Politics & Policy

Tuesday-Night Lite

Six reasons why Kathleen Sebelius -- the Democrats' other woman -- is on TV tonight, but not tomorrow.

The selection of Joe Biden, the oldest functioning white liberal senator with a foreign policy background who is Catholic with hair-plugs in the Democratic party, must have come as quite a shock to many people, but none so much as Kathleen Sebelius.

Remember her? You won’t for long. The governor of Kansas, who, until last weekend’s text message, thought she was but one shoe-click away from being transported from the political tundra of Kansas to the humidified compost of Washington, D.C., has her TV moment in Denver tonight.

She will talk about energy or women or energetic women. She’ll also mention change. She may also come down hard on the side of the economy, which she favors, and the environment, which she thinks should be green — a dream of many Kansans. Then she’ll vanish. Next stop: the capital of Kansas and the relative obscurity of a Midwestern governorship in a country that has only two Democratic precincts that count: East Coast and West Coast.

She could’ve been a contender. Conventional wisdom has it that she was passed over because Clinton tribal leaders would have rioted if somebody other than their woman got the vice-presidential nomination.

But there are at least a half-dozen other reasons why Sebelius is addressing the convention tonight instead of tomorrow night, when Joe Biden steps into the limelight (and, given his playful way with words, possibly into his own mouth).

She’s another political novelty.

The Democrats are nominating an African-American guy most people had never heard of when spring training began. That’s different. But nominating a woman most Americans have never heard of is double jeopardy. Outside Kansas, “Kathleen Sebelius” is a household name only to people whose houses are condos inside a beltway. The single note of familiarity: she shares that lacquered gray-helmet hair-do made famous, if not popular, by John Kerry.

The similarity ends there. Ideologically, she’s far more liberal than Kerry and, in many respects, more liberal than even Obama.

She’s another environmental extremist.

Henry Payne has already reported Sebelius’s nutty embrace of the environmental movement in blocking the expansion of a badly needed power plant in western Kansas, far from any meaningful vote tallies. She did this on health grounds, by the way, arguing that power plants emit carbon dioxide and babies have to breathe that stuff. (Because if they didn’t, they’d die.) She advocated instead a reliance on “renewable” energy sources. Plain-English translation: When it comes to energy sources, Sebelius tilts toward windmills. But in blocking the construction of that power plant, she also blocked construction of the power lines that would have given the windmills some use other than conking birds, of which Kansas has many, on their little beaky noggins.

Kansas’s liberal Republicans and Democrats, greenhouse-gassed by the local press, backed her. But Kansans, as kibitzers in the most recent environmentalist-creationist dust-up recall, apparently still have trouble understanding science. Question to ask yourself if you’re a Democrat living in Wichita: What makes light bulbs so bright?

She’s another abortion extremist.

Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes, who apparently can’t tell your Salina from your Olathe, said Sebelius had been overlooked because she’s considered too pro-life. This is true only if the life in question belongs to an abortion doctor. She’s a creature of the abortion and embryonic-stem-cell industries, both of which have poured enough money into the state’s politics to cover Kansas in two feet of the kind of loose change anyone can believe in. (The gambling industry has provided the folding stuff.) Which is why laws on abortion, which are like most state laws elsewhere, simply go completely unenforced in Kansas (as Phill Kline recently discovered).

Obama’s Illinois senate speech defending his vote to allow the murder of children born alive in the course of an abortion could easily have been spoken by Sebelius. Like Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden, she’s a Catholic. But unlike them, her bishop has asked her to wait outside in the parking lot when communion is offered.

She’s another economic lightweight.

Buildings aren’t blowing up, so everybody’s big worry at the moment is money. It’s a difficult commodity for Sebelius. Taxes are making Kansas less competitive than the surrounding states, and there’s a huge budget deficit looming because of the expensive social programs championed by the governor and her political allies, the state’s many liberal Republicans, including a pretty handsome package of welfare incentives for illegal immigrants.

Not long ago, I dissected Sebelius’s labor department report on the state of Kansas’ economy. The conclusion — made simple because it’s exactly what the report said — is that under Sebelius, poverty is rising much faster in Kansas than it is elsewhere in America, and many of the new jobs that are being created in the state are what we politely call “entry-level service-sector” jobs. Here’s the employee manual for those: When they order the burger, ask if they want fries.

There’s not a single state she could have helped Obama carry. Including Kansas.

When Rasmussen asked Kansans how they’d vote if Sebelius were on the ticket, voters responded by saying her presence as a vice-presidential nominee would make them less likely to vote for Obama. That didn’t bode well for a candidate that blue-state pundits claimed had massive bipartisan appeal. But then when Rasmussen asked Democrats across the country what they thought of Sebelius, it turned out more of them had an unfavorable view of her than a favorable one, too. So her political unlikeability is kind of bi-partisan. But the wrong kind.

She looks great — but boy, is she dull.

Tune in and see for yourself. The exciting part comes at the end. It’s the part called “station identification.”

Sebelius’s hope is that her speech will catapult her to fame, much as Barack Obama’s 2004 hit speech at the last Democratic National Convention floated him above all other contenders.

But Obama was the keynote speaker in 2004. Tonight Sebelius is just the woman who isn’t Hillary, and one of a zillion runner-ups receiving their consolation prize — a few minutes of prime-time TV — in Denver, along with some handsome parting gifts. In Sebelius’s case, a one-way ticket back to Topeka.

– Denis Boyles is the author, most recently, of Superior, Nebraska. He teaches at The Brouzils Seminars.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...


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