Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks with Roll Call at his desk in the Hart Senate Office Building on Nov. 13, 2014.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

Dear senators: avoid ‘a bro with no ho’ rhetoric

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a rather unusual presidential candidate for a variety of reasons, though one of them has nothing to do with his professional background or qualifications for office: he’s a bachelor. If elected, it’d be the first time since Grover Cleveland that the nation had no First Lady,
 
Indeed, Graham said the other day that he envisions a “rotating First Lady” if elected.
 
That’s one way to joke about Graham’s familial situation. As the Huffington Post discovered, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) found another.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a “bro with no ho,” according to his colleague, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
 
The assessment of Graham’s love life was made during a Senate Appropriations Committee markup on Thursday and caught on a live microphone. “I’ve been joking with Lindsey,” Kirk can be heard saying. “Did you see that? He’s going to have a rotating first lady. He’s a bro with no ho.”
It’s worth noting that Kirk didn’t intend the comment for public consumption – the Illinois Republican was picked up by a live mic he didn’t know was on.
 
Nevertheless, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirk’s leading 2016 rival, wasted no time in launching a fundraising campaign off the story. “This kind of sexist language has no place in the U.S. Senate,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) wrote in a fundraising email on Duckworth’s behalf. 
 
So, how serious is this?
 
Your mileage may vary, though “a bro with no ho” strikes me as a dumb thing for anyone to say in any context. Maybe you’re inclined to cut the senator slack because he was joking privately, maybe not.
 
But one of the angles that jumped out at me is how often Kirk seems to get caught making strange, controversial comments – usually when he knows he’s on the record.
 
When congressional Republicans threatened to shut down the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year, it was Kirk who got a little hysterical, urging the GOP to “build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office.”
 
A few months ago, during an ugly fight over Loretta Lynch’s attorney general nomination, Kirk suggested Democrats were defending slavery. A month later, he said people drive faster through black neighborhoods.
 
For a vulnerable Republican incumbent running in a blue state, Kirk’s rhetorical flourishes probably won’t do his career any favors.
 
As for yesterday’s exchange, Kirk later acknowledged that he regrets his choice of words.
 

Lindsey Graham and Mark Kirk

Dear senators: avoid 'a bro with no ho' rhetoric