Grassley, going around the bend

GRASSLEY, GOING AROUND THE BEND…. Two months ago, when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) first endorsed the notion that health care reform might include “a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma,” it was pretty obvious the conservative Iowan was a lost cause.

At the time, Joe Klein called Grassley’s comments “sheer idiocy,” adding that the senator “either (a) hasn’t the vaguest notion of what’s in the bill or (b) he is so intimidated by the ditto-head-brown-shirts that he is trying to fudge a response to keep them happy. Either way, he should be ashamed.”

Except, Grassley wasn’t embarrassed in the slightest. Despite being the leading GOP negotiator on a “bipartisan” approach to reform, the Republican senator proceeded to lash out wildly against the effort. This included trashing specific policy proposals he’d already endorsed.

This week, Grassley appears to have completely lost it, offering at least tacit support for radical “Tenther” theories that insist that health care reform may be unconstitutional.

“I’m not a lawyer, but let me tell you, I’ve listened to some lawyers speak on this. And you know, it’s a relatively new issue. I don’t think we’ve ever had this issue before of having to buy something. And a lot of constitutional lawyers, saying it is unconstitutional or at least in violation of the 10th Amendment. Now maybe states can do this, but can the federal government? So, I have my doubts.”

This was specifically responding to a question about individual mandates — a measure he’s already endorsed as a good idea that he supports.

Obvious inconsistencies notwithstanding, the notion that health care reform is “in violation of the 10th Amendment” is demonstrably ridiculous. The idea that “a lot of constitutional lawyers” see health care reform as unconstitutional is absurd.

But the fact that Grassley is even talking like this suggests the reform fight has really pushed him over the edge. He’s up for re-election next year — in a state Barack Obama won by about 10 points — and there are reports Grassley may face a very credible Democratic challenger.

Embracing fringe, right-wing legal theories may excite the base a bit, but in general, Grassley’s bizarre turn to the far-right is not only painful to watch, it’s a risky political strategy that may cost him his job.