I don't get Thune, the South Dakota U.S. Senator, and his infatuation with the spell put on so many of his fellow Republicans by the Svengali of the self-destructionists in the GOP, Texas Senator Ted Cruz . Thune has always been a pretty upfront and level-headed guy to me. Fact is, I hosted his first political appearance in western SD's Pennington County in 1996 when he began his long shot and winning campaign for the House of Representatives. I've admired the way his career has advanced and have been generally supportive along the way. To me he always represented the common sense wing of the Republican Party, not necessarily bound to its high-pitched extremists, so much so that he even once snubbed the religious-right's principal spokesman James Dobson, whose Focus On The Family organization made a show of force at Mt. Rushmore a few years back. I recall that Senator Thune took some heat from those folks as a result. Made me feel pretty good about my support for Thune.
That support has been tested a bit lately on a few issues. For example, just before the Farm Bill was passed a few weeks ago he suggested that he might vote it down because of some Country Of Origin Labeling elements that were in it. He finally gave in, probably realizing that it was desperation time for South Dakota ranchers who needed federal help after their horrendous losses in last October's blizzard, not to mention farmers who were anxious to make this Spring's planting decisions based on what the Farm Bill contained. Thune's attitude seemed rather coy--throwing out his ambivalence on the bill as a political teaser--and didn't reflect a serious concern about the well-being of his constituents and the urgency surrounding the bill's passage.
A few days ago, though, my support moved from being tested to being shaken. Really, I could not believe that our Senator, who must understand that a rural state like South Dakota is ultra-dependent on its ties to the federal government, actually joined up with my GOP's suicidal right-wing and voted against raising the federal debt ceiling. With that vote, Senator Thune was essentially affirming that he was okay with the financial market chaos that would inevitably have followed if the United States Treasury had been forced to default on our country's obligations. This is total nuts-o-rama and the fallout would have worked its way down the financial food chain, all the way to the local bankers who sustain our state's small-town/rural economy. Interest rates would immediately have ticked up and cash would have been very difficult to come by as panicky lenders would've been forced to hoard the green stuff as a reserve against a possible financial catastrophe.
Happily, cooler heads in the Republican Party prevailed, though it forced the GOP's senate leadership to go begging for enough of our party's votes to put the lifting of the debt-ceiling measure over the top and keep the United States Treasury solvent. My extreme disappointment and dismay with Senator Thune is that we can't count him as one of the "cooler heads" in the Republican Party. He seems to have succumbed to the hypnotic trance imposed by Cruz and other extreme rightists who'd rather see the United States descend into financial chaos than do the tough political work of dealing with legislation that would ease the burden on the country's budgetary deficit. This is a manifestation of political desperation, and it's really disturbing to me because I never thought of the self-composed Thune as one who'd resort to desperate tactics as a replacement for political engagement. Never.
I guess we'll see if a pattern is developing. Certainly hope not. Country boy John Thune would appreciate an old rural saw that I think applies here: There's nothing learned from the second kick of a mule. Once is enough--more than enough for me.