I am always a bit surprised at the frantic outrage over controversial comments by our Congressman Steve King.
One might as well be shocked that a dog has a bark or a leopard has spots.
The latest flap is over an MSNBC panel that devolved into a shouting match after King questioned what non-white groups have contributed.
Why the great fuss? King makes an OMG statement about once a week. It should hardly be a stunner at this point. What was it last week - somehow comparing his demand for an English as the Official Language law to the Biblical Tower of Babel? And the week before that, trying to kill funding to print Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. It's useless to repeat them all.
Every statement King makes sends the national media dutifully scrambling to dissect, interpret and philosophize, and Facebook pundits to feverishly pass around those "Dear USA, sorry about Steve King, signed Iowa" memes.
Controversy sells, and King can usually be counted on to deliver. It's a symbiotic relationship.
The media knows that if it prods King enough, his pugnacious nature will cause him to fire back, and that will be enough for a headline or a TV commentary.
King benefits because his core constituents adore brash, fearless statements. Where most U.S. Representatives labor in relative anonymity, at least in comparison with senators, King's name always stays hot in the national spotlight. As they say, any publicity is good publicity.
In fact, the stories attempting to call King to task only end up looking foolish.
The national media works under a mistaken hypothesis that what Congressman Steve King says is accidental, or careless. We Iowans, by now, should know it is nothing of the kind.
King is no fool. not by a long shot. One does not achieve success in business, or politics, for as long as he has without knowing what he is doing. Everything said, or done, serves a purpose.
No one is as attuned to his political support base - the far, conservative, right in this case - as is Mr. King.
Interviewing him early in his political career, I noticed he tended to end each visit with one big bombshell. In one case, I recall, he spoke calmly and reasonably and in well-informed fashion against illegal immigration, as would be expected from many politicians, and then just before walking out the door, turned and suggested that perhaps there should be a moratorium against ALL immigration. In a country completely made up of immigrants.
Uber-conservative yes, but crazy no. He knows how his words will play with his supporters and detractors.
Even if what he says isn't particularly controversial, it's going to be played that way now, because his reputation as a verbal loose cannon is firmly established. He was doing Donald Trump before Donald Trump was doing Donald Trump. The media and bloggers are going to be hanging on every syllable, eager for a feeding frenzy.
Now, we all have probably gotten edgy at times and said something we wish we could take back, or that we knew wasn't coming out exactly as we intended as soon as it leaves our lips. It usually doesn't pay to get too hung up over a word or phrase out of context.
King's style probably won't permit him to apologize or backtrack on something he has said, either, as some other politicians might. His nature is to run with it and let the chips fall where they may, and it has worked for him. There's "clarification," but no reverse gear.
At times, King's comments, we have felt, have been extremely offensive, especially when speaking of immigrant children, and we have called him on it in this space. A leader should be held to high standards.
But to be fair, sometimes we also feel way too much is made of an offhand statement.
In regard to the Republican National Convention panel, which saw King skewered in all the big national press, it seems much ado about little.
After watching it, I doubt King intended to insult all the non-white populations of the world, and the pundits calling him a white supremacist or KKK persona are just trying to out-outragious the master of the controversial statement.
A panelist seemed to criticize the "old, white, male" nature of the convention, and King - whose political support is rather firm in that particular demographic, bristled, and sought to make a case for that ethnicity's historic achievements. A yelling match ensued, but most Western Civ textbooks are just as ethnocentric.
Had the other panelist instead simply opined that more diversity would be positive for the party, there would have been zero flap. Or if King had stated his response to say that welcoming other segments of the population should not be done at the exclusion of the traditional older, wealthier, politically-active grassroots - that all should have the opportunity for involvement - nothing would have been thought of it.
None of us are inside the congressman's head, and we can't presume to interpret his thoughts or intent. As he himself explained in a rather telling response on the Harriet Tubman squabble, change itself may be the issue for Mr. King. "I like to keep what we have," he says. And that explains a good deal.
Don't vote against Steve King because of his incendiary sentence on racial history, or any other ballyhooed single quote that is hot for a day or two. And don't vote for him for those reasons either.
When you head to the polls, make your determination on how effective a congressman he has been.
Has he been reasoned, and responsive to his district? Has he been a productive representative of Iowa? Has he written and been successful with the legislation needed for today's society? How is his voting record? Has he achieved unity and diplomacy? Are things better than when he began? Judge the work, not just the words.
Statements matter, but actions speak louder.