Brownback 2008

In the first of what I just decided may (or may not) be a continuing series, I present the announcement statement of the latest new presidential candidate, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS). From Brownback.com [emphases added]:

Dear Friend,

I have decided, after much prayerful consideration, to consider a bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

I am running to spread hope and ideas. We are a blessed nation at an important crossroads. War, corruption, disintegrating families, and for some, hopelessness, tear at the American Dream. We need hope and ideas.

I am running for America…to be of service in a crucial time of trial.

Ours is an exceptional nation. A nation between two oceans made up of people from every nation on earth. A great nation united by our ideals. But we are a great nation because of our goodness. If we ever lose our goodness, we will surely lose our greatness.

We believe in a culture of life—that every human life is a beautiful, sacred, unique child of a loving God.

We believe in justice for all—at all times.

We believe in liberty.

But the central institutions that best transmit these values—the family and the culture—are under withering attack.

We must renew our families and rebuild our culture!

We need to revitalize marriage, support the formation of families, and encourage a culture of commitment.

We need a culture that encourages what is right and discourages what is wrong—and has the wisdom to understand the difference.

Each generation of Americans is called upon to carry the torch of virtue during its brief season. If one generation lets the torch fall, its light is extinguished for all future generations. That’s a big responsibility, but we can achieve it if we pick up the torch with courage, generosity, and realism. We must meet and fulfill the job we are called to accomplish in our day. The time to act to insure our future as a nation is now.

Problems abound. The federal government wastes and spends too much. We lack compassionate yet practical programs to help the poor here and around the world. We need energy independence and alternative, clean-burning, domestic-grown fuels. The scourge of cancer has killed too many and must be stopped. We need term limits for judges and members of Congress like we have for the President. We need a flat tax instead of the dreadful, incomprehensible tax code we now have.

And we need humility.

While I am proud to be an American, when I consider my citizenship and the responsibilities it carries today in the light of eternity, I am more humbled by it. We have been given much and will be held to account for what we have been given.

I ask mostly for your prayers. Pray for America, that our division as a people might end and that our land be healed.

Thank you for your interest and support. Thank you for your prayers. Please join our campaign of national renewal and hope for the future!

God Bless you, and God Bless this nation we love so dearly,

[Sam Brownback]

What I am about to say, I say not out of malice but rather honesty: this announcement reads like it was written by a person of the barest literacy. Consider:

  • We need hope and ideas.
  • I am running for America…to be of service in a crucial time of trial.
  • If we ever lose our goodness, we will surely lose our greatness.
  • While I am proud to be an American, when I consider my citizenship and the responsibilities it carries today in the light of eternity, I am more humbled by it.

These are not the words of a thoughtful person – they are not even the standard political aphorisms of a campaign announcement. Of the above, two are not even sentences. These are third-rate empty thoughts, and the crudest sort of identity politics. Brownback’s invocation of the “light of eternity,” and the “culture of life”; his plea that the family and the culture are “under withering attack”; his use of the word “prayerful” and multiple requests and thanks for supporters’ prayers; these all signal that yes, he is a Christian. But little else is revealed through this announcement, and little sign of his previous political career is mentioned.

“War, corruption, disintegrating families, and for some, hopelessness, tear at the American Dream” – but no mention is made of what role Brownback might have had in either enabling or alleviating these conditions. Not that this is surprising – Brownback has been an unwavering cheerleader and supporter for the war and, as a Republican, has been until now both silent on and a beneficiary of the rank corruption in the modern GOP. If he is now planning a change of course, kudos to him – but more likely he is simply attempting to tap into the generalized frustration over these issues without engaging the substance of Americans’ complaints.

But perhaps the most bizarre mention is Brownback’s invocation of the “scourge of cancer.” Not that cancer isn’t an awful thing – it is – but what exactly does this mean? Why is Brownback invoking cancer – is there an unnamed Republican (or Democrat) who actually supports “the scourge of cancer”? Of course not. Cancer research – but nothing that includes stem cells or anything like that – is one of Brownback’s “signature issues.” And good for him. But “cancer research,” viewed alone and as an abstraction, is simply not an issue that rises to the level of national importance. Health care, however, is an issue of national importance, but Brownback, as a right-wing Republican – whose positions on social issues are in line with Christian nationalists and whose fiscal policies are in line with corporate America (especially insurance and pharmaceutical interests) – has nowhere to go on this issue. A comprehensive reform of the health care system would involve an acceptance of science unacceptable to the former, and an economic restructuring unacceptable to the latter. And so, again, he invokes the spirit of an issue of concern to Americans while avoiding any sort of responsibility for – or answer to – the situaiton.

Sam Brownback will not be President. But based on this amateurish announcement of his candidacy, he may prove to be a useful lens through which to view the intellectually feeble and dishonest level at which much of our political discourse takes place.

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4 Responses to Brownback 2008

  1. Mark says:

    He really needs to get a new speech writer if he even wants to make it to Iowa. That was just a really poorly done announcement.

    Someone also needs to tell him that Republicans are not winning anymore anywhere outside the South (and I guess in Kansas) by pandering to the religious right. In Brownback’s case I actually think he believes most of it, so I guess it’s not pander, but it still won’t be an effective national electoral strategy. I guess he is trying to fill the Bill Frist niche, although Frist smartly dropped out once he realized the niche didn’t exist anymore.

  2. J says:

    “this announcement reads like it was written by a person of the barest literacy.”

    Perhaps. It’s definitely crafted for persons of the barest literacy.

  3. degs says:

    Sam Brownback is about [his age, minus 18] years too late to run for president. His name is not presidential enough. Same with Vilsack.

  4. degs says:

    And Vilsack is out.

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