I confess upfront that Im not neutral in this years Illinois Senate race. For numerous reasons Ill stipulate, Im rooting for GOP Rep. Mark Kirk over Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
That said, the flap over Kirks misstatements about his military service is reaching ridiculous proportions exaggerated into a mini-scandal by Democrats and both local and national media.
And now, the left is peddling sleazy allegations that Kirk is gay as payback for his vote cast for defensible reasons against repeal of the Pentagons dont ask, dont tell policy.
Ive known Kirk for nearly 10 years, since his first term in Congress, and in 42 years in Washington, Ive rarely encountered a Member with a greater range of expertise or better judgment.
Hes the leader of the moderate Republican Tuesday Group and has formed in-depth bipartisan back-bench study groups on Iran and China that dont just study, but actually affect, U.S. policy.
Kirk persuaded the Bush administration to install the most advanced U.S. anti-missile radars in Israel to provide a (temporary) cushion against Israels need to launch a military strike against Irans growing missile arsenal.
Hes also the original author of a bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers to convince Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program by cutting off its gasoline imports.
He has developed relationships with top-level Chinese officials who have made him at times better informed about turns in Chinese policy than Bush and Obama cabinet officers.
And, as a one-time employee of the World Bank, Kirk has deepened his expertise in global finance, enabling him to worry knowledgeably about the dangers of Americas debt burden.
Moreover, if Kirk got elected to the Senate, hed bolster a big tent GOP center thats deeply challenged by right-wing purifiers.
Hed join serious players such as Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine in developing nonideologically-driven alternatives to Democratic policy.
At the same time, he enjoys the esteem of serious conservatives such as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
As a House Member, Kirk bucked his party to support embryonic stem cell research and expanded childrens health care. He also opposed wrongly, in my view oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Beyond national impact, Illinois would benefit from having a revived two-party system. Corrupt Republicans disgraced their party into impotence, and now Democrats led by impeached former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are reaping the consequences of having near-absolute power.
I do not know Giannoulias, 34, but his record suggests that he deserves to be trailing Kirk, 50, in a heavily Democratic state by 5 to 8 points, depending on the poll.
A basketball buddy of then-state Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), Giannoulias got elected state treasurer with Obamas backing on the strength of his background as chief loan officer of his familys apparently successful Broadway Bank.