Senator Grassley seemed like an incredibly down to Earth guy. His dedication to keeping in touch with Iowa as a whole was remarkably impressive. From spending essentially his entire Tuesday on the phone with radio shows to answering live questions from Iowans every Thursday via the Internet, Senator Grassley is doing his best to maintain his relationship with the people he represents in Washington. On top of his 40 weeks per year spent in Washington, he makes it a point to visit all 99 Iowa counties at least once every single year and visit with the community members of them in some fashion; usually this gets done by Labor Day. Whether that be similar to his visit with us in a classroom setting or a town hall meeting, the Senator wants to make sure the people do not lose sight of who he is to them and what he can do for them. He answers almost every question emailed, tweeted, written in a letter, or from phone call that is directed to him personally so there is a sense of connection between he and his voters.
My initial impression of Senator Grassley was that he was simply an older man with an intense interest in politics that kept him going strong. I found out that he owns a farm and his family works it while he is away. He grew up on a farm as well, as is the case with many elderly Iowans. He said his parents weren't actively involved in politics, but that they always had an interest in them and had something to say about the current events. This introduced the Senator to politics at a young age and he has had an interest in them ever since. He took this desire to the University of Northern Iowa - the first in his family to go to college - and earned a BA in Social Science (now political science). Upon recollection of his time at the school, he remembered that the room we were in used to be all cubicles for professors and that it was not called Lang Hall but rather just "the auditorium".
Senator Grassley is member of the Republican party, and always has been, but he admits that in his earlier years he "wasn't an ideological republican." That change, he believes, "officially" occurred part way through his state legislative career.
Having been a senator since 1974, Grassley knows the routine of Washington, if one could call it even that. "Only Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are really routine," says the Senator. "Being a senator is more than a full time job," says Grassley as he explains his schedule loaded with meetings from start to finish: breakfast meeting, radio program, committee meetings, Senate itself in session before noon, 2 hours of public questions, receptions and meetings in the evening. He comments on how his days are usually pretty planned out unless there is a vote on the Senate floor or another "surprise" as he calls them. Speaking of Senate votes, he has only missed one in July of 1993, and that was due to he and the other Iowa senator personally accompanying then President Bill Clinton to Iowa to see the widespread flooding throughout the state.
Inevitably, some political questions were asked. I don't know much about politics in general, but I do know that taxation is a big deal, to everyone. "You aren't under taxed, we overspend." That, and his view of amending the constitution to balance the federal budget, got my attention enough to at least listen to him talk about politics, even if i wasn't going to understand what he was saying. The man is immensely passionate about what he believes and about keeping someone who truly understands what it is like to live in Iowa in the Senate. Otherwise, laws such as "Fugitive Dust" would be passed.
After his political spiel, he pulled out his iPhone - very technologically aware for his age - and read some of his Tweets to us. Yes, the Senator has a Twitter handle, and he runs it himself. He uses is craftily too, tweeting things that will stir the pot just enough to get an answer out of people that would otherwise dance around it.
At this time, Senator Grassley is unsure if he will run again at the end of his current term. He is 79 and has his family to think about. Once he can no longer run 3 miles 4 times per week, or he/his wife is no longer able to take care of themselves, he will call it quits.