Editorials

Seven more months of pandering?

It could be a long seven months. That's the time left until the Aug. 3 primary, when the GOP race for U.S. Senate between Reps. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, and Jerry Moran, R-Hays, will be decided.

In the meantime, the two candidates will keep competing to sound like the most ultraconservative. Kansans who think potential U.S. senators should be statesmanlike and concerned with more than just one segment of the electorate will be out of luck.

Moran and Tiahrt are trying desperately to appeal to the type of Republicans who are faithful voters in the August primaries. As a result, hardly a week goes by without the lawmakers sending out press releases about some right-wing grievance, real or imagined.

In the past couple of weeks, for example, Moran pledged to repeal the "government takeover of health care" and objected to President Obama's supposed (though unspoken) support for granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Not to be outdone, Tiahrt called for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to step down and credited "an act of God" for stopping the underwear bomber (which prompted commentators to ask why God didn't stop the Sept. 11 bombers). Earlier Tiahrt press releases or campaign e-mails called for repealing the federal stimulus (not going to happen) and claimed that Moran had been endorsed by the Communist Party USA (not true).

And when the pair aren't issuing press releases, they are accommodating some rather extreme views at town hall meetings. At a gathering last week in Salina, one woman told Tiahrt that the U.S. military should be putting its rifle shells in pig fat because Muslims are afraid of coming in contact with it.

Tiahrt acknowledged to The Eagle editorial board this week that he and Moran are playing to conservatives. And Tiahrt said that, assuming he wins, his press releases will start being more statesmanlike on Aug. 4.

That's a common pattern in politics. Tiahrt noted how Barack Obama was more openly liberal during the Democratic presidential primaries than he was during the general election.

Tiahrt also acknowledged that he hasn't always had his facts straight when criticizing the health reform legislation at town hall meetings, and that some of his claims about cuts to Medicare were misleading.

But he also contends that he isn't being inconsistent in his beliefs (unlike Moran, Tiahrt argues). Tiahrt said that he has always stood for conservative principles of smaller government, lower taxes and individual freedom.

Tiahrt and Moran have been capable congressmen who have championed various issues of importance to a broad range of Kansans, such as the Air Force tanker project and rural health care.

Still, if Tiahrt and Moran already are trying this hard to pander to ultraconservatives, imagine what it could be like when we get closer to the primary and they start advertising heavily.

Talk about the dog days of summer.

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