‘Walking napalm’

When I think about Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), three anecdotes come to mind.

The first came earlier this year, when Kyl got caught lying about Planned Parenthood, and his spokesperson said the senator’s bogus claim was “not intended to be a factual statement.” The second came in 2005, when the right-wing senator looked for people killed by Hurricane Katrina who might be exploited to justify a tax cut for millionaires and billionaires.

And the third came last year, when Kyl negotiated with Obama administration officials on the New START treaty — an issue he admittedly didn’t understand — and the president’s team agreed to all of the senator’s terms. Almost immediately, Kyl betrayed the White House anyway, just because he could.

Dana Milbank, meanwhile, turned his attention this week to a fourth legacy-defining moment for the Arizona senator: his behind-the-scenes efforts to sabotage the super-committee debt-reduction talks.

It exaggerates little to say that Kyl thwarted agreement almost singlehandedly. While some Republicans on the panel — notably Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton — were, with House Speaker John Boehner’s blessing, prepared to strike a deal, Kyl rallied resistance with his usual table-pounding tirades. […]

The sabotage began on the very first day the supercommittee met…. When Democrats floated their proposal combining tax increases and spending cuts, Kyl rejected it out of hand, citing Republicans’ pledge to activist Grover Norquist not to raise taxes. Kyl’s constant invocation of the Norquist pledge provoked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to snap at Kyl during a private meeting: “What is this, high school?” […]

“Walking napalm” is how one Democratic aide involved in the supercommittee described Kyl this week…. As Kyl leaves the Senate, he will be remembered as a lawmaker who intended to be not factual but destructive.

That part about Kyl leaving is important — the GOP leader is retiring at the end of this Congress, and he was in a position to, in theory, show some courage and leadership that other members might have been more reluctant to show. Instead, the Arizonan did the opposite.

Kyl has long been one of the nation’s worst senators, though a few too many pundits refuse to believe it. Kudos to Milbank for shining a spotlight on him.

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