WELCOME to the debut of “The Truth Is!”, a blog of reporting and commentary that aims to be informative, thoughtful and provocative. At least initially, the blog will have a strong heartland flavor by virtue of the connection of a number of us to Cowles family journalism. I am former editor of the Des Moines Register’s opinion pages. Another contributor, Michael Gartner, is former editor of the paper; he later served as president of NBC News. Another former Register editor who has agreed to contribute, Geneva Overholser, is director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school of journalism. Followers of the blog will have access also to the work of Herbert Strentz of Des Moines, a close Register and other newspaper watcher who once headed Drake University’s journalism school. Bill Leonard, a longtime Register editorial writer, will add insights.

“The Truth Is!” will be supervised by my daughter, Marcia Wolff, a communications lawyer for 20 years with Arnold and Porter (Washington, D.C.). Invaluable technical assistance in assembling and maintaining the blog is provided by my grandsons Julian Cranberg, a college first-year, and Daniel Wolff, a high school senior.

If you detect a whiff of nepotism in this operation, so be it. All of it is strictly a labor of love. —Gil Cranberg

Sunday, April 19, 2015


The Iowa dream of homespun democracy now seems like more of a nightmare of electoral folly.

The notion of grassroots selection of presidential candidates — thanks to the Iowa caucuses — is pretty much bankrupt. It has given way to billionaires with more money than they know what to do with and to ideologues with more bizarre agenda items than political party platforms dare address — for fear of documenting the lunacy even more.

And the press? The press thinks this is all just wonderful, “a media circus” — as it is often called.

The only redeeming grace is that surely —SURELY, one would hope — some of the candidates have to be better than what we have heard so far.

Almost giddy about the folly and the circus, network TV news celebrates that we have some 80 weeks to go before the November 2016 elections; just think, all that time to endure the sinister TV ads that used to haunt us for only a few months before election day. Witness the attack of the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America upon announced GOP candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky. He dared to speak sense about talking to Iran instead of bombing it out of existence. (The Foundation’s implied logic: If we bomb enough countries, America will be secure and prosperous and, of course, exceptional.)

Yes, there are voices of reason, but they are not necessarily comforting. Consider two speakers hosted by the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement.

Pretty much ignored by the local press, political analyst Charlie Cook spoke at Drake University in Des Moines last November and Darrell West of the Brookings Institution spoke in early March. Each on his own characterized our current electoral process as “the Wild West” — a lawless, unprincipled and ungovernable time and place.

Our electoral “Wild West,” each said, is because (1) In practice, we have no spending regulations on political campaigns and (2) We have no real semblance of political party discipline or influence. It’s every candidate for himself or herself, every mob to its own pitchforks and torches.

The inept and the bizarre rule the day:

• The Iowa legislature puts hundreds of school districts and thousands of school employees through a figurative financial hell, because the legislature ignores its own deadlines in setting spending for public education. Not to fear: At least four GOP presidential contenders told a Christian conference the government should focus not on public education, but more on taxpayer support for home schooling or private home-indoctrination as some practice it.

• While the GOP routinely decries any government help for the needy, the Iowa Straw Poll will be held in August at an exposition center in Boone that exists thanks to millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

• We wait for another shoe to drop as former State Sen. Kent Sorenson faces federal sentencing or plea-bargaining after his conviction for taking money to support first the Michele Bachmann candidacy in the 2011 Straw Poll and then getting thousands more to switch support to another GOP candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. Who else was on the take that time around?

We endure all this despite foregone conclusions. The GOP caucus winner will be whoever grovels the most before the religious right; the Democrats will endorse Hillary Clinton. The press will follow their script for a Clinton-Jeb Bush election and punish would-be voters with a review of every political misdeed, gaffe and supposed scandal of Bush/Clinton/Bush administrations from 1988 to 2008.

It’s all a nightmare that echoes the fears of George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

And for the life of me: How can we do anything in the way of self governance and progress on domestic and international fronts during the next 80 weeks, given the quagmire of Straw Poll and Caucus nonsense we’re already knee-deep into?

But, at least, it’s not as though the fate of the nation or anything like that is at stake.


The Iowa GOP needs to update its party platform to welcome what Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas sees as his Christ-driven presidential candidacy and to endorse the mission of David Lane and the American Family Association to make the U.S. once again a Christian culture as God intended.

The 2014 party platform was toned down a bit from several of its predecessors that essentially called for the elimination of the federal government, the arming of all citizens to support any insurrection against any vestiges of that federal demon, and other more provocative proposals. In fact, the platforms had so many oddball proposals that a few even awakened the watch-dog press which was pretty much unaware that the evangelical religious right had seized control of the GOP.

But with the Cruz candidacy and the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll and caucuses, we’re pretty much going back to the fun-and-games-and-hate provisions of previous party platforms.

To square with the re-evangelizing of the Iowa GOP and the Cruz candidacy, here are some likely GOP planks that might be considered for 2016.

REINSTATE GOD’S COVENANT WITH NOAH: Eliminate all government flood-control programs and flood responses offered under FEMA: We must be mindful of Genesis 9:13, in which God promised Noah that He would not again destroy the world by flood. As part of the Judeo-Christian culture preached by Lane, the slogan will be “If it’s good enough for Noah, it’s enough for me.”

REMIND PEOPLE OF HOW THINGS REALLY STARTED: All national and state parks that have signage noting that the canyons and mountains impressing tourists are billions of years old, must carry additional wording that this is “Merely a geological opinion. Signs must also alert citizens that based on holy scripture Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland (1581-1656) proved that the first day of creation was Sunday Oct. 23, 4004 BC, that Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise on Monday Nov. 10 4004 BC, and that Noah’s ark — see above —touched down on Mt Ararat on Wednesday, May 5, 2348 BC. Consideration should be given to making those dates national holidays.

LOWER THE MINUM WAGE: The minimum wage shall never exceed $1 an hour, thus being in accord with the statement attributed to Jesus Christ in Matthew 26:11, “The poor you will always have with you.”

ELIMINATE FEDERALLY MANDATED WARNING LABELS FROM BOTTLES, CANS AND OTHER CONTAINERS: There is no need for such paternalism and supposed government wisdom because, after all, in Mark 16: 16-17, we read “those who believe…when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all…” As for the non-believers, they’ll get what they deserve!

At least those are some of the planks that come to mind with the Cruz candidacy and the doctrinaire approaches that will soon afflict the electorate and be treated as Gospel by the press.

Other scriptural references like beating swords into plowshares, Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3; loving your neighbor as yourself, Mark 12:33; blessing the peacemakers, the merciful and the other bleeding hearts, Matthew 5:3-12, will require further study and perhaps are the sole responsibility of the private sector.

It gets a bit complicated, particularly when the likes of Cruz and Lane, and their supporters, consider themselves to be “the light of the world,” Matthew 5:14.