A Brief Note on Gabby Giffords Endorsing Kirk and Toomey, and the Myth Of Encouragement

Politico: Americans for Responsible Solutions, the anti-gun violence PAC founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, on Monday endorsed two Republican senators for their 2013 vote following the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

“In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Republican Sens. Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk broke from the gun lobby and supported a bill to help prevent felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms at gun shows and online,” Giffords and Kelly wrote in aCNN op-ed. “This week, they are earning our organization’s endorsement.”

We just talked about Kirk, and his attempt to keep Republican votes while not losing everyone in Illinois who hates Trump, which is most people. Part of his (deserved) political reputation comes from things like bucking the NRA, even briefly, which is how he gets endorsements from groups like Giffords. But while, like anyone with a heart, I love Gabby Giffords, this endorsement is nonsense.

I get the instinct. If you “reward” Republicans with your endorsement in exchange for behaving like reasonable human beings on guns, you’ll get more support. That’s the theory. The other calculation is that Americans for Responsible Solutions can’t only endorse Democrats, because then they are seen as partisan actors. It’s a tough situation, to be sure.

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Mark Kirk Dips His Toes In Trumpy Waters

It’s almost easy to feel bad for Mark Kirk. He’s probably the closest thing there is to a reasonable Republican Senator right now, what with hating neither the gays nor the Mexicans. Because of that, he’s never really been trusted by the far right, but that’s suited him well in Illinois. The deep south of Illinois is culturally Kentucky (indeed, where Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky meet is one of the most rabidly conservative regions in the country). The farmlands that make up most of the state are very Republican, and have been growing more far-right over the last few decades, but still have a lot of Combine machine-type politics which rarely demand the “Warrior for Christ” you see in a lot of other states. Kirk is perfectly suited to get their votes, since he has an “R” after his name, and can win a lot of the not-crazy but still conservative voters in the collar counties and near the Iowa border.

But being a reasonable Republican still means being a Republican, and that’s not going to cut it for him in Illinois this year. It’s far from a done deal, but it looks likely that Tammy Duckworth is going to end his Senate career this year. A Democratic Presidential candidate hasn’t won here since George HW Bush*, and Illinois is going Hillary in a landslide. The fundamentals were already stacked against him, which is why he made the choice to “un-endorse” Trump, saying he “Cannot and will not” support him. It’s was really his only choice: despite pockets of cultural support in Chicago’s ethnic and coppish neighborhoods, and the southern parts of the state, Trump is deeply unpopular here. He’s not a collar county sort of candidate.

All that being said, he can’t completely disappoint people who vote Republican, which is why he has to make the occasional dip into the waves of racial hatred Trump stirred up. His discussion of the Obama administration’s payment to Iran (money we owed legally) is a perfect example of this.

“We can’t have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief,” Kirk said, “giving clean packs of money to a … state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East. … We’re going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them.”

Now, the interesting thing here, you will note, is that “giving clean packs of money to a state sponsor of terror” is not a thing drug dealers tend to do. There is a complicated nexus between organized crime, narcotics, and terrorism, to be sure, and it is true that drugs tend to be a cash business, but this is not a straight line here. It’s nothing more than racial imagery to try to make sure that his voters know he’s still one of them.

This, to me, is why Republicans have to lose, and badly. It’s why the idea of a “moderate Republican” is little more than wish-flogging at this point. Kirk himself might be instinctually moderate. Heck, he got an endorsement from Gabby Giffords for being anti-NRA-ish. But at the end of the day, he has to appeal to the sort of people who would vote for Donald Trump to be President. And when you have to do that, you abdicate any claims of being a responsible and reasonable politician. Mark Kirk isn’t a moderate: he’s a member of the party of Trump, his voters, regardless of his sweaty triangulations, are Trump voters, and that’s literally all ye need to know.

*Earlier version said “since Reagan”, but that was wrong. I forgot about 1988. In my defense, I think most people have. 

Wade to Bulls, Simmons on Durant, The Unbearable Dimness of Trump, and Thursday Quick Hits

The most interesting thing about this is that Trump actually thought that “most corrupt candidate ever!” was like an official designation. She made history! 73 corruptions!

  • I don’t know a ton about basketball, but I feel like combining the rarely-coachable Rajon Rondo, a surly, past-his-prime-with-something-to-prove superstar like Dwayne Wade with a budding superstar like Jimmy Butler who desperately wants to prove that he can be a true leader might be pretty combustible under any coach. With Fred Hoiberg, this could be a disaster. Or they could win 40 games! Which would be even more of a disaster. I’d be willing to have a terrible season and have more room for when the cap expands, and do a rebuild around Butler, Tony Snell, and Dougie McDermott. “Buckets, McBuckets, and Snell” is pretty catchy, right?
  • That said, while I don’t know a ton about basketball, it’s nice to know that I won’t ever be as wrong as The Country’s #1 Hoophead, Bill Simmons. Thanks to Awful Announcing for digging up a Simmons podcast where he “discusses” a Wojo scoop in February about Durant being interested in Golden State. “In his podcast, Simmons called the report ‘one of the most ludicrous stories I’ve ever read,’ stating that the Warriors were ‘not thinking about Durant,’ adding that ‘it’s absurd,’ and ‘I just don’t believe it.’ He went on to say it was ‘the most idiotic logic I’ve ever heard,’ and the story got Yahoo’s The Vertical site ‘some traffic, some attention.’ It’s not just being wrong, and it isn’t even just being unbearably and arrogantly and reflexively wrong: it’s that he dismisses Wojo as hungry for attention. Even a casual NBA fan like me knows that Wojo scoops are worthy. Simmons is the most petty and vainglorious writer in the land. Even Norman Mailer would tell him to stop finding slights everywhere. Gore Vidal would advise him to show some humility. Virginia Woolf would tell him to fuck off. (No real reason; I just don’t think she’d care for him.)
  • Hey, Democrats! Worried about the email scandal never dying? Well, of course it won’t (and more on that anon), but are you worried about Trump skillfully taking advantage of it? Well, maybe you don’t need to be. There’s no question that he can use it to rally people who hate Hillary, but he is unable to talk too much about it, because, at the end of the day, when he talks about Hillary he isn’t talking about himself. As the Times reports, at a rally last night, he spent a few minutes talking about Comey’s scolding report, and then went into a long rant about the Star of David tweet he got from a white nationalist collection. He defended himself for a long time on it, in a rabbling incoherent stream-of-conscious rant. The thing is, there is a strategy here: doubling down did good in the primary, where any sign of capitulation to the Hideous Liberal PC Establishment was a fatal weakness. He knew how to play it perfectly, and it fit his “I am the cosmos” mentality (apologies to Molly Ivins). He is incapable of not talking about himself, and showing that he is always right, even if- especially if- it means outright lying, obvious lying. A man who has always seen himself as powerful wants to make the truth his possession. Hopefully, that’s a fatal electoral weakness.
  • This is as-of-now unconfirmed, but apparently on the local radio this morning Mark Kirk said that his double-amputee opponent Tammy Duckworth doesn’t want to do a Spanish-language debate with him because she isn’t as “quick on her feet.” That isn’t offensive; Kirk wasn’t being deliberate, I’m sure. It’s just a saying, divorced from any actual meaning. But still: it’s literally the one thing you shouldn’t say. It’s the only phrase you can’t use, except maybe like “she’s so incompetent she’d need two partners in a three-legged race”, which isn’t even an actual saying, but that’s the point: you’d need to make something up to say something dumber.
  • That said, the idea of a Spanish-language debate is interesting. It’s a skill Kirk has, a good one, and I wish more politicians spoke other languages. (Remember when John Kerry was belittled for speaking French? 2004 was a horrible and stupid year, wasn’t it?) It’s smart politics, and a sign of basic humanity to recognize that maybe other languages aren’t inherently bad. I feel this is something though that only a Republican could get away with. Were it Duckworth who spoke Spanish, and challenged the monoglot Kirk, you’d hear a lot about un-American pandering.
  • Now that I think about it, “she’s so incompetent she’d need two partners in a three-legged race” is a great phrase. Remind me to use it when I run for the Water Reclamation District, unless, you know…