Editorials

Kris Kobach waves around an empty coffee mug in the perfect Senate campaign video

The way GOP Senate candidate Kris Kobach energetically waves around and then sips from an obviously empty coffee mug in his just-released video is not a bad metaphor for his new campaign.

It’s true, as he notes in this highly original video, that he’s saying out loud what others won’t, and what even “some Republican leaders will not say.”

But there is a reason for that, and it’s that the former Kansas secretary of state’s message is a mess.

We’re not aware of a single other Republican who would spend a full minute of a five-minute campaign video on the “vindication” of science fiction writer Michael Crichton’s 2003 warning that the greatest challenge facing mankind is “distinguishing reality from fantasy and truth from propaganda.”

“Well, Crichton died in 2008,” Kobach tells us, “on the very day that Barack Obama was elected president.” You see what he’s getting at? Neither do we.

“Had Crichton lived, he might have been surprised. He certainly would have been vindicated to see the truth continue to lose out to propaganda, and fantasy enveloping the political sphere in America.”

Crichton didn’t need to be vindicated, which means cleared of suspicion. And why would he or anyone have been cleared (or for that matter, cheered) by seeing propaganda and fantasy overwhelm fact and reality?

That makes almost as little sense as making a campaign kickoff video that concentrates on your last loss.

(It’s not propaganda that “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.”)

Kobach claims that Laura Kelly defeated him in last year’s Kansas governor’s race because “I’d failed to anticipate just how powerful the propaganda would be, and for that, I’m sorry.”

“When one is called a racist, a fascist, a white nationalist over and over on a daily basis, even Kansans will eventually doubt themselves and start to believe what is false,” he says in the video. “This is especially true if progressives control all of the major means of communication.”

This newspaper never called him any of those things, though we did call him a bad lawyer, a lazy secretary of state and a showman who didn’t show up to do his work. We criticized what he did and did not do.

He did, for instance, waste his time and our money prosecuting about a dozen voter fraud cases, all of them involving double voting and not one involving an undocumented immigrant.

And he did not do the work he was elected to do, like keeping the voter information on the state website up to date.

An investigation by The Star and ProPublica documented how he sold his legal services crafting anti-immigration legislation for small towns, with “sometimes disastrous effects on the municipalities. The towns — some with budgets in the single-digit-millions — ran up hefty legal costs after hiring him to defend similar ordinances. Farmers Branch, Texas, wound up owing $7 million in legal bills. Hazleton, Pa., took on debt to pay $1.4 million and eventually had to file for a state bailout. Fremont, Neb., raised property taxes to pay for Kobach’s services. None of the towns is currently enforcing an ordinance he helped craft.”

“This sounds a little bit to me like Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man,’” said Larry Dessem, a law professor at the University of Missouri who focuses on legal ethics. “Got a problem here in River City and we can solve it if you buy the band instruments from me. He is selling something that goes well beyond legal services.”

After the election, it was Republicans who excoriated what they saw as the undisciplined, disorganized campaign Kobach had run.

And it was not only news outlets, but a leaked Trump transition document, that flagged concerns about Kobach’s reported ties to white nationalists.

The fantasy, in other words, is all in the mind of Kris Kobach, who in a particularly comedic moment says that if he were an extremist, “I would tell you, but I am not.” Because they always do that?

Anyone who wants to see Republicans lose another race is surely hoping that Kansans take this latest message to heart.

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