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May. 25 2009 - 9:48 am | 756 views | 1 recommendation | 12 comments

What if a U.S. Senator Had Lost His Marbles, But People Were Too Shy to Come Right Out and Say it?

jimbunning1Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), the former Hall of Fame pitcher for the Phillies and Tigers, is, at 77, the oldest Republican in the Senate. He served six terms in the House of Representatives, and his second term in the World’s Most Geriatric Deliberative Body ends in 2010. That hasn’t stopped a flock of buzzards — largely from his own party — from circling around his Senate seat. It is comical to watch them avoid saying the phrase, “The old coot has lost his mind.” Some delicate dancing around the subject:

“He has basically a voting record that the people of this state like,” said state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, one of those considering a primary challenge to Bunning. “The only reservation that you hear anybody say about Senator Bunning is can he win or not.”

Hmmm, I wonder why he couldn’t win? Could it be … that he’s stone crazy?

Bunning’s increasingly erratic behavior — including a prediction that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would die of pancreatic cancer within nine months and his bitter criticism of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentuckian, during weekly conference calls with reporters — also has raised concerns.

“For some reason he insists on having these Tuesday morning conversations, and every Tuesday morning it seems to get a bit worse,” Williams said. “I don’t think it’s wise for him to do that.”

Let’s see, “erratic” behavior getting progressively worse…. What say you, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn?

“I don’t know. I think it’s really up to Sen. Bunning.”

“Sen. McConnell and I both tried to make clear that those folks who are not going to run again would do the rest of us a favor by letting us know early and letting other potential candidates who want to run — give them a chance to get prepared.” [...]

“The last two times around Sen. Bunning had tough, close races, and he knows that. It’s a fact,” Cornyn said.

Note that Bunning has already announced that he will run, so Cornyn’s comments amount to “Don’t you dare, Jim.” Though, confusingly, Bunning has given the blessing to other Republicans — such as Rep. Ron Paul’s son, whose first name is “Rand” — who want to start exploratory committees, just so long as they don’t plan on running if he’s still in the picture.

From a Politico article entitled “GOP pressures Bunning to quit“:

Concern that Bunning could be jeopardizing a Republican seat peaked after he didn’t show up for the eventful opening week of the new Congress, missing several key Senate floor votes. He later said he was on vacation but refused to offer details about his whereabouts, and even many Republican senators had no idea where he was.

“I have another life besides the U.S. Senate,” Bunning told the Louisville Courier-Journal last week. “My family is more important than the U.S. Senate. It always has been and always will be.”

His untimely absence — and seemingly dismissive response — caused heartburn among Republican campaign officials, who already were gearing for a grueling campaign. They fear his unexplained absence could become a theme of attack from a Democratic challenger.

Much as it’s delicious to imagine yet another clinically insane man in the U.S. Senate, there’s ample evidence to suggest that Bunning’s just sorta always been this way. There was his 2004 campaign comment that Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo, an Italian American, looked “like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons” and “even dresses like them, too.” ). Bunning denied ever seeing amphetamines in the amphetamine-littered Major League clubhouses of the 1960s, despite eyewitness testimony to the contrary about the historic 1964 Phillies team that collapsed on Bunning’s back. He not only thinks all baseball records set by players who used forbidden drugs should be erased from the record books, he introduced legislation to make that federal law. He has talked about “little green doctors” lying in ambush at public gatherings, ready to pound his back (no really).

So when the Kentucky senator unleashes another “goddamn” on a conference call with reporters, when he tells the New York Times that dealing with Stan Musial was much more challenging than dealing with any modern-day Republican (even though Bunning never once faced Stan the Man), when he threatens to sue his own party if they don’t get behind his re-election campaign, there’s an explanation even more frightening than early-onset Alzheimer’s: Maybe Jim Bunning has been this crazy all along.


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  1. collapse expand

    Do us a big favor, PLEASE retire GOP Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky. We don’t need you.

  2. collapse expand

    Yup the guy is a little crazy. He represents a state with a high unemployment rate and he still doesn’t have a clue. I wonder what the people of Kentucky think of him. I say find something in the guys past that would change his mind, he was a ballplayer. So lets Scrooge him!!!!

  3. collapse expand

    The govt is trying to spend it’s way out of the recession. Which may have worked in the past. But, today, the problem is, the jobs are gone off shore. So this won’t work in a GLOBAL economy. The money will never be paid back. The USA gov’t is not known for paying money back. So we will pay interest on this money till the end of time.

    I feel sorry for the people, but if we are going to do 3rd world country stuff, you need to be living with neighbors and friends. The American Dream is dead, and it is not coming back.

  4. collapse expand

    I don’t know, maybe he’s on to something. We are told that the looming health care bill will be paid for also. If this congress cannot come up with the $10 billion for this supposed jobs bill without adding to my childrens debt, how on earth are they goig to pay for the
    $2 trillion health care bill without bankrupting us all ?

  5. collapse expand

    Given that Sen. Bunning is a member of the Banking Committee, maybe he should have been more vigilant when the banks were in the process of self-destruction…

  6. collapse expand

    Sadly, it looks like most of you leaving comments, and probably Matt Welch also, need to rewatch the SNL skit “dont buy things you cannot afford”. http://www.videosift.com/video/SNL-Dont-Buy-Stuff-You-Cant-Afford

    If you think that congress should continue to extend unemployment benefits without hesitation or without making cuts elsewhere in order to pay for it, you are as foolish as the couple in the video clip.

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    About Me

    Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason magazine.

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    Contributor Since: March 2009
    Location:Washington, D.C.