Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Unsuitable Mr. Keyes

August 11, 2004

The race for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois gets better and better. That is, at least, if you don't live in Illinois. After several false starts -- a candidate who dropped out after embarrassing charges about his sexual enthusiasms; a flurry of interest in former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka -- the Republicans have chosen Alan Keyes to run against the new Democratic superstar, Barack Obama. The thinking behind this choice would be deeply cynical if it wasn't comically obvious and totally hopeless.

Obama and Keyes have not much in common except that they are African American and electrifying speakers. This may be just a coincidence, as some Illinois Republican leaders ludicrously maintain. Or it could just be that state GOP leaders think: They have one? OK, we have one. Next problem.

The suspicion of cynicism is reinforced by the fact that, by any other measure, Keyes is a wildly inappropriate candidate. Start with his official residency in Maryland. Keyes has run for the Senate and for president from that state. We have no special problem with carpetbagging Senate candidates, but Keyes does -- or at least he did when denouncing Hillary Rodham Clinton's ultimately successful run for the Senate from New York.

Then there is his, shall we say, zealous speaking style. Riveting, the first few times you hear him, but hinting of emotional turmoil that might lead a job counselor to try to direct him away from a career in politics.

To his credit as an intellectual, though not as a politician, Keyes has a tendency to follow any idea right off the cliff of logical consistency, such as when he has compared both the income tax and abortion to slavery (the first as bad as, the second worse than).

Then there is affirmative action. Keyes, as a principled conservative, is vigorously against any form of racial favoritism. He will be glad to know, therefore, that race had nothing to do with his selection as the Republican Senate candidate. In fact there were two finalists in this latest round of pick-the-loser-to-Obama, and by an even more remarkable coincidence, both of them are black. "These two were selected because of their strengths, not because of their color," a member of the Republican State Central Committee told CNN. "Voters are smarter than that. That clearly wasn't the intent."

We are often called upon to wonder whether politicians are cynical or stupid. The Illinois Republican leaders, in their case, have made that choice unnecessary.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|