Thursday, May 19, 2022

Why Iowa Dems Should Back Franken

Click HERE for Nicholas Johnson, "Mike Franken is a Democrat with Statewide Appeal," Iowa City Press Citizen, May 18, 2022, p. A7.

Click HERE for two-minute video, "Johnson Endorses Admiral Mike Franken," Aug 5, 2022.

Franken Experienced in D.C. Government
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, May 29, 2022, p. C2

I’ve often supported losing candidates whose utopian hopes aligned with mine. Everything being equal, I’ve chosen women candidates.

Today things aren’t equal.

Not this primary. Not among Iowa Democrats’ U.S. Senate choices. All Iowans will benefit from having a Democrat join our Republican. Plus, there’s much each senator can do for Iowa – whichever party controls the Senate.

For winning, the strongest candidate is former Admiral Mike Franken, hands down. He already knows Washington, with personal experience in the Senate, White House and Pentagon. His leadership skills have been recognized and rewarded. He will immediately have the respect of the other senators.
[Photo credit: "Franken for Iowa" Facebook page.]

Most important in winning, Franken was raised and shaped by Western Iowa.

Republican majorities carry 93 of our 99 counties. Democrats need a goal of a more statewide political party.

Based on my time in Ida County, and in north central Iowa during my 1974 congressional primary, Mike Franken’s demeanor, record, common sense, and ties to the people in small town western Iowa will help Iowa’s Democrats reach that goal.

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City


Franken’s “experience in the Senate, White House and Pentagon. His leadership skills have been recognized and rewarded.”

“In Washington, D.C., he served a fellowship in congressional affairs for the Office of the Secretary of the Navy; as the political-military chair in the Chief of Naval Operations' Executive Panel, in Navy's Plans and Strategy Deep Blue staff; in the Assessments Division in support of Navy's representation in the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and in the Joint Staff's Joint Operations Division overseeing U.S. Pacific Command operations. He presented the worldwide orders book to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 2003 to 2005 and was the first military officer to serve as a legislative fellow for Senator Ted Kennedy.[4]” “Michael T. Franken,” Wikipedia,

“Franken earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree from the College of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School and professional studies at MIT, UVA’s Darden School of Business, and the Brookings Institute.[1] Franken was a member of the U.S. Navy. He retired from military service as a three-star admiral in 2017.[1] Franken worked in a variety of positions in Washington, D.C. He was the first military officer on Senator Ted Kennedy’s staff. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Defense.” “Michael Franken,” BallotPedia,

“He saw sea duty in four navy destroyers, a destroyer squadron, and an aircraft carrier. He deployed frequently to the world’s hotspots and was the first commanding officer of the USS WINSTON S CHURCHILL. He has significant Pentagon experience beginning with a legislative tour with Senator Edward Kennedy, and then in multiple strategy, policy, and planning positions involving the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. In these uncertain times with our democracy under attack, Iowans need Admiral Mike Franken in the US Senate. Through his work in the US Navy and at the Pentagon, Mike knows the global challenge of Russian aggression, and the propaganda and disinformation tactics used by Vladmir Putin. . . . Michael Franken has dedicated his life to serving our country and doing what’s right. Franken was the only voice on a team of military advisers to oppose George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Franken served under President Barack Obama and oversaw numerous successful missions to protect our country including leading U.S. forces in Africa to fight terrorists and pirates.” Franken for Iowa,

“raised and shaped by Western Iowa.” “Franken was born the youngest of nine children in rural Sioux County, Iowa. His father was a machinist and blacksmith. His mother was a school teacher. He joined the navy at age 22 at the urging of an older brother.[9] In 1989, Franken married his wife Jordan. Together, they have two children.[10] Franken lives in downtown Sioux City, Iowa.” “Michael T. Franken,” Wikipedia,

“Franken was born in Sioux County, Iowa. He was one of nine children. During his youth, Franken worked alongside his father at the Lebanon Farm Shop, working with farm equipment and trucks. When he was 17 years old, Franken began working at Sioux Preme Packing Company to pay for college. He also worked as bar manager, math tutor, bouncer, and as a law firm’s civil engineer.” “Michael Franken,” BallotPedia,

“Mike grew up working in his father’s small machine shop where he ran a lathe, did welding, and helped with general implement repair. He was a hired hand for neighboring farms until, at the age of 17, he began a three-year-stint working at a slaughterhouse in Sioux Center, Iowa. He obtained a Navy scholarship in 1978 and graduated in engineering from the University of Nebraska. . . . His life in Lebanon, Iowa has taught him the values of community, family, faith, and rural life, which guides his efforts to invest and build in rural Iowa. . . . As the father of a child with disabilities, he has seen how inconsistent care can be in years where he was transferred 17 different times. She would have great support in one community and the next there would be no support. For his daughter and for veterans who were injured, he seeks to pick up the banner of former Senator Tom Harkin as a disability advocate.” “Franken for Iowa,”

“Republican majorities carry 93 of our 99 counties.” Trump carried 93 of 99 Iowa counties in 2020. “Donald Trump Won in Iowa,” Politico, Jan. 6, 2021,

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Mike Franken is a Democrat with Statewide Appeal
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press Citizen, May 18, 2022, p. A7

I’ve often supported losing candidates whose utopian hopes align with mine. Everything being equal, I choose the woman candidate. But things aren’t equal.

Not this year, not with Iowa Democrats’ U.S. Senate primary choices. It’s too important that Iowa have one Democratic senator. There’s much they can do for Iowa, even if Republicans control the Senate.

For winning, the strongest candidate is former Admiral Mike Franken, hands down. He’s already had Senate experience.

It’s worrisome Abby Finkenauer didn’t have a surplus of nomination signatures, and that she burned through 95% of her early successful fundraising.

Well over 90% of House members are re-elected. Finkenauer is not in that percentage. An inability to get reelected in an eastern Iowa district doesn’t bode well for getting elected statewide.

Donald Trump carried 93 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Democrats need a statewide following and party.

Based on my time in Ida County, and in north-central Iowa during my 1974 congressional primary, I believe Franken’s demeanor and ties to the people in smalltown western Iowa will help reach that goal.

Once in Washington, he will immediately enjoy the respect of the other senators.

Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Breaking the Arc Towards Justice

Breaking the Arc Towards Justice
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, May 10, 2022, p. A5

I’ve never met a woman who thought an abortion was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Legally, overturning Roe v. Wade is not about abortion’s pros and cons, life vs. choice. It’s about the Constitution’s grants of protection from government intrusion.

It’s not about our opinions regarding abortion. As the bumper sticker has it, “Opposed to abortion? Don’t have one.” It’s whether a state can constitutionally prevent a woman and her doctor from what they believe best. Roe says “no, that’s unconstitutional.” Justice Samuel Alito says “oh, yes they can.”

This makes it possible for one to be both “opposed to abortion” (as a personal choice) while also opposed to state abortion bans (as a governmental overreach).

Besides constitutional law, Alito’s leaked draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade raises questions about the Court.

Having spent a year as law clerk to Justice Hugo Black, I care about the Court as an institution. I’ve written here before how “politicizing an impartial Court weakens our democracy.” (“High Court Mystique is Shattered,” Feb. 16.)

The sails of the abortion debate are driven by the winds of religion and politics: the official stand of the Catholic church, before and after Roe; the Republican Party’s decades-long efforts. Six of the seven Catholic justices (including Alito) were appointed by Republican presidents G.W. Bush and Donald Trump.

Warranted or not, this multiplies the Court’s public relations challenge in regaining public trust as non-political.

The Court has become the judicial wing of the Republican Party. Alito’s draft opinion in the Dobbs case becomes the final nail in the founders’ hope for a non-political judicial branch.

The unprecedented leak of an opinion? I’m speechless. My fellow law clerks and I lived by commonsense norms. When Bob Woodward wanted to interview me about Justice Black for Bob’s “behind the scenes” book, The Brethren, I refused.

Chief Justice Earl Warren issued the only rule. We played basketball with the Court’s guards in a gym above the courtroom. (Above the Supremes, it was “the highest court in the land”). The Chief said bouncing basketballs during oral arguments was disrupting; please play at other times. We obliged.

I’m unconvinced by Justice Alito’s attempt to justify states’ abortion bans.

We’re left with dozens of questions. Here are a handful.

Will Alito’s opinion be the majority’s? Will revisions, or separate opinions matter?

Will Alito’s rationale repeal other rights? He says not, but he’s already used it in his 2015 Obergefell gay marriage dissent.

How will the decision affect the midterm elections?

If Republicans win both the House and Senate will Senator Mitch McConnell push his national abortion ban proposal? Is it constitutional?

Will Republicans provide for women, especially the poor, adversely impacted socioeconomically by abortion bans?

Will gender equality require a ban on men’s vasectomies and contraceptive purchases (overturning the 1965 Griswold case)?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asserted “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Alito’s opinion reverses that arc -- toward its breaking point.
Nicholas Johnson is the former co-director of the Iowa Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy

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Alito’s opinion. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Feb. __, 2022 (“opinion of the Court”),

Bumper sticker. From memory; and Linda Greenhouse, “Abortion Cases: A Conservative Judicial Agenda?’ New York Times, April 1, 2019, (“The best bumper sticker I’ve ever seen read: ‘Opposed to abortion? Don’t have one.’”)

Roe. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Justice Black clerk & Supreme Court references. Commonsense norms. Woodward interview request. Basketball above courtroom. Chief Justice’s request. My one-year clerkship (the usual term in those days) ran from the fall of 1959 to the summer of 1960 (“the October 1959 Term”). These items are from memory.

Mystique is Shattered. Nicholas Johnson, “High Court Mystique is Shattered,” The Gazette, February 16, 2022, p. A7

Catholic Church official stand. “Catholic Church and Abortion Politics,”

Republicans use of abortion issue. Numerous sources; here’s one: M. McKeegan, “The Politics of Abortion: A Historical Perspective,” Womens Health Issues, Fall 1993, National Library of Medicine,

Catholic Justices. “Demographics of the Supreme Court of the United States,” 5.2 “Catholic justices,”

Impact of Alito’s Dodd opinion on other rights. In Dodd he says “no.” But in Obergefell (the gay marriage case) he said in his dissent, “’liberty’ under the Due Process Clause should be understood to protect only those rights that are ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.’” Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S ____ (June 26, 2015) [blank page number because not in official reports], but available elsewhere, e.g.,

Ian Millhiser, “If Roe v. Wade falls, are LGBTQ rights next? Justice Alito is a staunch opponent of LGBTQ rights, but he may not have the votes to turn back the clock.,” Vox, May 6, 2022,

Griswold case. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)

Arc of Justice. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Smithsonian Institution, (“We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Speech given at the National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.)

Sample general sources. Caroline Mala Corbin, “ 8 legal reasons to dislike Justice Alito's draft opinion on abortion; It overrules decades-old precedent to impose conservative justices’ anti-abortion views because they finally have the votes to do so,” THINK, NBC News, May 3, 2022,

Charlie Savage, “Draft Opinion Overturning Roe Raises a Question: Are More Precedents Next? The legal reasoning that the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc is considering to end abortion rights could uproot a series of other past rulings that created modern rights,” NYT, May 5, 2022,

Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Abortion: A Woman's Private Choice

Jennifer Schuessler, “The Fight Over Abortion History; The leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade also takes aim at its version of history, challenging decades of scholarship that argues abortion was not always a crime,” New York Times, May 4, 2022,

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