Tuesday, October 11, 2011

At his wife Christie’s announcement of her congressional candidacy in Ames this summer, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack politely declined to answer questions from the media.

The former Iowa governor didn’t have to completely muzzle himself. But he does have to watch it somewhat as a U.S. Senate-confirmed member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet.

A memo Tom Vilsack requested from Stuart Bender, director of the Office of Ethics with the Ag Department, spells out clearly what Mr. Vilsack can and can’t do to further Mrs. Vilsack’s political ambitions. I read the memo over the weekend.

(Mrs. Vilsack will be in Carroll Thursday for the county Democrats’ annual fundraiser.  She’ll headline the $25 event beginning at 7 p.m. at the Carrollton Centre.)

For his part, Mr. Vilsack cannot allow his title of ag secretary to be used in connection with any fund-raising activities, but he can be identified as “The Honorable” or as the former governor of Iowa. He can also “properly greet guests,” and can give remarks to attendees of a fund-raiser about the benefits of electing his wife.

The Hatch Act, which governs the actions of employees of the federal executive branch, prohibits Mr. Vilsack from using his official authority to influence the election.

But he can appear with Mrs. Vilsack in TV ads and urge others to vote for his wife — as long as Mr. Vilsack doesn’t personally solicit campaign contributions.

In other words, the Honorable Tom Vilsack could trumpet the assets and potential of Congresswoman Christie Vilsack for 45 minutes  at a fund-raiser and then sit down while staffers pass out donation cards.

Takeaway: So far, Mr. Vilsack appears to be watching the rules quite carefully.

*****

Elizabeth started it …

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is playing the gender card in a most preposterous way. And so is the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

During a debate last week, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren mocked U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., for having posed nude in a women’s magazine to pay for his education.

Asked to respond to Warren’s answer that she made it through school without taking her clothes off to earn money, Brown said, “Thank God.”

Which is a response 100 percent commensurate with Warren’s first shot.

But Pelosi, speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” suggested that Brown’s quip is a window into a sexist soul.

“It really spoke volumes about, really, disrespect for women he may not even realize,” Pelosi said on ABC.

And what about Warren’s comment? Does she think it is OK for women to pose revealingly in magazines but not men? Or is there something else at work with her when it comes to thinking about naked men?

Where is Congressman Steve King when we need him to weigh in on something. If he’d like it, Taking Note will give him the last word.

*****

In declining to run for the presidency last week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he didn’t want to be “in a hotel room in Des Moines and it’s 5:30 in the morning, and it’s 15 below, and it’s time for me to get up and go shake hands at the meatpacking plant.”

We live in western Iowa, near Denison and Storm Lake, cities with strong meatpacking presences. What’s more, The Carroll Daily Times Herald’s offices are but three blocks from a Farmland meat-processing facility (no kill floor). I have never seen a Republican candidate campaigning in a meatpacking plant. In 20 years of covering politics here.