The KC Strip is the sirloin of Kansas City media, a critical cut of surmisin' steak that each week weighs in on the issues of the day, dictating its column to Pitch writers.

Re-elect Phill Kline 

Without him, Kansas would be as boring as you think.

The Strip's phone rang a couple of weeks ago with an offer it couldn't refuse.

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's spokeswoman had called your meaty narrator to see if the Strip wanted a 45-minute, one-on-one interview with Dr. Phill.

Hell, yes! That was exactly 45 minutes more than the Strip had ever received with Kline. More often, the Pitch's requests for information from the AG's office had been met with cranky lectures from Kline's former spokesman, Whitney Watson. "It's hard to get motivated to help when your publication keeps calling my boss an asshole," he whined last October.

Actually, we'd called Kline a much-more-polite "flaming red A-hole," and that was only once. OK, we'd also called him a "douche bag" and a conductor of "the Spanish inquisition."

But Kline is now locked in a bitter re-election battle against Democratic challenger Paul Morrison. And to tell the truth, seeing one poll that showed Kline trailing Morrison by a whopping 13 points with only three weeks left made this reflective rump roast a little misty-eyed. The Strip had begun to fear that this just might be Kline's last hurrah. Oh, sure, that would be great for Kansas — but a lot less fun for a commentatin' cutlet like yours truly.

The day of the scheduled interview arrived. Figuring it had better take along a peace offering, the Strip swung by a Sun Fresh and dropped $6.66 on a sixer of Slim Fast before heading south to Kline's Johnson County campaign headquarters.

Kline's fondness for the chocolatey diet drink had been revealed in a leaked campaign memo detailing Kline's strategy for rallying his base by preaching at churches and then slipping away for fund-raisers with big-money donors. The grueling schedule didn't allow for leisurely lunches. "Feed me Slim Fast," Kline wrote to his handlers.

The Strip imagined that Kline would need a boost after a rough week. In addition to the bad poll numbers, former Attorney General Bob Stephan had finally spoken out about why he'd resigned as Kline's special assistant, citing Kline's churchy campaigns and the fact that Kline's wife, Deborah, had accepted a "love offering" of $1,339 for her company, SWT Communications, from the Light of the World Christian Center in Topeka after Kline gave a sermon there in July.

After all of that, reaching out to the Pitch seemed a little desperate. But we weren't complaining.

Kline offered a hearty handshake but wanted to know what was in the paper bag.

"Oh, you squirrel," he said when he saw what was inside.

This slab of Grade A beef figured Kline could have called it something worse, so things weren't starting out too bad.

Kline looked tired. He half-joked that he could sleep on November 9, but he admitted that the campaign had worn him down. And he was avoiding certain media.

"Frankly, I don't turn on the TV, and I don't read the Pitch in October," he said. "You guys have beat me up pretty darn good, but one thing I like about the Pitch is, you guys will allow your passion to flow to get at the truth of the story."

The Strip was feeling a bit tingly inside, but it wasn't ready to drink Kline's Slim Fast just yet.

Kline said he wasn't paying attention to the polls. "I think the race is within a few points," he said, shrugging off the 13-point gap. "I believe the race is tied."

He admitted that Morrison's ads were hurting his campaign, especially on the infamous medical-records issue. Kline said he's countering that ad with one explaining the basis of his medical-records requests. His whole inquisition has been blown out of proportion, Kline claims.

"My daughter had an idea. She said, 'Dad, we ought to have an ad where we're all sitting around the living room looking at knee and shoulder X-rays.' ... It's a pretty good idea because it's so silly."

Kline went on to rehash his tired old explanations for why he'd subpoenaed women's medical records: that he was only trying to bust child rapists and nail doctors who had performed illegal late-term abortions.

"I've referred out 18 child-rape prosecutions from abortion records," he said.

The reason we haven't heard about any actual prosecutions is because the 90 medical records have trickled in over "the last few weeks," he said. "This stuff takes time."

Recalling one of Kline's greatest hits over the past year, the Strip reminded him of the November 2005 feature story about him in GQ magazine. "We cannot discuss abortion rationally in this nation on either side of the equation," Kline said, regurgitating his most surprising comments in that story. "I think it's that issue that creates the polarization, and that's what people try to link me to, and it's not been a prime part of my office. But I will enforce the law. That's my job."

Kline went on, getting all evangelical.

"One of the most frustrating things in my job, and it contrasts with my faith, is the sound-bite approach to modern political discourse. I believe my faith is a faith of truth and grace. It's a faith of love. It's a faith of compassion. And so often as it relates to my job as a law-enforcement official, I only get to speak about the truth of the law. I don't get to share the compassion and grace that I know in my life. I have to judge people with their actions with the law. I don't judge their souls. I have hope for their souls, and there's a wonderful hope and grace for everyone ... a wonderful compassion, grace and love that can restore a human being, regardless of their actions. And it restored me just by myself."

Near as the Strip can tell, at that very moment, Kline's campaign was preparing to launch an ad attacking Morrison over a sexual harassment suit that had been dismissed 15 years ago.

Talk about truth and grace.

The Strip won't lie: If Phill Kline loses next week, it'll be a little sad. You see, it's a rare politician who can spoon-feed an ink-stained meat patty such choice cuts of hypocrisy.

We probably haven't seen the last of him, no matter what happens. But imagining how bland Kansas would be without Phill Kline is enough to make us think about voting for the ol' A-hole.


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