Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

September 8, 2016

Iowa Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald said he was offended as both a Catholic and Democrat when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Pope Francis was “disgraceful” after the pontiff said building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico was not a Christian act.

In an interview with the Daily Times Herald to promote Hillary Clinton’s First 100-days economic plan on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said the pope is a great leader and believes he’s hit a nerve in the world.

“Whether it’s his temperament or what he said about — you pick the group — I’m a Catholic and he called the pope a disgrace,” Fitzgerald said. “John McCain is a good Republican, and he called him, basically a coward. It offended me as both a Catholic and a Democrat. I was outraged by that. But you can go to any group you want and he’s said something to offend you.”

Flying back to Rome from a trip to Mexico in February, the pope said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump swiftly responded the next day.

“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” Trump said.

Fitzgerald also touted the benefits to western Iowa if Clinton’s $275 billion economic-stimulus plan goes into action.

“Hillary’s is a campaign that benefits families,” Fitzgerald said. “The one thing we really want people to know is that she’s proposing — in her first 100 days — to have the biggest infrastructure investment since the Eisenhower administration.

Clinton’s plan calls for major investment in road and bridge construction, funding for clean energy, tax breaks for small businesses and manufacturing, and nationwide broadband access by 2020.

Fitzgerald said Highway 30 could very well be included in the investment.

“I would think it would be,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a massive infrastructure plan for roads and bridges. Highway 30 is a big part of Iowa, and Interstate 80 is way too crowded. I don’t know those details, but I would certainly think so.”

Fitzgerald said small-business creation and stability is important to Clinton. He said she plans to cut taxes and red tape to keep those small businesses strong.

“For example, having a standard deduction for a small business up to $1 million,” Fitzgerald said. “Or start-up costs, being able to expense up to $1 million of it the first year.”

He said expanding the broadband to rural areas will allow people to do business remotely, and expanding wind and solar energy is good for the environment and pocketbooks.

None of these policies will go into effect if Clinton cannot defeat Trump in November, and the polls in Iowa and around the nation are tightening. RealClearPolitics’ aggregate of recent polls show Trump ahead in Iowa by less than a point.

Fitzgerald said he’s not completely sure why it’s so close in Iowa.

“It’s a surprise to me, but historically (Iowa is) always close,” Fitzgerald said. “I think Iowans will look at this race and make up their minds toward the end. I’m optimistic they’re going to break to Hillary because she has practical, reasonable solutions, as opposed to Trump who just says, ‘Believe me. I’m the best.’”

Fitzgerald said he thinks people will come to Clinton’s side after she’s allowed to explain her positions during the upcoming debates. Critics have claimed she is losing the economic argument because Trump is keeping his message simple.

“Making government work isn’t bumper sticker ready,” Fitzgerald said. “There are issues and they need serious answers, and she has it.”

Fitzgerald believes Democrats can do well in western Iowa and Carroll County. He said it’s the party’s own fault for not spending more time and effort campaigning here.

“Democrats can’t leave western Iowa alone,” he said. “We’ve got to be out here and we’ve got to campaign, and there’s a lot of Democrats out here. The grandparents (of people here) voted for the Democrats, so I think there’s a lot of people who are independent in Iowa and in Carroll that will say, ‘OK, (Hillary’s plan) makes sense to me.’”

Fitzgerald said Democrats need to clarify their message of building the economy from the ground up.

“People like me need to spend more time here in western Iowa convincing independents and newly formed Republicans that, ‘Hey, you need to be a Democrat because we offer raising the minimum wage as opposed to giving $20 million to a pork-processing plant and hoping it’ll trickle down to you.’”

Early voting in Iowa begins Sept. 29. People wishing to vote before the Nov. 8 general election can vote at the Carroll County Auditor’s Office in the courthouse, or may request an absentee ballot via phone or mail.