Jim Bunning Death Watch, Part 1

Politics, US Politics

In his career, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) has worn a variety of hats.  He started out as a major league baseball player, where he pitched for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies and was good enough to end up in the Hall of Fame.  He then went into politics in his home state of Kentucky, serving in the state legislature before being elected to congress and then, in 1998, winning a senate seat that he successfully defended in 2004.  And now, it appears, he’s a cancer specialist.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday [Feb. 21] at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Bunning: "How many fingers am I holding up? Two? Two is correct."

Evidently, Bunning’s service in the senate alongside Bill Frist has given the Kentucky senator the same ability to make long-distance medical evaluations as Frist displayed during the Terri Schiavo affair.  Frist, it should be recalled, admitted that he had diagnosed Schiavo “based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.”  He concluded that Schiavo, despite her persistent vegetative state and extensive brain damage, “certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.”

It’s not clear that the same can be said for Bunning.  Kentucky’s junior senator has been known to exhibit inexplicably bizarre behavior during his time in office.  In his 2004 reelection campaign, he said that his Democratic opponent, Dan Mongiardo, the son of Italian immigrants, “looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.”  Bunning also confessed that he wasn’t much of a news junkie: “Let me explain something: I don’t watch the national news, and I don’t read the paper. I haven’t done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information.” That led to charges that Bunning was “out of touch,” which prompted a Nixonian denial: “That’s unfair. You know it is.  Of course I’m not out of touch.”  Note to aspiring politicians: when you have to assure voters that, really, you’re not all that out of touch, you’re doing something wrong.

Bunning also managed to inject his own personal brand of crazy into the senate debate that year.  After agreeing to a single debate with Mongiardo in Lexington, Bunning, at the last minute, decided to appear via satellite from Washington, D.C., where he said that he was staying because he needed to cast votes in the senate.  Given that congress wasn’t in session at the time, that was a fairly surprising statement for Bunning to make, but it was forgotten in the uproar created when Bunning admitted to reading his opening and closing statements off a TelePrompTer, contrary to the debate’s rules.

The broad path of bizarre that Bunning blazed through the Bluegrass State in 2004 nearly cost him the election, which he eventually won by only a little more than a percentage point, far behind George W. Bush, who carried the state by twenty points in the presidential election.  Now, with another election looming in 2010, Bunning is resisting calls for his retirement and has issued a dire warning to the GOP that he plans to run again.  Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator and the senate minority leader, apparently dreads that prospect, and has been making moves to call up a conservative and, presumably, non-insane challenger from the bullpen to run against Bunning in next year’s senate primary.  Bunning, in typical fashion, has threatened to sue the National Republican Senatorial Committee if it supports a primary challenge and dismissed reassurances from the NRSC’s chairman, senator John Cornyn of Texas.  Stated Bunning: “I don’t believe anything Cornyn says.”

Bunning has since issued an “unpology” for his remarks about Ginsburg.  Meanwhile, questions remain about Bunning’s health.  He had a bout of pneumonia in November which led him to spend more time attending to family affairs and even less time to the senate, which, on balance, is probably a good thing for the citizens of Kentucky in particular and the nation in general.  At 77, Bunning doesn’t have too many innings left to pitch.  And frankly, he doesn’t look well.  No, not well at all.  So, as a matter of public interest, the Jim Bunning Death Watch will continue to monitor the situation and keep everyone informed of the state of senator Bunning’s health.  Stay tuned for future updates.

Jim Bunning’s current status is: Feisty.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. darter22  •  Feb 27, 2009 @6:39 am

    OK, I’ll bet a dollar on the Bunning death watch. August 10, 2010, because that is the average life expectancy for terminal stupidity.