So Louisville Courier Journal Does Not Like Jim Bunning.
After 24 years in Congress, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky has given his last speech in the Senate and is headed into retirement.
His non-admirers will say his departure comes not a moment too soon — citing a long list of cringe-inducing outbursts, ranging from racist and homophobic campaign rhetoric in his 2004 Senate re-election effort, to his tasteless prediction that a Supreme Court justice would die of cancer within a year, to his heartless one-man effort to block extension of unemployment benefits during the worst economic crisis in 70 years.
His fans, both the genuine ones and the grudging ones, will credit the old beanballer with saying what he thought, as if that's some sort of self-contained virtue.
But there is a bigger point about Sen. Bunning's service: When conservative politicians embrace the right wing's anti-government dogma too rigidly, they don't accomplish much.
Stoutly conservative politicians can be engaged in fruitful government action. Even Dan Quayle cooperated with Ted Kennedy to produce a landmark job training and partnership act, and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah worked with Mr. Kennedy on national service legislation and on providing funds for health care coverage for uninsured children.
Sen. Bunning, however, leaves office with little in the way of substantive legislation to his credit. His contempt for those with differing perspectives left him unable to form constructive alliances, and his selective approach to government spending — trying to choke off money to help the uninsured, but willing to back two unfunded wars and budget-busting tax breaks for millionaires — failed for obvious reasons to command widespread respect.
His replacement, Rand Paul, will soon face a similar choice. Dr. Paul can continue providing red meat to the government-hating crowd, or he can seek to play a role in actually governing. It's a decision that will determine how relevant he will be.
Labels: News reporting