Steve Rose

Sam Brownback would be fine in Donald Trump’s Cabinet, but Kris Kobach is just mean

Kris Kobach was among the first to endorse Trump. He is a constitutional lawyer with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford. Kobach has Trump’s ear and, in fact, wrote the whole immigration plank at the Republican convention, at Trump’s request.
Kris Kobach was among the first to endorse Trump. He is a constitutional lawyer with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford. Kobach has Trump’s ear and, in fact, wrote the whole immigration plank at the Republican convention, at Trump’s request. AP file photo

Two rumors are swirling hot and heavy.

One is that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will be picked by Donald Trump to be his secretary of agriculture. Brownback was once the Kansas agriculture secretary, and he is a former U.S. senator. He served as an adviser to Trump on agricultural issues during the campaign.

The other is that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be chosen to be the next U.S. attorney general, although it appears Trump will appoint U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. My own rumor, which I am starting, is that instead of AG, Kobach will be picked as some kind of immigration czar.

Either could happen. Kobach was among the first to endorse Trump. He is a constitutional lawyer with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford. Kobach has Trump’s ear and, in fact, wrote the whole immigration plank at the Republican convention, at Trump’s request.

To Brownback, I would say, “Good luck.”

To Kobach, I would say, “Good God!”

Though I disagree with Brownback on almost every policy issue, I don’t dislike the man. In fact, I find him somewhat likeable. I believe Brownback has the good of Kansas at heart. He truly believed his experiment in slashing taxes would increase revenues and boost jobs — resulting in “a jolt to the economy,” as he described it.

Brownback is not insensitive. It’s just that he wants lower and lower taxes, and the disastrous outcome is something he still rationalizes as a temporary setback. He has convinced himself that slowdowns in agriculture, aircraft and energy are the culprits for the state’s budgetary crises.

While his policies have been wildly ineffective, his intentions are good. He can’t do much harm as agriculture secretary, and, in fact, was successful in a similar role in Kansas.

Ah, but Kobach is an entirely different story. His intentions are malevolent.

I have known Kobach since he served on the Overland Park City Council from 1999 to 2001. He wrongly believes I dislike him because he opposed a zoning issue that affected my family.

Nope, I dislike him for entirely different reasons. Kobach is vindictive. To be anti-illegal immigration is one thing. Millions of Americans — now quite obviously — share that feeling. Our president-elect is among them. But that is no excuse for treating illegal immigrants as sub-human, as Kobach does.

Kobach seems to care about nothing else. He is rabid about undocumented workers to the point that he has become the national expert on how to make their lives miserable. Kobach’s antipathy goes well beyond Trump’s. He eats and sleeps their presence here, coming up with new laws almost daily. I don’t know if his obsession is racist in nature, but I do know that it is very, very personal. The courts, over and over, have found Kobach-crafted laws unconstitutional. But that never stops him from coming up with new schemes.

Brownback’s leaving early for a cabinet position would be welcomed by many Kansans, specifically the more moderate Legislature ready to battle him. Brownback, as secretary of agriculture, would be a nice, harmless fit.

Mean-spirited Kobach in a lofty position in Washington is the scariest scenario that can be imagined. As much as I would like to see him leave Kansas and forgo a run at governor or U.S. senator, I would not wish him on our nation. Things would really get ugly, not only for illegal immigrants, but for anyone or anything that got in his way.

Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist: srose@kc.rr.com

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