Newspaper editorial boards tend to like "independent" politicians, since I think in large part editors like to identify themselves with people they believe reflect their values, and especially nowadays, "independence" seems to equate with being a 'rational thinker' who is not overly swayed by loud voices on either the right or the left. That worldview seems abundantly evident in an editorial this morning in the Daily Herald, where the fearless editors give chops to our new Senator Mark Kirk, for already taking the path of reason and bi-partisanship (according to the DH) in just his first few weeks in office:
Barely three weeks into his tenure as a U.S. senator, it’s far too early to wrap Republican Mark Kirk in that mantle, but we have to say he appears to be off to an encouraging start.
Considering the tectonic shift of his rhetoric during the primary and election campaigns, it has been hard to know just what drummer the Highland Park Republican is marching to. In the past week, he’s provided some clarity where it counts most — on the Senate floor — first voting in favor of repealing the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy on gays and then indicating, again contrary to the dictates of leadership and the swell of his party, he would vote for the START agreement on nuclear disarmament.
On both issues, Kirk’s independence carries special authority because of his own military background. Evident in stories written last weekend by Daily Herald political writer Kerry Lester was the extensive research Kirk conducted before settling on his vote regarding Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He knew what questions to ask and where to go for straight answers. Then, he let those conversations, rather than partisan pressures, govern his political decision. No doubt, similar backgrounding infused his decision regarding the nuclear proliferation treaty with Russia, where again it appears the new senator relied on experience and intuition rather than simple party affiliation to form his opinions.
As with any editorial board, you're only as good as your last vote as a politician, so Kirk has a long way to go to continue to reestablish his reputation for honesty and independence after a grueling campaign, but he seems like he's off to a great start.
In other news, Kirk seems poised to support ratification of the START treaty, especially if Senator John McCain is successful in making a few tweaks to the treaty language before the vote. Kirk and fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin are also taking a lead on compelling U.S. EPA to investigate whether we are being exposed to dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium (a/k/a Chromium-6) in our drinking water, which I can tell you as an environmental attorney, is really bad stuff.
UPDATED: Kirk votes "no" on ratifying the START treaty. Guess he was really serious that the McCain amendment was pretty important to him...