God bless those Illinois Republicans.
I couldn't believe my good fortune when I came home last night after a long evening to see that the Illinois GOP had chosen Alan Keyes for its senate standard bearer against Barack Obama.
In an era of political drama often tilting toward tragedy, comedy isn't always an easy thing to summon from the news. But I'm confident that Keyes will be helping to rectify that problem.
When the state GOP popped the question, Keyes reflected on the magnitude of the decision he faced and told the press conference that he needed a few times to mull his options because "if I do step forward to accept this challenge, I will be laying it all on the line."
Now, this is classic Keyes as the master of grandiloquent nonsense. Hearing that he will lay all it on the line this time makes you wonder what he possibly could have left off the line when he ran for office in 1988 (Senate), 1992 (Senate), 1996 (president) and 2000 (president).
As you can see, Keyes appears to suffer from an affliction which presents as its primary symptom the inability to go more than four years without entering a campaign in which he will get trounced beyond all reckoning but will nevertheless get a chance to show up at a few debates and work himself into a lather.
Now, one slightly more serious point about the Keyes candidacy ...
I've had a number of people -- both Republicans and Democrats -- write in today and suggest that the real reason for running Keyes is not to win the race (which I think goes without saying) but to rough up Obama and break his political stride with an eye toward his apparently limitless political future.
What'll make this possible, the argument goes, is submitting Obama to Keyes' rhetorical firepower and word wizardry at the debates that will surely happen between now and November.
Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the 'wingers who seem to have taken over the Illinois GOP think this is going to happen. But this is the really the stupidest idea in the world.
Keyes is something else to watch on the hustings or in a debate. But calling him a master debater is rather like saying Dolly Parton has a dynamite bod or Lou Ferrigno is toned -- or, perhaps mostly aptly, that the Tasmanian Devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons is quick on his feet. In other words, impressive in his own way, but also a bit cartoonish and rather less than subtle.
If and when these two guys debate what we're going to hear are rants from Keyes -- both spellbinding and inane -- about how tort reform is necessary to bring America back into compliance with natural law, how drug reimportation is incompatible with the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence and how gun control has been outlawed by God.
I don't see how any of that is going to set Obama back much.