Friday, October 15, 2004

More Kentucky Senate Update -

The leading newspaper in Kentucky (The Lousiville Courrier-Journal) published this editorial yesterday:

In Washington last week, Sen. Jim Bunning reportedly was complaining about his slipping poll numbers. He blamed the President, blamed the Governor, grumbling that their political slip-ups were rubbing off on him.

The truth is, Sen. Bunning has no one to blame but himself. He has never been a warm and fuzzy guy, not even as a young baseball star.

But his attacks on his opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, and the outrageous statements he has made in his rare public appearances are giving voters pause.

They are raising questions about Sen. Bunning's suitability for office. Is he, as he ages, just becoming a more concentrated version of himself: more arrogant, more prickly? Certainly that would be a normal occurrence.

Or is his increasing belligerence an indication of something worse? Has Sen. Bunning drifted into territory that indicates a serious health concern?

His latest blast is the most outlandish so far. He accused Dr. Mongiardo or a member of his campaign staff of "trying to abuse my wife" at Fancy Farm last summer. "My wife was black and blue," he said. Of course, the Mongiardo campaign denied any connection to any injury Mary Bunning may have sustained, calling the charge "sad and untrue."

And as his wild statements mount and he increasingly isolates himself, small things take on great significance. For example, Sen. Bunning broke the rules and read from a teleprompter during his so-called "debate" with Dr. Mongiardo. Was that simply because he thought he could get away with it, since he was ensconced in a remote location in Washington? Or did he need to read his opening and closing statements to avoid stumbling into another gaffe?

There is, of course, an easy way for Sen. Bunning to end what has become national speculation about his fitness. He could call press conferences throughout the state, stand before the public and say, "Here I am. Ask me questions. You'll see how fit I am."

Successful, reasonable public interaction would be far more reassuring than statements from doctors that his blood pressure and cholesterol are OK.

That, of course, is important information. This time, however, the concern isn't about physical health.