Phil Klein is as level-headed a guy as I know, so I was disappointed to see him savage Hayworth below. Maybe things are different for those who, unlike me and Brian Faughnan, weren’t right on scene in the 1990s when Hayworth was a stalwart, energetic, and effective conservative in the House — and a heckuva lot of fun to be around, too.
To take Phil’s arguments to the degree they fail to be persuasive:
1) It is, I have always thought, obscene to blame a politician for accepting campaign donations from somebody later found to have been corrupt, UNLESS and ONLY UNLESS it can be shown that somehow the politician’s record seemed to suspiciously (even if legally) track the donations. Almost every Republican from 1983 on could be blamed for accepting some sort of help, directly or indirectly, from Jack Abramoff, because Abramoff was a respected Republican activist long before he started appearing in any way sleazy. I myself have a photograph of Ronald Reagan in the White House on Reagan’s 72nd birthday in 1983, with 450 cheering college students looking on (I was one of them), about to cut his birthday cake — and the hand and arm in the photo that are connected to the cake knife being handed to Reagan are the hand and arm of Jack Abramoff, who was then head of the national College Republicans.That doesn’t make Reagan corrupt, does it? Blaming Hayworth for being the leading recipient of funds LINKED to Abramoff (not funds FROM Abramoff) is as cheap a shot as it would be to still blame John McCain for writing letters on behalf of Charles Keating, even though McCain was otherwise innocent of any actual wrongdoing related to Keating. In short, even bringing up the Abramoff issue, lacking other evidence of related sleaziness by Hayworth (there isn’t any, and Hayworth was investigated and not charged with anything, not even an ethics slap on the wrist), is to take a cheap shot at Hayworth that is beneath Phil’s usual high-minded standards.
2) The “free money” video doesn’t bother me. It was free money. If I’ve paid taxes, I’m all for trying to get back any of those taxes I possibly can. I don’t see conservatives blasting J.C. Watts for doing the EXACT SAME THING, the same sales pitch.
3) ACU ratings for one or two sessions of Congress may be dismissable because they involve just a sample of votes — albeit carefully selected, important votes. But ACU ratings over a whole career are VERY valuable guides, because, just like any sample, the bigger and longer the sample the more accurately it reflects real trends. An ACU career rating of, say, 80, might not be a clear indicator of bedrock conservatism. But an ACU rating over 12 years of 98 (!!!) is as solid an indicator of consistent conservatism as can be found anywhere.
4) On the “birther” thing, I bow to nobody in my insistence that it is an irrelevant issue constitutionally and that the contemporaneous birth notice in the Hawaii paper is utterly dispositive. In short, it is unimportant in terms of Obama’s qualifications. Focus on it is silly and demeaning (sorry, readers who believe otherwise). However, that did not stop me from saying, right here in these pages, that Obama should still produce it. (I can’t seem to find the blog post in which I did so, but there were other good reasons to question why the Obamites were so reluctant to produce the actual document.) That doesn’t make me a birther, nor does Hayworth’s statement make him one if he has clarified what he meant — which he did.
Look, nobody is claiming that Hayworth is a paragon of conservative virtue. I AM claiming that his “gut instincts” are conservative and that his OVERALL record clearly backs up that judgment, even while I am disappointed that he voted for the Medicare prescription drug bill, etc. As I said, he did not do enough to resist the bad lead of the Bushies, with Rove and company putting pressure on him. But there is such a huge difference between being being led in the wrong direction by somebody basically on your team, as Hayworth sometimes did, vs. LEADING in the wrong direction with delighted malice aforethought, and deliberately giving verbal and substantive aid and comfort to the adversary (political), both of which McCain did. J.D. Hayworth voted with the ACU 97.56 percent of the time. That’s a larger percentage of the time than Peter supported Jesus, fergoshsakes. Everybody strays. But Hayworth’s CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS default positions were conservative. McCain’s default positions on everything but defense and earmarks are to suck up to the establishment media and/or to make himself look like a martyr even if the only cause actually being martyred is the cause of constitutional government while the actual beneficiary of the martyrdom is McCain’s perceived political advancement.
Heck, I was gonna stay out of this race and not comment. But I can’t stand seeing good men treated badly. Hayworth is a good man.