Our View: Kirk’s deeds should match his words
Illinois’ U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is quick to tout himself as a maverick for breaking with his Republican Party on several issues, including his decision earlier this summer to “de-endorse” GOP nominee Donald Trump.
In an interview this week with the SJ-R editorial board, Kirk noted that he also was the first GOP senator to meet with Merrick Garland, the Supreme Court nominee whose confirmation process has been blocked since March by Republicans. He talked of how he has supported gay marriage rights, and how he has partnered with Democratic senators on gun control measures. “I’m pretty proud of my F-minus from the NRA,” Kirk noted.
When the talk turned to Trump, Kirk was forceful in his criticism of the nominee’s knowledge and temperament, saying that he does not think Trump could effectively lead in a international or military crisis. “His temperament is not suited to be commander-in-chief,” Kirk told the SJ-R board.
Kirk also said he’d been “disappointed” in Trump’s ties to campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has faced scrutiny over his Russian business ties. Kirk said Manafort has “been kind of a bottom feeder.”
But ask Kirk where he goes from here, and things get more murky.
At first, Kirk said he would write in the name of former CIA director and Gen. David Petraeus. He later backed away from that statement, saying he would instead write in former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Trouble was, Powell supported the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear agreement. Kirk has said he can’t support Hillary Clinton because of her backing of that deal, or anyone else who agreed with it.
By Tuesday, when he met with this editorial board, Kirk said he was back to Petraeus.
Kirk has been among those criticizing Clinton for her handling of classified information on a private email server and her lack of candor about the setup. Petraeus, of course, pleaded guilty himself to mishandling classified information.
Kirk dismissed that, saying that he felt Petraeus had been viewed as a potential rival to President Barack Obama. “I think they went too hard on him,” he said.
But when he was asked if he had ever considered becoming an independent, given that he seemed to have some significant differences with his party, Kirk wouldn’t even entertain the idea.
Instead, he launched into a passionate partisan denunciation of the Service Employees International Union and other “big unions (that) are already running the state.”
Likewise, his criticism of Trump was followed by tepid observations about respecting the will of Republican voters who had made Trump the nominee. “If you win, you win,” he said at one point.
In today’s polarized political system, part of the problem is politicians who stick with their party positions above all else, or who don’t demonstrate any willingness to cross the political aisle.
Page 2 of 2 – Kirk gets credit for having demonstrated a willingness to move out of lockstep with the GOP.
What’s motivating him, though, is the key question. Many speculate that the moves have been political calculations, triangulations meant to aid him in his tough re-election fight against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Sen. Kirk, if sincere about believing himself to be a maverick with his party, has the chance to make a difference by following through on his convictions in constructive ways. For instance, if he truly believes Trump is unfit to be president, it’s fair to ask what he’s doing to prevent him being elected. If Kirk believes that the Senate ought to consider Garland’s nomination, he must actively lobby his leadership to do so.
Voters can’t know what’s in the senator’s heart. But it’s hard not to feel like Sen. Kirk is trying to play both sides of the debate. His actions are what will demonstrate whether his convictions are sincere.
Posted Aug. 18, 2016 at 8:05 PM