When he was pitching for the Phillies back in the back in the ‘60s, I thought Jim Bunning was a dumb-butt because he kept shaking off signs relayed from Manager Gene Mauch, arguably one of the brighter minds in baseball and the first skipper to call balls and strikes from the dugout. And I thought Kentucky Jimbo was certifiable for throwing high hard ones at batters for automatic balls when he could throw strikes almost at will. Now he’s gone and aimed a beaner at millions of unemployed American workers, and I think he’s a freakin’ genius: he’s found a way for the good field-no hit Democrats to avoid losing the Senate this fall.Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) is a 79-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher who’s already announced he isn’t running for re-election this year, which pleased a lot of Republicans because his increasingly nutty actions and comments were making him a liability. He’s also the tree from which 40 grandchildren have sprouted, and that surely entitled him to some sort of slack. But Senators on both sides of the aisle are now furious with the old goat, the Dems for his single-handed five-day holdup of unemployment benefits for millions of displaced American workers, his GOP colleagues for handing the Dems a tried and tested issue for November.A trip back in time. 1994. The Republican take control of the House of Representatives and use their majority to tie down newly-elected President Bill Clinton in Gulliverian knots. But nooooooo, Speaker Newt Gingrich can’t stifle himself and over-reaches in 1995 by blocking Clinton’s budget bill. On November 14, big parts of the federal government are shut down (we said, “smaller government,” not NO government). In 1996, the donkeys (were they smarter back then, or just more opportunistic?) kick the elephants in their tushes with the issue and take back the House. Gingrich catches a midnight train back to Georgia to pick up his bags, then heads for Europe to play bigshot for pointy-headed intellectuals who don’t understand English.Here’s the narrative recommended for the Democrats this year. Bunning can shut down the government for millions of families because the rules of the Senate allow one goofball to kill an emergency spending bill, which requires a consensus (same goes for an emergency spending bill for the Department of Defense, same for the Department of Homeland Security, makes no never mind). The rules of the Senate also allow a minority of goofballs to filibuster and shut down the government for 46 million people who wake up in sweats every night because they know they’re getting up in the morning with no health care insurance (same goes for jobs legislation, education reform, immigration reform, labor law reform, whatever). The rules of the Senate also allow one solitary goofball to hold up the approval of 70 presidential appointees for months.The message: the Senate rules SUCK, so elect me and I’ll help change them.Bunning ended up making a deal to get a vote on an amendment he wanted (it got only 43 votes) but the lefts can’t let the rights get away with mealy-mouthing on the bean-baller — he’s not an exception, he’s the rule. He’s what every Republican Senator wants to be. And please, guys, don’t go after the GOPs as the PARTY OF NO, or OBSTRUCTIONISTS, because nobody will know what the hell you’re talking about. Say this: “Whenever the Republicans can’t get their way, they SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT, SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT, SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT.”Oh, and don’t forget that when Bunning was challenged on the floor of the Senate for SHUTTING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT his thoughtful, grandfatherly comment was, “Tough shit.”This post originally appeared at From The Left Bank of the Potomac.
Ray Abernathy has been a political, labor and public relations consultant for more than 40 years, working exclusively for labor unions and nonprofits. His blog, From the Left Bank of the Potomac, is at www.rayabernathy.com. He is co-author of The Inside Game: Winning With Worksite Strategies and author of A Practical Press Guide for Local Labor Unions.