Sunday, September 08, 2002

Politics from back home: I was born and raised in New Hampshire, and cut my teeth on New Hampshire politics. I still follow it with at least moderate intensity. The intensity is going up right now, because Senator Bob Smith looks very likely to get unceremoniously retired next week. It's a pretty rare event for me to be rooting for a Sununu for anything; John Sr. had that dreadful Al Gore quality of being sure that he was twice as smart as anyone else in government or politics, and the same Gore-like propensity to overplan as a result. (Remember the W-vs-Gore debates about intelligence, humility, and so on, when some on the right made a virtue out of W's apparent lack of intellectual firepower? The balance seemed obvious to me then, and still does now. What one wants in an executive is someone who's smarter than he realizes that he is, someone with the humility of a Socrates rather than that of a Schweik. Sununu Sr., like Gore, lacked either sort.) John Jr. genuinely is more pro-Arab than I'm at all comfortable with, though he's certainly not the security risk Smith is now portraying in a nasty ethnic slur. (Sununu is of Lebanese descent. See this piece from last year's New Republic by Franklin Foer or this one from the Manchester Union Leader describing Smith's new TV commercial.)

But Smith is now and always has been a disgrace, a public embarrassment to New Hampshire, to the Senate, and to the Republican Party. (I care least about the public image of the last, but it counts for something.) His silly run for President, his brief turn to the theocratic U.S. Taxpayers' Party, and his craven and opportunistic return to the GOP in exchange for a committee chairmanship, only showed the whole world what had been evident for years to those who looked carefully enough: Smith is, simply, ridiculous, quite apart from his views on the issues (he's never met a civil liberty he liked, for instance; what's more, he's anti-trade-- and what are Republicans for if they're going to vote against trade agreements?)

If Smith joins Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney in early retirement, then the Capitol will be a much less colorful place next year-- and a much less absurd one.

In case it wasn't clear: this is a political-scientist's-hat-off, citizen's-hat-on post...

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