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Money: the latest reason to leave office

Sen. Burris used it recently. And so has Sen. Bunning, who also hints

August 02, 2009|Andrew Malcolm and Kate Linthicum

It used to be that the favored public reason for giving up office was the departee's fervent, newly discovered desire to spend more quality time with the family.

There was a whiff of that in Sarah Palin's recent retirement rhetoric, though no one expects the former Alaska governor to hole up by the big picture window in her lakeside Wasilla pad and watch the ice come in this fall.

The newest reason is money.

Illinois' demonized appointee senator, Democrat Roland Burris, used it recently to explain his newfound desire to retire next year and not seek election to Barack Obama's old seat.

Now comes Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

The strange thing is, unlike the old "family time" line, in both senators' cases the publicly stated reason is probably true.

Also, they would have lost in the end anyway. So why go out in flames when they can go home in faux dignity and peacefully eat Shredded Wheat at the kitchen table?

In a bitter surrender letter last week, Bunning made it official that he would not seek reelection, suggesting that some collegial undercutting was responsible for his inability to raise sufficient funds.

Double-dealing? In U.S. politics?

Those muffled cheers you may hear come from the GOP Senate caucus, which promised last winter not to fund a primary challenger to Bunning but worked quietly to ensure his decision to leave.

With fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's close call in his reelection last fall, Bunning's Bluegrass seat looked like a loss to pad the Democratic majority if the incumbent tried to hold it next year.

Now, the way is cleared for young blood, most likely Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

In recent years Bunning has seemed like a Hall of Fame pitcher who keeps showing up for spring training well past his prime.

Oh, wait.

That is Bunning, who became only the second pitcher ever to earn 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and the other league that hasn't won an All-Star Game this century (Cy Young was first).

Bunning officially ended his baseball career in 1971 with 2,855 strikeouts, 224 wins and 184 losses.

Exactly 40 years later he'll officially end his Senate career 2-0.

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So that's Soto-may-what?

When newscasters and radio journalists announced in May that President Obama had nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, there was a collective pause.

. . .

Just how do you pronounce that name?

Some said it SO-tuh-my-or, stretching out the first syllable of the judge's last name.

Others said it SAH-dah-my-er, imbuing the name with a New York twang.

Spanish speakers around the world cringed. They know that Sotomayor is, according to the rules of the language, supposed to be pronounced with an emphasis on the final syllable, like this: soh-toh-my-OR.

One would hope that after months of intense vetting of the nominee, Americans might have her name down by now. But at Sotomayor's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, the newly anointed Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) mangled it, calling her, SUH-do-mah-yare.

Even Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the judge's most ardent defenders, repeatedly stumbled over her name.

(One would think Leahy would be sensitive to this sort of thing given his name -- which, by the way, does not rhyme with "leafy." It's LAY-hee.)

The Republicans on the committee, on the other hand, did a pretty good job with Sotomayor's name.

Mark Krikorian can't be happy about that. Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (a think tank that calls for tougher immigration laws), drew fire from the left in May when he wrote on a blog that "putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English" and "is something we shouldn't be giving in to."

Krikorian tried to turn the pronunciation of Sotomayor's name into a metaphor for multiculturalism, saying, "There are basically two options -- the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be."

Response to Krikorian's posting was swift and mostly critical. Mariela Rosario wrote at Latina.com, "Our names are a fundamental part of our identities. We have the right to have them correctly pronounced."

Andrew Leonard, writing on Salon.com, said one might imagine that "if Republicans want to have any chance of winning future elections in the Southwest, griping about pronunciation is probably not a smart strategy."

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andrew.malcolm@latimes.com

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics ( www.latimes.com/ticket "> www.latimes.com/ticket ), is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are selections from the last week.

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