The Rick and Kay Show: American Idol Edition

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If Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison keeps fibbing, and then repeating her fibs here and here, she’s going to inadvertently play into the hands of an opponent eager to depict her as a corrupt creature of Washington. On the other hand, Gov. Rick Perry is using some of his bundles of money to unleash a pack of trivial-attack wolves on the senior senator—and he’s going to wear out people’s patience pretty fast. Especially the patience of reporters, who by yesterday afternoon had already been innundated with e-missiles about Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison skipping a Senate vote for a fundraiser (for one that went out at 10:55 a.m., see the bottom of this post). The ACORN skirmish, after Hutchison missed a lopsided vote to deny funding and community grants to the group on Monday, was just plain silly. (For the right-wing view, see this—and watch out for pop-ups of Michelle Malkin.) Hutchison is far too keen on symbolically pandering issues to have allowed herself to look anything like an ACORN fellow-traveler. Plus, she blew off a vote that passed 83-7. “This is yet another example of Senator Hutchison failing to protect the taxpayers of Texas,” said Mark Miner, a Perry spokesperson.  No, it’s another example of Gov. Perry’s campaign being overzealous in its 24/7 assault on Hutchison. How much more “protected” would we taxpayers have been if that ACORN vote had been 84-7? But that’s the Perry campaign: The arsenal doesn’t have to be good, so long as the shots are fired at high velocity. It will backfire eventually, especially if the targets don’t get richer. (And now I’ll switch metaphors, I swear.)The temptation to sling mud in a campaign like this is mighty for sure. For one thing, there’s so much excessive money on both sides. And given the thinness of the candidates’ “visions” for Texas’ future, and the lack of any fundamental ideological disagreements, it comes down to Rick vs. Kay. So Rick has to win by making Kay look worse than he does among a majority of Republican primary voters, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, but realistically, that’s the campaign we’ve got ahead of us (and behind us): One that offers little substantive difference, and thus will hinge on personalities. True, there will be no end of pandering to the loud right on both sides. But this brouhaha will be won in the Rick vs. Kay arena. Which guarantees personal attacks, and no end of silliness. This will be more of a full-throttle campaign for American Idol between the finalists than a substantive political debate. And yes, there is powerful symbolism at stake: Republicans voting for Hutchison will partly be voting to move the party, even just a few cautious inches, toward greater inclusiveness. Perry voters will partly be choosing a more radical-sounding (if not acting), white party of a status quo that will soon become the past. But the campaign will only be marginally about that. It will be ugly. There will be blood. Choose your cliche. But the Kay and Rick Show is going to give Texans no end of reasons to be ashamed before it’s all over (and after, no doubt). It will be another blot on the state’s reputation before all’s said and done. You’d have thought we’d have stopped the blotting after Bush’s 43 was no longer the current number. But Texans will always find a way. Oh, and here’s the big news from Rick Perry’s campaign: For Immediate Distribution:News Release09-15-09Senator KAYCORN Puts Politics Before People of TexasStatement by Texans for Rick Perry Communications Director Mark Miner on Hutchison Attending Fundraiser While Skipping ACORN Vote”The people of Texas elected Senator KAYCORN to make votes, not, as her spokesman says, to monitor them. The Senator skipped a key vote to cut off federal funding for ACORN to attend a political fundraiser in Dallas. She should be ashamed and apologize to the people of Texas for ignoring her responsibilities in the U.S. Senate. Throughout her 16 years in Washington, the Senator has found time to vote for bailouts, earmarks and out-of-control spending. But when the time came to protect Texas taxpayers from their tax dollars being used to fund a liberal organization under criminal investigation, she put her own interests ahead of those of her constituents.”