Danforth the statesman criticizes the Republican Party for catering to the religious right. Danforth the partisan hack endorsed Jim Talent, whose voting record the Christian Coalition graded at 100 percent, in a 2006 U.S. Senate race.
Danforth the statesman feels that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. Danforth the partisan hack continues to defend Clarence Thomas, a former protégé and the U.S. Supreme Court justice most likely to strike down a law passed by Congress, according to a 2005 Yale study.
Danforth the statesman thinks the tea party movement is pushing the Republican Party to a point “beyond redemption.” Danforth the partisan hack recently endorsed Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a tea party-aligned conservative who is running for governor.
Danforth’s ability to hold conflicting ideas simultaneously is a running joke. He writes opinion pieces and gives speeches bemoaning the lack of moderation and civility in modern politics. Then, when there’s a big election in Missouri, he gets behind whichever conservative hard-liner emerges. He’s like an environmentalist who lives in an exurb, drives an SUV and doesn’t recycle.
Danforth’s endorsement of Kinder comes at a time when Missouri Republicans are searching for an alternative. Kind of a doofus in the first place, Kinder spent the summer answering questions about his relationship with a former Penthouse Pet. The ex-model, Tammy Chapman, says Kinder was a regular — and ultimately creepy — customer when she worked as an exotic dancer in St. Louis in the mid-1990s. Kinder called Chapman’s story “bizarre,” while acknowledging his “romantic attraction” to her.
Prominent Republicans wonder if Kinder’s boners (literal and figurative) disqualify him from holding Missouri’s highest political office. But the party lacks for obvious alternatives. The vacuum has led to the creation of a “Draft Jack Danforth for Governor 2012” Facebook page.
Danforth, who is 75 years old, says he’s not interested in being governor. His choice, he says, is already in the race. “I am all for Peter Kinder,” Danforth told the St. Louis Beacon last week. “I’ve known him since he was a schoolboy.”
Danforth’s latest endorsement of a non-Danforthian Republican — Kinder has complained on Twitter about “the astonishing explosion of lefty Jew hatred” — is being mocked by Democrats. The partisan site Fired Up Missouri notes that Danforth also supported Ed Martin in his 2010 congressional race. Danforth complains about wedge issues. Yet Martin, in an effort to rile up religious conservatives, once suggested that the Obama administration was keeping Americans from being saved by Jesus.
I’ve asked Danforth in the past about the apparent conflict between his rhetoric and his endorsements. It’s a pointless exercise.
When we last spoke, in 2009, Danforth was down on President Obama for the federal government’s response to the crisis in the U.S. auto industry. Of course, 30 years earlier, then Sen. Danforth had supported federal assistance for Chrysler. Danforth said at the time that he was putting aside his misgivings for the sake of “flesh-and-bone human beings” who depended on the automaker for jobs. Yeah, and Obama just thought it would be cool to run a car company.
Danforth was ignorant as well as hypocritical. In our phone interview, I had tried to suggest to him that government bailouts of the auto industry began when George W. Bush was in office.
“Not for the car companies,” Danforth responded.
Wrong. General Motors began receiving billion-dollar loans from the government in December 2008, while Bush was still calling the shots from the Oval Office.
What’s Danforth’s deal? It’s one of two things. Either he’s not smart enough to figure out that the Republican Party he knew in the 1970s looks nothing like today’s or he’s simply a coward, a man who takes principled stands only within the safe confines of The New York Times opinion page and other no-consequence forums.