individuals or corporations getting more of the money than individual family farms, I think that's something that needs to be addressed.
Borg: You're shaking your head no.
Boswell: Well, the very statement that you're talking about -- concerning about the 114,000. What about those 80,000 people out there in the alternative fuels, ethanol and biodiesel and so on, and the efforts we're making to get us out of bondage to OPEC? You’re not connecting, brad! You’re just not connecting and that's part of my problem. There’s a real situation out there that we've got to do better, and we have led out in Iowa, and I’ve been involved in it for years. And it's a stand-up business that we've got to continue to support and be sure we can make it solid. and we definitely should be supporting those biodiesel plants that are sitting out there idle because that is something we get from many different sources of food stock we can use to put into biodiesel and not be coming in from OPEC. They take it there, turn terrorists against is. We can do better. So you're saying just, no, I don't want to do that. I find that very hard to believe. Very hard to believe.
Zaun: I respectfully disagree. You know, when we as taxpayers invest $100,000 to $600,000 for each new job created, that's excessive. And I want that industry to survive, and I want it to flourish.
Boswell: You want it to survive. You just don't want it to do anything. My goodness!
Zaun: We can't afford it anymore.
Boswell: Well, we can't afford not to.
Glover: Mr. Zaun, you earlier said that you would not have supported some of the spending that was done under the stimulus program, the auto industry in specifics. What would you have done, nothing?
Zaun: The stimulus spending that was out there was rewarding states and schools and counties for bad behavior. We cannot afford that anymore.
Glover: So what would you have done, nothing?
Zaun: I would have done nothing. I would have let the economy take care of itself is what I would have done. We cannot afford the $14-trillion debt that we're handing on to our next generation. We’ve got to make tough changes in Washington, DC and I think every business should stand on its own two feet. I think every state should stand on their own two feet.
Boswell: Mr. Boswell, what would have been the consequences of doing nothing?
Boswell: Please, if you want to know what would have happened, go and walk through the FDR memorial. It would have been severe. A good implication point -- when we had that first from -- the tarp came out and I said let them fail and I walked the floor two nights. I went down and I went back through that and I said we can't go there. If we're going to go down, I want to go down fighting. So I went back to the caucus and I said to them, you know, there's risk, but we've got to do something. We’ve got to put some oversight on it. Paulson can't just have this -- the bush administration. We’ve got to do something. So we did and it failed. You might remember that. Like we came back from break and staff met me there and, well, what's going to happen, and I said I think we'll be called back. Three days later we were. I was at the airport getting my boarding pass, and the person behind the countered said, "May I talk to you?" and I said, "If I don't miss the flight, yes." and the individual said, "I was very angry at you last week." I said, "I’m sorry." But she said, "I got to thinking about this, and I’m investing into my future, my retirement plan and so on. That money is not in the stock or -- it's invested. If we went south -- if we went into a depression, I would lose that."
Borg: Mr. Boswell, just like you were going to miss that flight, we're running out of time here. Kay?
Henderson: Mr. Zaun --
Boswell: Anyway, she was --
Henderson: Sorry, sir. Let’s talk about health care. Would you repeal the entire plan or would you keep components of it in place?
Zaun: I want to address one thing that was said earlier in regards to privatization of social security. That is absolutely not true. We’ve got to fix social security. There’s too many Iowans that depend on that. And your question again was?
Henderson: In regards to health care, would you repeal the entire package or would you keep components of it in place?
Zaun: You know, I would repeal the health care that was passed. Number one, we can't ford it. Number two, it's taken $500 billion out of Medicare, which is going to be very problematic. We need to make some changes in the health care bill. I’ve cosponsored some legislation in the Iowa senate in regards to buying across state lines. The other thing is we have got to -- we can't afford this. We cannot afford this but I do believe --
Borg: Can we afford the whole package?
Zaun: We cannot afford the whole package.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell, some of your colleagues in congress are running ads bragging about their vote on health care reform. Are you not among them? Why not?
Boswell: I’m certainly not running from it at all. I’m trying to define who I think this person is that I think people don't really understand. But I think that we couldn't afford not to do something. Health care costs are going up 18 percent last year, and that means that was the average. Some was much more than that.
Borg: Still going up, though, Mr. Boswell.
Boswell: Well, there's a transition period here. And again, nonpartisan -- which has no -- republican or democrat have said they were going to save $137 billion the first year -- or the first ten years, and the second over a trillion. So there's going to be a savings there, but it takes some time to get it implemented and get it into place. and to say to turn it back, you're going to say to those people with preexisting conditions, sorry, that's too bad, or the women out there that are being discriminated against and have to pay more just because they're a woman, sorry, that's okay, that they're going to let the doughnut hole continue to go on! Sorry --
Borg: just a quick response, Mr. Zaun.
Zaun: well, you know what, we were promised that we were going to be able to keep our own health care. If you look and see what just happened here, 21,000 Iowans were told they can't be part of Medicare advantage. There are 1,500 people in the Des Moines area that lost their job because of this health care thing and six other companies. And we're made promises. We need to make changes and I will support and I will be a very good advocate to make changes improve our health care system.
Glover: Mr. Boswell, we've only got about a minute left. I’d like to use that and I’d like you to divide the time up equally. You said something interesting earlier. You said that there's things that people don't understand about Mr. Zaun. What don't people understand about him?
Boswell: The -- doesn't fit what he's done. That’s part of it. Back to the health care advantage. People don't understand. the Medicare advantage is still Medicare and because the cost of having somebody outside to manage this, kind of like the higher education situation where we've got a major fix in, people who will go off Medicare advantage are still in Medicare. They’re still in Medicare. They’re not going to lose their Medicare. There’s going to be 500 billion saved, and that will extend Medicare out for twelve years. You still have Medicare. It’s still there. -- Advantage of somebody orchestrating it because they couldn't -- the opportunity to make money there, taken away from the larger pool, which most Iowans are involved in.
Glover: Mr. Zaun, the same question to you. You’ve had a long, hard, tough campaign. A lot of charges have flown. You have an opportunity here to tell people what they should know about Mr. Boswell that they don't know.
Zaun: Well, you know what. I’m going to continue to run a campaign talking about issues. I challenge you, Congressman Boswell, to come up with one ad that talks about solutions or anything about my voting record. The fact of the matter is I think that it's unfortunate that you're going to make personal attacks. That all this campaign has been about, and that's all that's come out of your campaign. I want to listen to people and I’m going to continue serving the way I’ve served. And I just ask everybody to ask them one question when they go into the voter booth, and that is do you think the country is headed in the right direction, because Congressman Boswell thinks we're headed on the right path.
Borg: I have to interrupt because we're out of time. Thanks so much for being with us today. Two program reminders before we go. beginning Monday and continuing through Saturday this coming week, Iowa Public Television presenting six pre-election programs interviewing candidates in November 2's general election. Iowa Public Television's Paul Yeager hosting Iowa Candidates 2010 airing at 6:30 every night this week Monday through Saturday. You’ll see and hear candidates seeking federal offices, but the U.S. house and senate, as well as those seeking statewide elected offices. Then on Thursday of this coming week, another program, third and final gubernatorial debate. Incumbent Governor Chet culver, challenger Terry Branstad, in a forum sponsored by Iowa Public Television and The Des Moines Register. You’ll see the debate live at noon at Iowa Public Television's World .3 channel statewide, rebroadcast at 8:00 Thursday night on our main channel statewide. I hope you'll watch these special programs to help us all be better informed voters. I’m Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.