Steven Reynolds, All Spin Zone: [Wednesday] the Matthew Shepard Act passed in the Senate. President Barack Obama will sign the measure soon. This is a big day for civil liberties and gay Americans. It was also a big day for six GOP cowards, Senators Mel Martinez, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Kitt Bond, Jim Bunning, Judd Gregg and Lindsey Graham. No, these Senators did not vote (Senate Roll Call on Matthew Shepard Act here) against the measure, citing whiney reasons, as did 28 other Republican Senators. They did not stand behind the notion that the Matthew Shepard Act would punish pastors, as the right wing paranoia insists. They did not stand behind the states rights notion, as Senators Kyl and McCain argued. These Senators also did not vote for the measure, as their fellow republicans Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Richard Lugar and Lisa Murkowski did. No. Evidently for the cowardly seven, voting on gay rights, either up or down, is too dangerous for them. They are cowards.
Let’s give Jim Bunning a pass, since he is suffering from dementia. Mel Martinez is retiring from the Senate, and he’s probably out seeking other jobs already. Lindsey Graham desperately doesn’t want to be outted, so that might account for his absence. And Judd Gregg’s nonvote is easy to understand, what with him being from a blue state but having to cowtow to the extremists on the religious right for primary votes. Kit Bond is also retiring and not seeking another term, so maybe he, like Jim Bunning, is just lazy in not voting. But the nonvotes of Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, their cowardice in facing a simple issue, at least by Republican standards, is not so easy to understand. Let’s start with Lamar Alexander.
The actions of Lamar Alexander are not easy to figure out on first blush. Yeah, Alexander is considered a moderate, and his foray into Republican whackjobbery by supporting the Iraq War has turned into an ugly decision. Alexander is in the Republican leadership of the Senate, though, and one would expect him to lead on an issue so importatn to that large right wing Christian constiuency. Certainly on abortion issues Alexander gets a hish rating from the right wing whackjobs, so he’s not normally scared to vote as the puppet of the extremists on the GOP right wing. Alexander just got reelected, so he doesn’t have to appease interest groups for a couple years, and he’s old enough that a run for the Presidency, so he doesn’t have that excuse to dodge a vote. Could it be he has a conscience, or that he might actually be a little teensy bit moderate?
Bob Corker is even harder to figure out. While he gets a perfect rating from the National Right to Life Committee, showing his social conservative bona fides (he’s evidently a flip flopper on abortion from way back, and Tennessee Right to Life has given him a hard time in the past). Corker has shown some minor moderate leanings, joining the Republican Mainstreet Coalition. Still, Corker was an unabashed supporter of the Iraq War and helped carry the water for the failed policies of the Bush years. Maybe he’s seeing the political landscape changing in Tennessee, and even four years out from reelection Corker is protecting himself from looking too much like a whackjob? Guerilla Women, a bunch of liberal Tennessee bloggers, thinks Bob Corker will shift with any wind in order to win an election. I’m thinking this time he’ll doge an issue in order to do so. Simply a coward is my guess.
Bottom line, extending hate crime protection to gay and lesbian members of our society is an important issue, no matter which side of the issue you are on, and these Republicans failed to show. They are paid to represent the citizens of their state, and there are no health issues keeping them from doing so, as is the case with Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. Sure, a few of these guys aren’t running again, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from representing their constiuents while they serve out the remainders of their terms. Their refusal to even vote is simply cowardice in my view. Republican cowardice? Could it be that they are so fearful of angering the whackjob base of the Republican Party that they stayed home?