The camera never blinks on a Senate race gone gothic

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Videos dogged Iowa’s U.S. Senate stars this week.

First, there was a video of U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley walking an Independence Day parade in Iowa Falls, shot by an operative from the camera-wielding conservative PAC America Rising. “We’re farmers,” a woman in the crowd says to the Democrat.

“So am I,” Braley says.

“But so is Grassley,” she says. “So am I,” Braley says.

Braley is a lawyer, not a farmer, although he once disparaged one on video. In January, he begged a group of Texas trial lawyers to help him stop U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, some Iowa farmer with no law degree, from taking over the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was the cringe-worthy pander that launched a thousand attack ads.

This time, his scrambling campaign says Braley misheard the woman, thinking she said “We’re for farmers.” Parades can be noisy.

That actually seems plausible, mainly because I can’t think of a plausible reason Braley would knowingly pose as a farmer. In Iowa, of all places. Perhaps he thought he’d get a free seed cap, or a deep discount on sweet corn. More likely he misheard and misspoke.

Not so, says the, where Braley has been diagnosed as “the definition of a pathological liar.” Lawyers as farmers. Bloggers as amateur diagnosticians. I, by the way, am really Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Meanwhile, Braley’s GOP rival, state Sen. Joni Ernst had to answer for her own January video. She told Montgomery County Republicans that President Obama “has become a dictator.” She was asked about Obama’s controversial recess appointments and how he should be punished if the Supreme Court rules against them, which it did in June.

“I do think that yes, he should face those repercussions, and whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment,” Ernst says.

Someone in the crowd claps. “Absolutely,” Ernst says.

Ernst’s video reminds me a lot of Braley’s own in Panderuary misstep, a candidate appearing before one group saying things that she’d never say to the rest of us. Ernst, with the GOP primary safely behind her, now says she doesn’t believe Obama’s a dictator, and hasn’t seen evidence that he should be impeached.

Speaking of posing, Ernst is running as someone who would change Washington with “Iowa values.” Make ‘em squeal, etc. But Capitol Hill already is filled to its flags with politicians who would rather scorch earth to wow their party’s narrow, outraged base than make the tough trade-offs and compromises needed to govern the whole country. Tossing bombs like “impeachment!” now passes for business as usual in a Congress where it’s unusual to do any business. Squeal? Yawn.

So our Senate race is looking like a new version of “American Gothic,” the iconic painting where Grant Wood posed a dentist and his own sister as a farmer and his daughter. Now, we have Braley as the farmer next to Ernst holding the famous pitchfork, and maybe a torch. Instead of oil on beaver board, we’ve got video online. By the time the mud stops flying, however, it’s going to look more like a Pollock.

That’s all for now. But I shall return!

l Staff Columnist Todd Dorman appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Contact: (319) 398-8452;

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