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With friends like these…

Last fall, our nation’s leaders faced a choice. They could embrace a flawed, ill-conceived and, essentially, desperate plan to try to rescue our financial system and the economy – or they could stand on principle against an interventionist government and the risk of seriously undermining our capitalistic system.

Some Republicans panicked – notably, every member of Senate Republican “leadership” – and as a result, we are neck deep in government mandates, controls, ownership, and just general meddling.

A handful of Republicans did the right thing in the face of the indecipherable blustering of Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke, something we might refer to as ACTUAL leadership. Members such as Shelby and DeMint, Sessions and Vitter (see the vote here) did not succumb to fear, along with a handful of other Republicans.

And there was another stalwart worth mention – someone who raised serious questions about the viability of the “Paulson plan,” and was not afraid to point out the significant danger of heading down the path we’ve taken these last 6 months. That man was Senator Jim Bunning.

So, it is unfortunate to see how Republicans, and in particular his supposed friend Mitch McConnell, are treating Jim Bunning as he heads into an election cycle.

Now, anyone who follows this stuff closely is well aware that Senator Bunning is not exactly a warm-and-fuzzy kind of guy. He is 77. He is known on the Hill to be gruff, cantankerous, and easily frustrated. He says odd things that sometimes get him in trouble. And as a result of all of this (and a terrible Republican brand, generally – thanks in part to his fellow Kentuckian) he is facing a tough re-election…

So, he and Kentucky Republicans face a tough decision. Fair enough.

But something just doesn’t set well with me about how this is shaking out among his colleagues.

Republican Senators (through their rhetoric and the NRSC) BLINDLY supported (now-Democrat) Lincoln Chafee, the basically useless Mike DeWine and countless other weak, miserable candidates who constantly knifed the Party in the back. They did so regardless of their true viability or dedication to principle.

And, Senator Bunning held his fire last year regarding the misguided TARP bill when his “friend” Mitch McConnell (who voted for it) was on the chopping block, fighting for his life in a tough election.

So, why is it that the conservative Jim Bunning gets tossed under the bus? Doesn’t he deserve the benefit of the doubt? Doesn’t a man who has served his nation well and by all accounts honorably, generally supported his fellow Kentucky Senator and other colleagues, and voted consistently in favor of basic conservative principles (with some exceptions, as all have) deserve the support of his fellow Republican Senators?

I am not saying he shouldn’t step down. I am not saying he should. I leave that for him to decide along with his family and the decision-makers in Kentucky (out of the press).

But that some of his colleagues in the Senate are shoving him aside – openly and without shame – is just another example of the utter gutlessness that pervades every corner of the Senate Republican Conference… the same Senate Republican Conference which stood by Ted Stevens even as he tossed away a solid Republican Senate seat in Alaska because of questionable ethics, a federal indictment and a history of abusive spending.

At least Jim Bunning can say he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and threw a no-hitter in both the American and National Leagues, one of which was a perfect game (1964) – all back when the game was THE GAME. I will tell my kids about Bunning… I will try to forget the current crop of Senate Republicans as soon as I am able… or until they stand up for principle.

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