January 13, 2004,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article appears in the January 26, 2004, issue of National Review.
CLARION, IOWA It's the loneliest time to be campaigning for president in Iowa, but Richard Gephardt is up and at it. Two days after Christmas, with the press corps nowhere to be found and many people still in a holiday blur, Gephardt rolls across the north central part of the state, going from small town to small town, meeting voters. When he arrives in Clarion (pop. 2,968), he finds about 75 people waiting at the old train station, which now houses the Chamber of Commerce. Standing in front of a fireplace with a model train stretched across the mantle, Gephardt launches into a lecture on corporate greed.
"It's about money," he tells the group. "These companies want to do things, and then they want to escape responsibility for what they do, and it's wrong." The corporations send jobs overseas, Gephardt explains, they deceive stockholders, they take away workers' rights: "Enron and WorldCom and Tyco, once you release them from responsibility, that's it. Katie bar the door." The farmers and blue-collar union workers Gephardt's core constituency in Iowa listen closely and nod in agreement.
A couple of hours later, after a stop in Garner (pop. 2,922), an aide drives Gephardt to the Mason City Municipal Airport, best known as the field from which Buddy Holly took off on his last plane ride after performing in nearby Clear Lake on February 2, 1959. Waiting for Gephardt near the small general-aviation office is a gleaming white Falcon 900EX, a big, luxurious, three-engine jet that happens to be owned by the BellSouth Corporation (and piloted by BellSouth pilots). Gephardt, a longtime recipient of donations from the telecommunications industry, wearily climbs aboard and takes off for a round of politicking in Oklahoma.