We Salute Our Key Republican Senators

Congratulations, Republican: You’ve won a statewide election, come to Washington, and been sworn in. Welcome to the U.S. Senate! But you want to be more than just any old legislator; you want to be important — a powerbroker, a mover and shaker, a bigwig. In short, you want to be a Key Republican Senator.

To achieve your goal, you must first observe other Key Republican Senators. They’re easy to spot, because our esteemed press corps conveniently labels them. For example, late last month the International Herald Tribune underlined the importance of Indiana’s Richard Lugar by headlining an AP dispatch thus: “Key Republican senator declares Iraq strategy not working, calls for new approach.” When Lugar went on Face the Nation a few days later, Bob Schieffer announced at the top of the show that he’d be doing “an exclusive interview with Richard Lugar, the key Republican senator who last week broke with the president on Iraq.”

Lugar isn’t the only Key Republican Senator, of course. Last Friday the Washington Post featured a story about Pete Domenici of New Mexico on the front page, under the headline “Key GOP Senator Breaks With Bush.” A story about Lugar and Virginia’s John Warner appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday under the headline “Two Key Republican Senators Push for New Iraq Strategy.” On Monday, Reuters issued a “factbox” helpfully identifying “some key Republicans challenging Bush on Iraq,” including Senators Lugar, Domenici, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

Reporters have great respect for Key Republican Senators, as is clear from the transcript of President Bush’s press conference yesterday. Terry Moran of ABC prefaced his question by saying, “Mr. President, you’re facing a rebellion from Republican — key Republican senators who want you to change course and begin reducing the U.S. combat role.” Notice that Moran corrected himself mid-sentence, just so he could make sure to note the Key-ness of the Key Republican Senators in question.

If you study these fine men closely, you may be able to identify something that they have in common — some special trait that makes them so very Key. If you can do so, it’s conceivable that you too can, with patient emulation, achieve the exalted status of Key Republican Senator. Good luck!

Prostitution is by its nature a somewhat sleazy business, but Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called “DC Madam” is a true innovator: By saving more than a decade’s worth of phone records — which she released on the internet this week — she’s managed to earn the moral opprobrium of other sex-peddlers. Dennis Hof, the proprietor of the Moonlight BunnyRanch — the legal Nevada brothel at the center of HBO’s porny documentary series Cathouse — heaped scorn on Palfrey in an appearance on Fox News’s Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld this week. Comparing Palfrey to the “Hollywood Madam,” Hof declared Palfrey unfit to carry Heidi Fleiss’s purse. (Fleiss, incidentally, is currently in the process of starting her own legit brothel in Nevada, catering exclusively to women; HBO cameras are documenting the opening.)

Sen. David Vitter, a Lousiana Republican, no doubt agrees with Hof’s assessment, as he was a customer whose trust Palfrey betrayed. In 2002 Vitter (then a member of the House) aborted a race for governor to work through marital problems. “My wife and I have been in counseling for a few months now,” Vitter told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “Running for governor requires a lot of travel, fund-raising and pressure. We’ve decided to put family first.” There were rumors even then that Vitter had a hooker habit. He denied them at the time — and was elected to the Senate two years later — but this week he finally came clean about his “very serious sin,” admitting that his whoremongering was indeed the reason that he and his wife needed counseling.

Given Louisiana voters’ well-known tolerance for scandal, it’s not clear that Vitter’s career is in any danger. (He’s not up for re-election until 2010.) Still, Vitter is one Republican Senator who should never aspire to be “Key,” lest he invoke unseemly Freudian imagery.

Betty Williams, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for promoting peace talks in Northern Ireland, caused a bit of a stir this week with some rather unpeaceful remarks at the International Women’s Peace Conference in Dallas. “Right now, I could kill George Bush,” she said from the podium. “No, I don’t mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that.” She later apologized, but few have noted that Ms. Williams is apparently unfamiliar with the details of American capital punishment. We have a whole menu of relatively nonviolent ways of killing people — the electric chair, the gas chamber, lethal injection — each of them less grisly than the last. If Ms. Williams is game, I’m sure she could get a job as an executioner somewhere. Sure, it might raise some eyebrows, but it really oughtn’t — after all, Yasser Arafat firmly established that a Nobel Peace Prize laureate is perfectly entitled to satiate a bit of bloodlust now and again.

John Tabin is a columnist for Brainwash.

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