Out of Sight, Out of (His) Mind, & Out to Pasture

The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate … I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the United States remains true to the principles that have made this country a beacon of freedom and economic opportunity for so many … The Republican Party needs more people with strong principles and convictions that can stand up to the temptations of political power that have engulfed so many of our leaders after they arrive inside the beltway … Mary and I feel so blessed to have so many good friends and such a strong family. We have spent many years in the public eye and we look forward to spending more time with our children and grandchildren. Thank you and God bless. [Junior U.S. Sen. James Paul David "Jim" Bunning/Ministry of Truth automated-speech-generator]

With each passing day, waiting for the news that Jim Bunning was finally going to give up the ghost on his abysmal, quixotic bid for a third term to the U.S. Senate was like waiting for your favorite trashy reality TV show to be canceled.

As much as you want the thing to stay on the air and satisfy your innate human desire for cheap laughs, hyper-banality and being a judgmental asshole, you know that the program’s very existence (much less VH1′s entire prime time line-up) has hurt the country in some unseen yet dangerous way, like a carbon monoxide leak. You also know that eventually the axe will drop on this program, the plug pulled, and everyone involved will return to obscurity or, at the very least, working on a spin-off series.

In the case of Bunning — former major league baseball pitcher cum embarrassment and failure to the Commonwealth of Kentucky — the only reason anybody in their right mind wanted him to stay in this race was for the wince-inducing hilarity of a crotchety old man with a potty-mouth swinging his dick at anything and everything that got in its way. It made for excellent theater, yes, but behind this veil of entertainment was a septuagenarian who simply became too old, too crazy and too useless to a party desperate to rebrand itself as an entity other than that which produces a Jim Bunning.

Riding into office on the Regan-tide as a House Representative, capitalizing on the Republican Revolution in the mid-90s with election to the Senate and eking out a re-election victory against an opponent too weak to exploit the incumbent’s obvious nervous breakdown, Bunning’s career appears to be accidental in some respects; a byproduct of demographic shifts, perhaps, or the result of typical Kentucky politicking, wherein the selection of a lesser of two evils is as ingrained as our fear of God, gays and evolution. (To give you an idea of how we roll, Kentucky voted for Nixon over John Fucking Kennedy by seven points in 1960, FYI)

Then, just a few years ago, Bunning started to crack… comments made about little green men following him around. How FOX NEWS was god and newspapers were shit… verbally abusing his enemies and the media… freely cursing with the self-satisfied glee of a man who stopped caring a long, long time ago … deriding Dan Mongiardo for looking non-Caucasian … becoming increasingly isolated and sheltered in a warm, protective Linus blanket that isolated him not only from his critics, but from anybody who could’ve been there to help him, too.

In the coming days the conventional wisdom within the Kentucky political and media intelligentsia will try to suggest that Bunning was either (1) too proud, an honest man who didn’t take shit from anybody, (2) a victim of his own static ideologies and “erratic behavior” or (3) some kind of gaffe-producing hybrid of the two, edged out by his party’s masters. Most of them will commend his illustrious career.

And they will be wrong. Through and through Bunning was little more than an enabler for the special interests and divisive schlock that have come to dominate American politics over the past twenty-five years, with the added gift of being more “quotable” than his colleague, Mitch McConnell, has been comfortable with.

Except for his opposition to the recent federal bailouts, Sen. Batshit voted with his party nearly all of the time on issues like abortion rights, gun control, gay marriage, war, torture, the minimum wage, NAFTA, stem cell research, and (presumably) health care reform. In addition, he has misquoted Abraham Lincoln, took money from Jack Abramhoff, has pilfered money from his own charity, attempted to block the release of Bush-White House records, and received a vast majority of his fund raising cash from the insurance, financial, real estate, and single-interest lobbyists/donors whom have all contributed in their little ways to the general clusterfuck that is our nation — and whom have jumped ship to prospective RPK golden child, Trey Grayson, in the wake of Bunning’s official demise.

Expect a crude stretch of highway, a bypass, a ball park or a Denny’s to be named in his honor, as would be customary for retired Senators in this state, even though Bunning hasn’t really earned it. Maybe, in these twilight years, he will “continue to do everything in [his] power” to save ‘Merica from that socialist apocalypse that only a Bunning himself can see, with vivid clarity, by getting into the lobbying game himself. Or maybe he will drink copious amounts of Ensure and take naps willy-nilly; we simply don’t know yet.

Hell… maybe Bunning will land a book deal and a reality TV show. What can be counted on is that he will be missed, hopefully, for the right reasons. So rest sweetly, good prince, for thy deed — and thy damage — is nearly done.


  1. Curt Morrison
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Itemizing the weaknesses of an outgoing politician is a lot like bad-mouthing an ex-girlfriend. It’s simply not healthy and it definitely stands in the way of getting quality dates in the future.

    Let’s be thank for what he did. He had the courage to stand up to the recent federal bailouts when virtually no one else has such courage (Including Rep. Yarmuth & Senator McConnell). Thanks for that, Senator Bunning.

  2. jmeador
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Yeah, an ex-girlfriend who blew all your friends, stole your money, was verbally abusive, isolated herself from you and then tried to justify it all by claiming that you should’ve known she was like this when you first met.

    To not itemize these “weaknesses,” then, would be unhealthy; how would your standards ever improve?

  3. Joseph Anthony
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I for one am disappointed that he’s going. He was a weak candidate, and Grayson, as bad as Bunning, might not be.

    But your posting was terrific. Bunning was all you say and less. Like the Creationist museum that my out of state friends find quaint and have sometimes expressed interest in visiting (not on my dime) he was more useful to late night comics than to Kentucky. All that material.

    But providing Jay Leno material is the main job for most Kentucky politicians, Republican or Democratic. Kathy Stein’s comment: “Thank God for the writer’s strike” during Gooch’s global warming farce hearings reminded us, as if we needed reminding, that idiocy is bi-partisan in Kentucky.

  4. Michael Lindenberger
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    In your haste to demonstrate how backward Kentucky has been, you noted we went for Nixon. True. We also went for Carter big time in 76 (and almost, if you can believe it, in 1980.) And we went for Clinton, twice.

    Not exactly a record to make you weep.