We do have a knack for getting things wrong. Or backwards.
Consider all that Republican hand-wringing and Democratic schadenfreude over the prospects that Donald Trump will keep talking. Republicans are beside themselves over their probable GOP nominee for president; Mitt Romney, Lindsay Graham, John McCain, Jeb Bush and his father, George H.W., are among prominent establishment types who have refused or are reluctant to endorse Trump. (Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has returned intolerance to the Republican playbook and Jim Crow to our voting laws, was among the first to embrace Trump’s campaign.)
Among the pejoratives slapped on Trump are bigot, racist, bully, misogynist, xenophobe, and moron. Trump has appealed to the darker nature of the Republican Party, exposing it for the Bubba club it has become, and thus is likely to become the unlikeliest presidential nominee in recent American history. Lately, though, even prominent Republicans, including Bob Dole, are warming up to the man. He may not be the best guy, or even the right guy, they seem to be saying, but he’s our guy.
What many Republicans have come to realize, with some discomfort, is that Trump is their kind. All those slings and arrows hurled at Trump have cluttered the wide screen concealing a U.S. Senate and House whose Republicans hardly comprise a brain trust. Most of them invite the same judgments reserved for Trump: Incompetent? Congress has been in session how long, and has managed to ignore or postpone or bury every important and long-range issue that threatened to sprout, among them gun control, an energy policy, higher education, climate change, health care, and war in the Middle East, to name a few. Now and then we hear a squeak about repealing the popular Affordable Care Act, or a snarl about Hillary and her e-mail; once in awhile Republicans threaten to shut down the government or hold a fund-raiser for Scooter Libby or the Bundy Klan, or rally for repeal of the Voting Rights Act. And there is the ever-popular sniffing about the president’s birth certificate, or a tired wail about the federal debt, or the usual gumming over a budget, or what passes for one these days.
Compared with our Congress, Trump seems a genius.
The Kansas delegation, once considered among Washington’s best and brightest, has fallen on hard times and soft minds. Pat Roberts, once and long ago a leading farm advocate, wanders the halls trying to collect the latest talking points from ALEC.
Jerry Moran, having memorized them, is thumping the tub for a tax “reform” straight from Sam Brownback’s Libertarian Glide Path to Zero. Incredibly, Moran is campaigning for Senate Bill 155, a Koch-financed scheme for a “Fair Tax,” a plan to abolish all personal and corporate income taxes (like Brownback’s), end all capital gains, gifts, estate, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare and self-employment taxes, and close the IRS. It is, word-for-word, a plan championed by Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
We know how Brownback’s scheme has worked for Kansas. Moran and the Libertarians want it for America. That, and a 34 percent “tax on consumables” ‒ a massive federal sales tax.
Our House members, starting with master tactician Tim Huelskamp, have distinguished themselves by producing an occasional squeak whenever the Kochs or some other fringewing cause lobby need a reliable squeeze toy. They seem stuck on abolishing things: the IRS, gun laws, income taxes, abortion, voting rights, health care, and public broadcasting, to name a few. They claim to loathe the federal government but are fiercely protective of certain constituents’ federal benefits, such as farm subsidies, disaster relief, military spending, transportation grants, and the congressional payroll.
Long consigned to insignificance are the Cliff Hopes, Frank Carlsons, Doles and Kassebaums who represented the essence of federal leadership, chieftains in the House and Senate. Here were public servants committed to meeting dreams and resolving differences at home, and to bringing relief for troubled regions and stability for fragile governments abroad. In their stead we have the puppet, the straw man and errand runner, even a dunce or two.
Trump unqualified? Who among us, having elected the current peanut gallery in Washington, is fit to pronounce anyone unfit?
Never forget that time-worn biblical maxim about sin, and stones, and casting them. We Kansans have an abundance of glass houses, federally subsidized, no doubt.