Posted by: mutantpoodle | March 2, 2010

Is Recusal an Option?

So Senator Jim Bunning (R-Crazytown KY),  is single-handedly holding up an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits to millions of Americans, and, it turns out, forcing medicare reimbursements down by 21%. His “principle” – one that he has discovered very recently – is that we should offset the $10 billion cost of the legislation, preferably with not-yet-used stimulus money.

Of course, this being the Senate, the fact that way more than 60 people disagree with him doesn’t man he’s been shut down.

It means we get to find out that Jon Kyl and John Cornyn are backing him up.

Now, you’ve got to respect folks who, when faced with an action that is both disastrous for lots of Americans and wildly unpopular with their peers, double down on the crazy and back him up.

Meet your modern Republican party. But I digress.

Bunning isn’t new to the nuthouse.  He damned near lost his Senate seat in 2004 after a series of bizarre pre-election behaviors that, with a sentient electorate, would have cost him the election:

The one-term incumbent (and Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher) has stalked out of a news interview, compared his dark-complexioned opponent to one of Saddam Hussein’s sons, and accused Senator Mongiardo or a member of his campaign staff of roughing up Bunning’s wife at an event over the summer — an accusation Mongiardo’s staff calls “sad and untrue.” Bunning has also beefed up his security detail, telling a Paducah TV station, “There may be strangers among us.”

Today, as a lame duck (forced into retirement by Mitch McConnell), Bunning clearly doesn’t give a damn. He’s an embarassment to the Senate, and politicians in general. Surely folks in the media – especially MSNBC’s self-styled working class regular guy Chris Matthews, will call him out.

Right?

Hardball:

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Chris on this other tricky question.  Jim Bunning, the hero I grew up with in Philly, with the Phillies, the guy who threw no hitters in both leagues, in fact a perfect game; this guy has apparently a primary fight facing him from the secretary of state, Trey Grayson.

Oops.  That was LAST year that Chris Matthews referenced his boyhood hero worship of Bunning.  I’m sure that yesterday, in the wake of this idiotic episode, Matthews will dispense with the fluffery:

MATTHEWS:  Jay, what‘s the problem here?  This guy, Jim Bunning, I know him.  I‘ve always rooted for him, a great Phillie pitcher and Hall of Famer in both leagues.  What is this guy trying to do, by trying to filibuster, a one man filibuster?

<snip>

CORN:  He‘s been erratic for years.

MATTHEWS:  When I‘ve been with him, he‘s not erratic.  I‘ve talked to him a lot of times.

CORN:  Listen, he missed almost every vote in December 2009.  In January 2009, he disappeared for a week and wouldn‘t say where he was. Last time he ran for senator, he wouldn‘t go for a live debate with his opponent.  Instead, he did it broadcast from a studio in Washington and used a teleprompter.  He has shown no interest—“Time” Magazine, one of the five worst senators.  So he‘s—even before he got into—

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve bumped into a number of times at church, a party.

CORN:  You‘ve got baseball.

MATTHEWS:  I like him.  I‘m sorry.

Yes, that’s all it takes to be excused for the inexcusable – have a stellar athletic career that warms Chris Matthews’ loins, and bump into him at church.

Matthews fallacy is the notion that the “real” Bunning is his boyhood hero, and the southern gentleman he’s bumped into at church. It is the DC villager fallacy – that all these guys (and they’re almost always guys) are solid, decent men, and so their actions (whatever they may be) are reasonable.

However, as any aspiring screenwriter will tell you, action IS character.  A guy can be nice to you, but if he takes indefensible actions, his niceness to you doesn’t excuse him. As Gavin de Becker wrote in his brilliant book The Gift of Fear, niceness isn’t a character trait, it’s a choice.

So Jim Bunning’s niceness to Chris Matthews at church, or the fastball he had in the 1960’s, doesn’t make him a good guy.

But what he’s doing on the floor of the Senate quite clearly makes him a jackass of the highest order.

Be nice if Chris Matthews could get that straight.

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