As House and Senate Republicans argue among themselves over Homeland Security funding, one lawmaker in particular has gotten so hysterical, it’s a little alarming.
Just last month, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), like many of his Senate GOP brethren, said his party was making a mistake holding DHS funding hostage. “I think the defunding action leads us to a potential government shutdown scenario, which is a self-inflicted political wound for Republicans,” Kirk told Politico in January.
But in recent weeks, something apparently changed Kirk’s mind. The Illinois Republican saw the House GOP’s defunding action as a mistake in January, but he now believes Senate Democrats have to accept it or there will be blood on their hands. Consider what he told National Journal yesterday:
“It’s a very dangerous game. If we have a successful terrorist attack – all the dead Americans from that should be laid at the feet of the Democratic caucus,” Kirk said. […]“In the end, [Democrats] have to defend the country. They have sworn the allegiance to do that. They need to live up to their oaths of office,” Kirk said. “In the Democratic mind, politics is everything. I would say to them, politics is not everything. If you don’t have a country to defend, what is the purpose of politics?”
Yesterday afternoon, Kirk also told Politico, “The Republicans – if there is a successful attack during a DHS shutdown – we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans.’”
Look, I realize that Republicans are in a bind. Without thinking things through, they launched a ridiculous gambit that was destined to fail, and with time running out, GOP lawmakers are feeling a little desperate.
But Mark Kirk’s irresponsible hysteria is simply bonkers. Even he couldn’t possibly believe his own nonsense.
Indeed, consider what the Illinois Republican is arguing here: if a Republican-led House and Republican-led Senate cut off funding for Homeland Security, and disaster strikes, Democrats will bear responsibility for dead Americans. Why? Because Dems balked at the anti-immigrant provisions Republicans tried to insert into an unrelated funding bill.
It’s not like Kirk can plausibly say he’s confused – he’s the guy who said just last month that his party shouldn’t do this.
We’ve all grown accustomed to a fair amount of ridiculous rhetoric from over-the-top politicians, but Kirk really is going too far. “All the dead Americans from that should be laid at the feet of the Democratic caucus”? “Coffins outside each Democratic office?” Even by the low standards of contemporary politics, Kirk should be ashamed of himself.
In the larger context, let’s not forget that Kirk is a blue-state Republican up for re-election next year, who presumably should take steps to appear moderate and mainstream in voters’ eyes. The logic isn’t complicated: in a presidential election year, it’s unlikely that a center-left state will rally behind an unhinged conservative for statewide office.
And yet, Kirk is taking cheap rhetorical shots at President Obama – who, if memory serves, is kind of popular in Kirk’s home state of Illinois – while whining about “political correctness” taking over climate science. All the while, the GOP senator is eagerly trying to derail American foreign policy and international nuclear talks.
If there’s a smart political strategy behind these moves, I don’t see it.