REMOVING ALL DOUBT…. Five years ago, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ken.) won re-election despite odd and erratic personal behavior. Now, in advance of another re-election fight, Bunning is acting strangely again.

Last month, Bunning decided not to show up for work for a while, and refused to say publicly where he was. More recently, the Kentucky Republican has been more tight-lipped, at least until this weekend.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning predicted over the weekend that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

And here I thought Bill Frist was the only Republican comfortable making medical diagnoses from afar.

There are a few angles to this. First, Bunning — whose background is in professional baseball, not medicine — doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. Ginsburg’s cancer was caught early and she had surgery to remove a small tumor that had not spread. It’s obviously a serious, life-threatening matter, but the American Cancer Society notes that “people diagnosed with Stage 1 pancreatic cancer have between a 21 and 37 percent chance of living for more than five years with the disease.”

Second, shouldn’t Bunning, when speaking publicly, show a little more respect? Predicting the death of a Supreme Court justice, in the context of judicial politics, doesn’t exactly scream “class.”

It’s a reminder of why Republican leaders on the Hill, while generally discouraging retirements, would love to see Bunning go away.

Note to Bunning: better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.