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Tag: Jim Leach

Jim Leach Changes Party Affiliation from “R” to “D”

Jim Leach2 Cropped.png
James Leach
Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities

I grew up during a time when Democrats and Republicans co-existed relatively peacefully. We have the example of Al Gore’s 2000 concession speech after the Florida “hanging chad” controversy (look it up if you’re too young to remember it). My parents were best friends with Bus and Arlene Raymond of Independence, staunch Republicans, and Arlene (my godmother) was even a Republican lobbyist in Des Moines, while my father was the Democratic County Treasurer of Buchanan County for 4 terms. So you’ll have to excuse me if the news that Jim Leach has left the Republican party after 30 years as a House of Representatives Republican from Iowa is worth mentioning—especially when you hear his words as to why.

Also, back in 2001, on Veterans’ Day (Nov. 11th) right after 9/11, I funded and organized a gathering called “Celebrate Citizenship,” a patriotic sing-along gathering post 9/11, with the money raised to go towards college scholarships for the children orphaned in  the World Trade Center explosion on 9/11. Whatever we raised would be matched by my parent company, Sylvan Learning Corporation.

I rented out the Pleasant Valley High School Auditorium and set up a program, which included my students reading from their essays, the Glenview Junior High School Band from East Moline, IL, (best in the state of Illinois that year by actual vote of Illinois music educators) playing for a sing-along of patriotic songs, and various speakers, which included a representative from Channel 6 (Ryan Nolan), a representative from the “Daily Dispatch” (John Marx) and, as the keynote speaker,  James Leach, then the long-time GOP House of Representatives delegate from the state of Iowa. Leach served in the House of Representatives for Iowa from 1977 to 2007, thirty years. Getting him as my speaker that day was quite a coup, as he had numerous speaking engagements around the state, but he was most gracious in agreeing to come, and that, in itself, is a story I will tell on here in more detail at another time.

Jim Leach was a good guy: a moderate Republican for 30 years who lost re-election to Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, in 2006. Leach was then, and is now, a thoughtful, intelligent leader who did not just vote the party line.Leach was the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University. He also served as the interim director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from September 17, 2007, to September 1, 2008, when Bill Purcell was appointed permanent director.

Jim (James) Leach, age 79, switched his party registration from R to D to vote in the June, 2022 primary. He said the switch was prompted by a Republican Party that he described as lurching to the right and lying about the results of the 2020 election. Here, in long-time Republican James Leach’s words, are his thoughts on the present-day GOP:

“My own view is that there is no excuse whatsoever for an insurrection. And that we’re in one of the most profound challenges to American democracy ever, excepting the Civil War. Today, the Republican Party that I spent so many years with has really let the country down. And we need to have a political party that operates in a way that both parties can participate.  The Republican Party has just torn itself apart, and it’s got to pull itself together.  I’ll lean toward the Democratic party as long as excellent people are running.”

Leach went on to specifically endorse University of Iowa colleague Christina Bohannan, a law professor, running against Marianne Meeks. “This particular year could not be more appropriate for a law school professor to run. She’s intelligent and not an embarrassment to the state or anything. She’s a decent person. I just don’t see anyone standing up to Christina.” Leach also said he would support Mike Franken, a former Navy Admiral and Democrat running to unset 88-year-old Chuck Grassley. Leach cited Franken’s naval experience as a plus to Congress and took issue with Grassley’s role in ushering through conservative picks for the U.S. Supreme Court. Some have also linked Grassley to potential foreknowledge of the impending insurrection (see previous article on Weekly Wilson).

Of Admiral Franken, Leach said, “It’s really important we have some naval knowledge in the Congress which is why I was very pleased to see Admiral Franken run. Leach did not see the chances of a moderate Republican in Iowa winning as very favorable. “It would be awfully, awfully hard in the primary. A lot of Republicans would have a decent chance in the general election, but would have a really hard time, at least over the last year, in a primary.”

James Leach said, “We have an obligation to pull together and vote for anyone who has a moral capacity to lead in a credible way.”

Democrats Kick Off Convention in Denver on August 25th

Me and Obama

The DNC (Democratic National Convention) in Denver, Colorado kicked off on Monday, August 25th, and I was there. I was almost not there, however, because (as outlined in AC content producer Tom Treloar’s story),  major highways are all but closed down, including I25, parts of Speer Boulevard, and nearly all the roads that lead one close to either the Pepsi Center, where the nightly meetings take place until Thursday, or Invesco Field, where Obama will make his acceptance speech.

I began my Odyssey towards the Pepsi Center by cab, because previous walking to interview the protesters in Tent City  left me lame. I waited for an hour for a cab, as some automated cab numbers did not  provide a “live” person to ask for a vehicle, but left you on “hold” for a very long time. Then, the number given me was for a cab service in the mountains. After an hour, a cab arrived, but the driver seemed less-than-informed about street closings. I finally exited the cab, $8 poorer, somewhere in the downtown area.

At this point, things got interesting. In trying to walk to the arena, visible about ½ mile away, yellow crime scene tape limited the ability to walk up the steps provided.

I flagged a city maintenance truck to ask “How do I get from here to there?” (“there” being visible, but not easily reached.) Locals had pointed to a building at least 10 miles away and told me to “walk to that building and come back.” After my merry laughter, I commandeered the maintenance truck and climbed into the front seat between Jorge and Luis, neither of whom spoke much English. Through my gestures, they understood that I wanted to get closer to the Pepsi Center, and, to that end, we nearly drove over some pedestrians on the sidewalks. I yelled, “Ay, Carrambe!” a lot (whatever that means) and they asked, “Hable Espanol?” to which, unfortunately, the response is “No hable Espanol,” [which I probably spelled wrong, as well.] Jorge, Luis and I got close, but no cigar. That is when two men (police? Secret Service?) in a golf cart took pity on me. One got out of the golf cart, I got in, and the golf cart drove me to the front door. (Sweet! Thanks, guys!)

Once inside, my “Hall” level pass allowed me to travel to behind-the-scenes areas, where I stood cheek-to-jowl with Jesse Jackson, Jr., on the “third level,” but, alas, did not secure a photo. I did take a picture of the large room housing at least 400 videotographers and bloggers (only 125 bloggers were allowed inside, I heard), and I crashed the party on the third floor, where larger media like NBC and “Time” (et. al.) is ensconced.

Much of my time was spent in the company of two young students from the University of Akron, who were feeding film for airing on PBS. Jamie Reeves, a junior, and Rebecca Gruccio, a Senior, were staying in Boulder, but getting class credit for their efforts for www.ztvakron.com.  Jamie will not wear high heels on Tuesday night.

After the party platform, gaveled into action by Howard Dean, had reinforced that Democrats want the complete redeployment of all troops in Iraq within 16 months, health care for all (a big topic of the ailing Ted Kennedy’s remarks), a new economic stimulus package, and more taxes on those with incomes over $250,000, the crowd began to swell in anticipation of the evening’s Big Name speakers, which included Nancy Pelosi, a video from (former President) Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg (introducing a tribute to her Uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, who appeared in person), former Republican Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and, the piece de resistance, Michelle Obama.

As an Iowa native, I was interested in hearing what a Republican Congressman from Iowa would tell the crowded hall about Barack Obama. Among other things, the scholarly address questioned, “Whether it is prudent to borrow from future generations to pay for today’s reckless fiscal policies or elect a leader who will shore up our budgets and return us to a strong dollar. Whether it is preferable to continue the policies that have weakened our position in the world, deepened our debt and widened social divisions or elect a leader who will emulate John F. Kennedy and relight a lamp of fairness at home and reassert an energizing mix of realism and idealism abroad.” Leach called Obama “a transcending candidate, an individual whom I am convinced will recapture the American dream and be a truly great President.” His delivery was Leach’s usual thoughtful style, and the true crowd-pleasers were Teddy Kennedy and Michelle Obama.

As State Representative and Delegate Shirley Nathan-Eullian from Maryland gushed to me and Finnish reporter Jari Alenius, reporting for Ilta-Sanomat (a Finnish newspaper), “Michelle Obama was articulate. She was fantastical!”

Barack Obama spoke to the crowd and his wife and daughters via a “live” feed from Missouri. He had been in Davenport, Iowa earlier in the day. The Michelle Obama remarks ended the night’s duties, and delegates adjourned to a series of parties across the city.

I chose to attend “Republicans Happy Hour for Hillary,” an  event at the Paramount Café at 519 16th St. in Denver, which was scheduled for 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Hillary never showed, but several young supporters wearing her shirts or McCain shirts did.

Alan S. Chartock of WAMC Northeast Public Radio, the owner of 22 public radio stations in the Albany, New York, area, with whom I chatted in the newsroom, said he had interviewed Hillary three times and that she was a “very bright woman,” but that she had “surrounded herself with idiots.” (By this, I believe he meant those who planned her Iowa primary campaign, not Bill Clinton.) While we were speaking, his wife phoned him to tell him that Denver police wear tear-gassing protesters outside the Denver Coliseum near 16th Street.

The evening closed with me getting as close to Barack Obama as I am likely to get, in the person of a cardboard life-size figure at the Paramount Café. Too bad he wasn’t one of the Iowa primary candidates I posed with during that frozen winter.  Michelle Obama thanked the people of Iowa for turning out to vote for her husband Barack at the snowy Iowa caucuses, the first African-American with a realistic shot at being President.

Right now, rumors swirl that Hillary will ask for a state-by-state vote when her name is placed in nomination, and that she has brought her own camera crew to cover her appearances. A source inside the Texas delegation says the Hispanic delegates have not yet endorsed Obama’s candidacy, and, as Nancy Pelosi said, “To stay wallowing in all of this is not productive.”

Former Republican Senator Jim Leach Will Speak to DNC on August 25th

Jim Leach

It was just announced that former Republican Senator from Iowa James “Jim” Leach, now serving as the interim Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard is to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado on opening night (Monday, August 25, 2008).

Trotting out this esteemed thirty-year Republican legislator, who endorsed Barack Obama on August 12th, is a coup for the Democrats akin to the use of Senator Joseph Leiberman, (former Democratic Vice Presidential running mate with John Kerry) at the Republican convention.

Jim Leach is one of the most respected politicians ever to serve. And serve he did…for 30 years, in fact, from 1977 to 2007, when, after being re-elected 14 times, he was upset in the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Iowa by a mere 6,000 votes by former Cornell College Professor David Loebsack.

Leach, a graduate of Princeton, Johns Hopkins and the London School of Economics, and a Davenport, Iowa, native, has been a voice for moderate Republicans ever since he defeated Ed Mezvinsky (who later served time in prison) in 1976.

If all politicians had the integrity, smarts and scruples of James Leach, this country wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in at this time in our history.

Leach was fiscally conservative, socially moderate, but progressive on such issues as stem cell research, which he supported at a time when “W” was banning the use of all but a few strains. Leach also had the integrity to quit during Watergate, in protest over the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Richard Nixon fired Eliot Richardson and Archibald Cox. (At the time, Leach was serving as a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the U.N. General Assembly). He never accepted PAC money, refused out-of-state contributions to his campaigns, and put limits on how much one individual could contributions.

After 9/11, I was standing in a long line at the Baltimore Airport, trying hard to get a plane back from a Sylvan Learning Center convention to the Quad Cities of Ia/Il when I happened to notice that the man 2 people back in line was Jim Leach, schlepping his own suit over his shoulder in a garment bag. The lines that day, snaking through that airport, were the longest lines I’ve ever seen in an airport. Airports in Washington, D.C. had been closed and planes had been grounded for days.

I struck up a conversation with Leach, saying something less-than-intelligent like, “Hey! You’re my Representative!”

Everyone, at that time, felt as though they wished they could do something to help, and I sketched for Leach my goal of hosting a fund-raiser for the children of the victims of that tragic terrorist attack. When I asked his opinion of the idea, just then taking shape in my mind, he responded with amusement, “You’re way ahead of me.” I forgot to ask him if he would participate, were I successful in organizing such a fund-raiser, but belatedly thought of this coup and sprinted the length of two airport concourses to ask him (breathlessly), “If I get something together, would you come and be the keynote speaker?” He looked a bit startled, but acknowledged that he would do so.

Fast forward to an Iowa football game one month later in a pancake house in Iowa City, Iowa. Who should be there but Senator Leach, wearing an orange sweater. I went over to his table and said, “Remember me? The Sylvan lady? I’m still working on the plans for the fund-raiser. Can I still count on you?” He chuckled, probably wondering if I were stalking him, but responded affirmatively.

I worked out the details of this event between 9/11 and 11/11, Veterans’ Day. In frequent conversations with the Senator’s office staff, I received word that, although he had many speaking commitments that day, he would, indeed, travel all the way from Iowa City (106 miles, round trip) to the Pleasant Valley High School, whose auditorium I had rented for an event we dubbed “Celebrate Citizenship.” I was warned, however, that, since he had at least 7 prior speaking engagements, he would arrive late.

When Jim Leach entered the hall about halfway through the performance(s) by the Glenview Band, he gave a thoughtful report to the assembled citizens about what was being discussed in the halls of Congress regarding the dastardly attack on the World Trade Center. He was insightful, thoughtful, inspiring, just as I expect him to be on Monday night at the DNC in Colorado.

He did not let me down in my hour of need, and, through the generosity of the people of the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities and the forthright goodness of this man of principle, we raised $5,000 for the Scholarship Fund established for the children of the victims of 9/11, (with matching funds from our Sylvan Corporate company.)

This is the James Leach who endorsed Barack Obama on August 12th and who will speak to the nation on Monday, August 25th.

Jim Leach is one of the good ones.  Lord knows we need more like him now. I hope that, when he speaks, the nation listens.

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