Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rob Hubler, The Submariner

“We sat there for 45 minutes knowing everyone we knew was dead.”

Rob Hubler is running for Congress in Western Iowa’s 5th Congressional District and this is one of the stories he sometimes tells about his Navy submarine experience in the 1960s. His nuclear submarine was in the middle of the ocean when the word came that the United States was at war with the Soviet Union. So the crew executed its orders, launched its missiles, and then had nothing left to do but ponder what they had just done, and what a nuclear war likely meant for their family and friends back home. Fortunately, it was just a drill, designed to test the crew’s readiness and response, and unknown to the crew the warheads were not armed or targeted.

Rob spent seven years in the Navy as a nuclear propulsion room supervisor and nuclear power plant operator and campaigns wearing his “Silent Service” cap. Rob spent some years in the 1970s as a political operative helping candidates get elected to the House and Senate. Once a heavy drinker (but then so were John McCain and George Bush), Rob had a turbulent period with alcoholism. Then Rob made a career as a Presbyterian Minister. His Christian beliefs define his world view. Rob often says his life revolves around the Four F’s: faith, family, friends, and fellowship. He also says, “We are our brother’s keeper.” Rob Hubler is a Democrat.

Rob has a hard job. He is running for Congress in a heavily Republican district where there are 3 registered Republicans for every 2 Democrats. There are more than enough independent voters for a candidate like Rob Hubler to have a good chance, but it’s not going to be a fair fight. His opponent won’t debate him. Word is that Rob has raised $220,000 and his opponent has raised $880,000.

Yes, there is a lot of dissatisfaction across the nation with President Bush, weariness with the Iraq War, and anger at the financial mess. But at the same time, the Red State, Blue State story flogged for the last 8 years by national media and the occasional Democratic candidate tells people in the places that vote Republican that they are stupid rednecks or worse - not exactly the best way to win friends and influence people. (And it’s actually the suburban Republican vote not the rural vote that has been costing Democrats elections.) The stories about Acorn tactics in registering voters dredge up long repressed fears of big city Democrats stuffing ballot boxes to disenfranchise voters in the countryside. And after all, your local Republican Congressman is a good guy who you like, who stands up for your values, so why not vote to reelect him.

The incumbent Republican Congressman that Ron is running against is Steve King. How Steve became a politician is an interesting story. Steve ran his own constructions company, and came before the state legislature in Des Moines to speak on some new proposal. Steve had spent some time and care writing and practicing his speech, but when he got before the legislative committee, he was peppered with questions and speeches posing as questions and could hardly get a word of his speech in. Steve was outraged that the legislators would rather talk at him then listen to what he had to say, so he went home and ran for election, and came back to Des Moines as a state senator. In 2002, he got elected to the U.S. Congress. Steve won by 62% to 38% in 2002, 63% to 37% in 2004, and 59% to 37% in 2006.

However, Steve King has become one of those politicians he used to hate, not really listening to others and taking a certain relish in making inflammatory comments. For example:

On conditions in Iraq: "My wife lives here with me, and I can tell you, she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C., than an average civilian in Iraq."

On the U.S. military talking out al-Zarqawi: “There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he's at, and if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas." (Helen Thomas is an 88-year-old American journalist and White House correspondent.)

On foreign spouse’s of U.S. soldiers: “A soldier, man or woman, could get drunk in Bangkok, wake up in the morning and be married, as will happen sometimes in places like Las Vegas or Bangkok, be killed the next day, and the spouse who was a product of the evening's celebration would have then a right to claim access to come to the United States on a green card.”

On the Supreme Court: “I pray that Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsberg fall madly in love with each other and elope to Cuba. That way President Bush can appoint two more Justices like Alito and Roberts.”

On Barack Obama: “I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. … His middle name (Hussein) does matter. It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was."

On former Bush White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan: "Couldn't you have taken this to the grave with you and done this country a favor?"

On the Republican Party platform not supporting ethanol: “It wouldn’t be the first time someone included a phrase that was dumb in the GOP platform.”

I find Steve King entertaining, I must admit, but I don’t see him getting anything done, particularly in the new Democratic Congress where his influence will be zero if not negative. Rob Hubler has some entertaining stories too. Rob went off to Southern California, fell in with a band, played with them for 10 to 15 gigs, then quit because he just couldn’t get into the band’s style of music. The band’s frontman was Brian Wilson, which, if only he had felt the good vibrations, would have made Rob Hubler the eighth Beach Boy.

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