Friday, August 31, 2007

"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men"... NOT!

Well, with the retirement of Virginia's long-time senior Senator, Foghorn Leghorn ... er, John Warner, we are --- with few exceptions --- already inundated with lengthy paens to his glories. And I was reminded of the title phrase I once heard (it turns out to be the title of a Depression-era book).

George Allen put it this way:
He is a country gentleman, a legal scholar, a historian, a great storyteller, and an esteemed statesman, all with the joy in life of a 12-year-old boy. We all hope to have his energy and drive at the age of 80.
And John Warner certainly has been around long time.

Nevertheless, I cannot join in with those singing his praises. Just can't do it.

Former Senator Allen has it just about right. A "legal scholar"? The "joy in life of a 12-year-old boy." Given his vote against Robert Bork, it's more like Warner brings to "legal scholar[ship]" the qualifications of a 12-year-old boy.

The fact is, no one singing John Warner's glories has managed to enlighten us with a single significant legislative accomplishment from his nearly-29-year tenure. I certainly can't think of one, and I think I'm fairly well-informed. Sure: he's associated with military spending, but given his finger-in-the-wind attitudes so frequently on display, one cannot help but wonder whether this association arises more out of the fact that it is the best way to bring home the bacon to Virginia (with one of the world's great natural harbors in Hampton Roads) than in any commitment to a strong national security. Say what you will about Teddy Kennedy (D-Chappaquiddick), but he has substantive legislative accomplishments, and is virtually personally associated with socialized medicine. It's substance with which I disagree, but it's substance, nonetheless. Kennedy is in the Senate to do something. Warner seems to be there for no other reason than to be a Senator.

And darn, he certainly looks like a Senator, doesn't he?

John Warner is an accidental Senator who has never taken a risky or courageous legislative stand of which I am aware. Had the first choice of the 1978 GOP State Republican Convention, Dick Obenshain, not tragically died in an airplane crash, John Warner would have been relegated to the oblivion which he so richly deserves. He was the Convention's second choice, probably largely on the power of celebrity (he was married to movie-star Elizabeth Taylor at the time, in her late-Elvis stage), and received the endorsement of the Republican State Central Committee only because the Conservatives which dominated it were willing to give him the loyalty that they would never receive from him.

Jim Riley has a post in which he has offered a prospective bumper sticker for the Mark Warner campaign. It's not for Senate. It's "Mark Warner for Private Citizen. Mediocrity Like This Doesn't Come Around Every Day."

Oh, really, Riley? Virginians have for nearly thirty years been perfectly happy with the mediocrity which is Senator John Warner.

Why should they want to change now?

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