Monday, May 24, 2010

The Rise Of Lamar Alexander

Remember Lamar Alexander? He used to be clunky, with a "spray cheese sincerity." His followers were called, unfortunately, "Lamarians." He was a former President of the University of Tennessee, and former US Secretary of Education, got a push from some conservative columnists in the 90s, ran unsuccessfully for President ("ABC -- Alexander beats Clinton") and then, being realistic about his prospects, ran for the Senate and won. He had so many ambitions, but ultimately was as exciting to watch as plants producing oxygen. Humbled, he settled to be one of 100 in the United States Senate, which was a good move because he had more of a legislative personality.

Now, in this silly season of cartoon characters in American politics, Alexandrian influence is on the rise. From CQPolitics:

"Forty years after forging a friendship as ambitious legislative aides, Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander is emerging as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ’s most trusted adviser in the Senate. Alexander’s close relationship with the Kentucky Republican, and his role as a valued counselor, are nothing new. The Tennessean runs the Senate Republican message operation and is involved in all high-level decisions. In an interview, he cited the opportunity to work more directly with his 'good friend' McConnell as a key reason he originally decided to run for a spot in the leadership. But sources say Alexander’s clout with the minority leader increased as he filled a gap created by the absence of Sen. Bob Bennett, a McConnell confidant who spent much of the spring in Utah trying, unsuccessfully, to fight off GOP primary challengers. Alexander’s stock with McConnell could rise even higher next year, given the potential influx of newly elected conservatives and the respect he already commands within that wing of the caucus."

He also just told "Face the Nation" that he can support the reprehensible Rand Paul. This from a former Secretary of Education suggests tells us something about how we think about the life of the mind in America.

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