Editorial: Sen. Joni Ernst’s candor is commendable

Source: Omaha World Herald

By Omaha World Herald Editorial Board

Iowa has often been a politically competitive state. For decades it elected a staunch liberal, Democrat Tom Harkin, and a staunch conservative, Republican Chuck Grassley, to represent it in the U.S. Senate.

So it’s no surprise that Iowa Democrats turned out in force during a recent public forum with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican in her first term.

What’s surprising — and commendable — is that when questioners challenged her in regard to President Donald Trump, Ernst offered measured criticism at times of the president.

Ernst acknowledged a constituent’s point that Trump’s frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, involve significant costs for taxpayers.

“It’s OK that he makes trips, but we want to make sure that he is looking at the big picture and being fiscally responsible,” Ernst said. It was a common-sense observation.

After another constituent asked how she could support someone in the wake of the video released last year showing Trump’ making offensive comments about women, Ernst replied:

“The president does have flaws, but I’d be hard-pressed to find any president that didn’t have flaws. I don’t want him to repeat any of the actions of the past. I just want to move forward.”

It’s reasonable for political partisans to expect overall loyalty from elected officials, and Ernst told her audience that she agrees with the Trump administration 95 percent of the time.

But just because a person is elected on a Republican or Democratic ticket shouldn’t mean that they’re required to throw away their independent judgment.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, for example, has properly criticized the Trump administration’s flirting with raising tariffs because it would impose new taxes on the public and allow government preferences to supersede decisions by businesses and consumers.

In years past, Nebraska’s U.S. senators sometimes received national attention for their frank talk, regardless of partisan fallout.

Chuck Hagel called out the Senate GOP leadership for some of its tactics.

Bob Kerrey described then-President Bill Clinton as “an unusually good liar.”

Ernst underlined the correct principle when she said: “If we’re going to criticize one party, we need to criticize our own and lead by example.”

That’s responsible thinking and refreshing honesty that Republicans and Democrats all should ponder and embrace.