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February 25th, 2011

Vander Plaats tries to have it both ways on appointing judges

By Kevin Hall

Bob Vander Plaats is clear on his opinion of Iowa’s judicial nominating process. “It’s a rigged system,” The FAMiLY Leader CEO said Thursday.  One year ago, there was no talk from Vander Plaats about a rigged system.  Making his third run for governor, he and his allies blamed many of the problems with Iowa’s judiciary on Terry Branstad.  Vander Plaats’ primary opponent appointed “pro-homosexual judges” to the Supreme Court, they said.

Two of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same sex marriage were indeed appointed by Branstad.  That fact, without the proper context, was repeated over and over during the 2010 primary.  Not once did Vander Plaats explain to voters that the selection process is deeply flawed, controlled by Democrats, and the governor’s choices are limited to what the liberal selection committee gives him.

Iowa conservatives were given half-truths from the Vander Plaats camp.  The claim that Branstad appointed “pro-homosexual judges” was reason enough for many to not vote for him.  Vander Plaats and his supporters made a smart political decision, but it was not upfront and honest.

Branstad tried to defend his prior appointments, and explain the process, at numerous town hall meetings throughout the primary campaign.  He also stated several times during the general election that the process needs to be changed.  “I think the system is flawed,” Branstad said on Jan Mickelson’s WHO radio program last August.  “That’s the frustrating thing as governor.  You only get to choose from the three that are nominated for the Supreme Court.”  Branstad said he prefers the federal system, where the President picks whoever he likes and the nominee is confirmed by the Senate.

Earlier this week, Branstad appointed three new Iowa Supreme Court justices.  Vander Plaats reaction is a complete reversal of his primary tactics.  He will not offer an opinion on the new justices, or divulge which of the nine nominees he would have chosen.  However, Vander Plaats is now criticizing Branstad for not speaking out strongly enough about the judicial selection process.  “It would be premature for me to comment on, are they good justices,” Vander Plaats told a small crowd in Kensett on Thursday.  “The only thing that we would argue right now is to expose the process more.  This process is a rigged process in how Supreme Court justices get to be justices.”

Vander Plaats is correct that Branstad has been largely silent about the flaws in the nominating process since the November election.   The Governor and his administration would be wise to educate voters on the liberal bias of the selection committee.  Not only would it help kickstart the drive to overhaul the judicial nominating system, it might help Branstad avoid some of the problems he faced in the 2010 primary, if he runs again.

Vander Plaats and The FAMiLY Leader have made changing the system one of their legislative priorities.  It will require the arduous process of amending Iowa’s Constitution to accomplish that goal.  Leadership out of the governor’s office would be helpful.  However, after misleading voters for a full year, in the name of political expediency, perhaps Vander Plaats should not cast stones at anyone for not doing more to expose the process.

THE VIDEO BELOW DETAILS MORE OF VANDER PLAATS’ REACTION TO THE NEW JUDICIAL APPOINTEES, AS WELL AS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S DECISION TO STOP DEFENDING THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT AND ITS IMPACT ON THE 2012 IOWA CAUCUS

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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