Long shots

From MyDD’s list of 40 House Longshots:

KS-2 Ryun Ex-miler Jim was held to 56%, three points behind Bush in this district. Kansas Republicans are splintering with prominent moderates fleeing to the Democrats. Kathleen Sebellius is a strong favorite to repeat as Governor and GOP anti-evolution candidates are finding open opposition not only from Democrats but from Republicans sworn to defeat them. Nancy Boyda makes a repeat run with lower expectations but a great environment (at least for a Kansas Democrat).

Which I think is basically right. I think that if Boyda runs the right campaign, she can turn this long shot into a sprint that Ryun won’t be able to keep up with. I’ve met with Boyda a few times and I like her a lot, but I think a lot of people still have questions about her campaign organization, questions left over from 2 years ago, but not entirely put to rest by her current campaign. She has great endorsements, and a great opportunity.

Kansas Democrats are in the news, and she could be capitalizing on that by hitting Ryun on the issues that Democrats are winning on nationwide. Healthcare is a strong suit for her, given her experience with the pharmaceutical industry. She’s got a chance to build on a changing political climate for discussions of global climate. Support for Iraq and for the President are both plummeting, and she has a chance now to show herself to be prescient in opposing an ill-conceived occupation of Iraq.

Ryun himself is an incoherent buffoon. This piece from the Iola Register has copious evidence of that:

When asked for an alternative to amnesty for the undocumented who have been in this country for some time, he said had no answer to that question. “That is a very complicated matter. After the borders are secure there should be a national debate on immigration” which will lead to those decisions, he said.

So we’ll rush to implement a half-measure, then decide what our policy should be. Brilliant.

On Iraq, he explained:

he agreed with the general who said a civil war in Iraq is not underway or likely.

Because Ryun serves on the House Armed Services Committee, he was asked to comment on complaints by some Marine and Army reservists about the “back door draft.”

He had never heard the phrase, he said.

The general Ryun is citing defines a civil war as “typically and characteristically, ? the collapse of the central institutions of government.” General Fry, and apparently Congressman Ryun, are apparently not aware that during the American Civil War the central institutions of government persisted. We held elections, Congress passed bills, the President signed them, the Supreme Court ruled on cases and controversies. This is the guidance Ryun prefers to the testimony of Fry’s superiors, who testified “I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.”

General Abizaid also told reporters “that raising the prospect – even if it is not likely – is necessary to discuss how to ensure it does not happen.” Perhaps Ryun missed that memo.

As for the “back door draft,” the phrase has been used by major papers for 2 years, and LexisNexis shows the phrase to have originated in the Presidential campaign. The earliest citation is a story in the June 3, 2004 Tampa Tribune:

John Kerry said Wednesday that President Bush’s failure to recruit international assistance in Iraq has caused a “back-door draft” for U.S. reservists who had had their overseas duties unexpectedly extended.

“People serving beyond the time of their voluntary service are no longer volunteers,” Kerry said in a statement to reporters. “It is vital that we get other countries to commit resources and troops, boots on the ground … to relieve the burden on our troops.”

Similar uses occurred in USA Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and many other papers for the following two years. I can understand Ryun not paying attention to the Democratic nominee for President. I can understand him ignoring his colleagues in the Senate. But this phrase is in common use by veterans and by currently enlisted soldiers, and is a persistent complaint from a military that’s badly overstretched. Is he not listening to the soldiers, either? He oversees the military, but doesn’t seem to know what the military is talking about, at the highest levels or on the ground.

These are all great reasons to boot Ryun. But to win, Boyda has to give people reasons to vote for her. And I’m dubious of some choices she’s made.

The major push she’s been making lately has been about the so-called “NAFTA Superhighway.” And while I think it’s an interesting discussion, I just can’t make myself care. Maybe other people will get worked up about a 10 lane highway from the Mexican border to Kansas City, but I just don’t. Maybe because I don’t think free trade is so awful, and maybe because I’m not so worried about immigration, but I just can’t make myself interested.

It also doesn’t seem to get to the heart of what’s wrong with Jim Ryun: that he’s a hack who votes for whatever Tom Delay tells him to. That he long ago abandoned whatever interest he had in improving Kansas, preferring to enrich himself and his allies. Talk about Medicare’s prescription drug plan. Talk about Iraq. Talk about Katrina. Talk about a culture of corruption that has left Congress unable to deal with these and many other issues.

I still think this race is a big opportunity, and I hope people kick in to help take Congress back to sanity.