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John Cornyn Ducks And Covers To Avoid Taking Questions About The Crist Endorsement

Written By : John Hawkins
May 20, 2009

This morning, I was a bit surprised to get an invitation to a teleconference with Senator John Cornyn, the head of the NRSC. There was nothing about the Charlie Crist endorsement mentioned in the email, but obviously, that was the issue everyone would want to talk about. So naturally, I wrote back and said I was interested in attending.

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Well, a few minutes ago, I received a very polite email from Senator Cornyn’s staff. It read in part,

“Just wanted to give you a heads up that, since it is official Senate conference call, we are fairly restricted ethically as to what subjects we can cover on this call. Basically, we are holding this to discuss what’s going on in the Senate (Gitmo, Supreme Court, Supplemental bill on the Senate floor, etc). In other words, no political questions.

I know that you cover politics a lot on your blog, so I just wanted to make sure you knew that.”

Now, of course, this is just a fancy way of saying, “The Senator is scared to talk about the Crist endorsement and, therefore, you can’t ask any questions about it.”

Since that was the case, I declined to attend the teleconference. Going on the line with John Cornyn and not being able to talk about the Crist endorsement would be like doing a teleconference with Blago right after he appointed Burris and being unable to ask him about it. It would make no sense.

I included these lines in my reply email to Mr. Cornyn’s staffer,

One thing he might want to think about though: If today, in May, he’s scared to take questions from his own side on this issue, how ugly is it going to get if he lets this build up for a few months?

It’s not too late for him to say it was a mistake to endorse anyone
and publicly change his mind. It will save the NRSC millions in
endorsements and will make that primary fight considerably less ugly.
Mark my words, this is likely to get much nastier over time.

Honest question: why in the world, with the uphill road we already have in 2010, does John Cornyn want to pick this fight with conservatives? Florida is not a liberal state. Marco Rubio is a strong candidate in his own right. Charlie Crist is so far to the left, he’s even pro-stimulus. So, why does the NRSC even want to be involved in this? If Crist is such a fantastic, no miss candidate, then he’ll swamp Rubio anyway, even without the NRSC’s help – right? If he doesn’t pull it off, well, then you still have a young, conservative, viable Hispanic Republican candidate whom conservatives across the country will want to help get into the Senate. Instead of just standing back and letting it all play out, essentially Cornyn and the NRSC are smacking conservatives in the mouth and saying, “We don’t give a D@mn what you think. Do something about it in Florida if you have the guts.”

I’ve previously called for John Cornyn to resign as head of the NRSC for this blunder and to be honest, I still don’t think that would be inappropriate. However, here’s a better idea: John Cornyn should show that he listens to conservatives and cares what we think by withdrawing his endorsement of Crist. Everybody makes mistakes and by now, if he were honest, even Cornyn would tell you that he blew it with this call. So, reverse the call. It’s not too late. Heck, conservatives might even be so grateful to have someone listening in the Republican leadership that donations to the NRSC could spike. So, this could still turn into a win/win situation instead of a lose/lose brawl that is likely to get nastier as time goes on.

Update #1: I received a snarky reply to my email from Kevin McLaughlin over at Cornyn’s office. Here’s what he had to say,

Just a point of clarification…since this call is being done in his official office Senate ethics rules preclude from us doing anything that is considered “political.” I know a lot of elected officials don’t adhere to this rule, but we are trying to do our best. As you can imagine he is the target of increased scrutiny from people on both sides of the aisle given the two different jobs he holds so, that’s another reason for the abundant caution. I’m kind of surprised that you would automatically assume he was “scared” to answer questions from you or anyone about any subject, but I know Senate ethics rules can be confusing, and agree with you annoying, but we don’t make the rules.

I also respect your opinion that it is “the only thing that matters concerning my boss” right now. However he does have 24 million constituents in Texas a few of which surely are more concerned with Democrats jamming government run health care, activist judges, and terrorists from GITMO down their throats than they are with who he endorses in a Florida Senate race. But like I said, I totally respect your opinion.

Long story short I am disappointed that you’re knee jerk reaction to what was intended to just be a respectful heads up email was to lash out at us.

Regardless, I am sorry to hear that you won’t be joining us.

Oh, of course John Cornyn’s not scared to answer questions about his Crist endorsement. That’s why, for the first time ever, after doing dozens of teleconferences with Republican members of Congress, I’ve gotten an email from a Senate staffer telling me I couldn’t ask any “political questions” on a teleconference with a politician.

Also, love the “totally respect your opinion” line at the end. That’s adorable — but, there are lots of senators who can talk about “Democrats jamming government run health care, activist judges, and terrorists from GITMO down their throats,” and only one who can discuss the NRSC’s boneheaded decision to endorse an Arlen Specter clone in a Florida primary against a viable conservative opponent — and John Cornyn? He does seem to be afraid to take questions about it.

But, maybe I’m wrong. You know how we bloggers are with our “knee jerk reactions.” Tell you what, I look forward to respectfully asking the senator some questions about the issue on the teleconference he’ll be calling as head of the NRSC to specifically deal with that issue. I’m sure that will be any day now, right? How about tomorrow? How’s Friday looking for the senator?

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