Over the last few weeks it's become clear that Alan Keyes, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, lives in his own little world -- and it's a pretty odd planet.
In Keyes' version of reality, pro-choicers are like terrorist sympathizers, his Democratic opponent Barack Obama has a "slaveholder mentality," and Jesus would never even consider voting for Obama. The complete list of Keyes' verbal hand grenades is surprisingly long, considering that the Maryland Mouth has only been in Illinois for about six weeks.
Living in a fantasy world is not necessarily a rarity in political life. Vice President Dick Cheney is known to inhabit a planet that's usually only occupied by people who swear the government is hiding alien life forms at an old Army Air Force base in New Mexico. In Cheney's world, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are co-conspirators and close pals, and Americans who vote for John Kerry are essentially committing a pro-terrorist act.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich also falls into this category of politicians who don't quite live in the same world as regular folks.
For instance, inhabitants of the governor's extraterrestrial sphere firmly believe that an evil cabal of ultrapowerful Democratic politicians schemed all year to force Blagojevich to increase the state income tax right before the election. It doesn't matter to the inhabitants of Planet Blagojevich that there is absolutely zero evidence to back up these claims. As with Cheney's Iraq-al Qaeda connection, the tax-hike plot exists because the governor says it exists.
The law on Keyes World is brutal and unforgiving. For example, he's declared: "On all the matters that touch upon the critical moral issues, Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the evil side. This is a fact." Also, anyone to the left of Joe Lieberman is apparently considered a communist.
Planet Blagojevich's law can also be harsh. Earlier this year, state Rep. John Bradley, a popular freshman lawmaker, was publicly rebuked and called a wallflower and his constituents were falsely informed that he voted against a $350 million education spending increase because Blagojevich was angry that the young man refused to vote for the governor's tax and fee hikes.
The logic on Planet Blagojevich is not as kooky as it is on Keyes World, but it's still way off. Using the Thompson Center in Chicago as collateral for a $200 million 10-year loan with a massive and painful balloon payment at the end was described recently by the governor to the Southern Illinoisan of Carbondale as "a way you can save $200 million for taxpayers."
On Keyes World, women who are raped and then have abortions lack moral integrity. Planet Blagojevich isn't as weird as Keyes' la-la land, but it's definitely not the same reality that most of us are accustomed to.
On Planet Blagojevich, when you're asked by that same Southern Illinoisan reporter why you vetoed a bill that would force the law to go easy on homeowners who use an illegal gun to defend their families, you answer by saying, "First of all, let me say that I am not going to raise anybody's FOID [firearm owner's identification] card, not one penny, not ever."
On Keyes World, you use most of your speech to the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable talking about abortion and gay marriage. On Planet Blagojevich, you give a Labor Day speech and talk about how you have wonderful memories of all the little working people you met while you were "passing through" on your way to college and law school.
On Planet Blagojevich, you try for months to shut down the Vandalia state prison, refuse to compromise, call it unneeded and outdated, and then, when you finally lose the battle, say, "I'm happy that Vandalia is open."
Inhabitants of Planet Blagojevich are also treated to denunciations of unnamed politicians who "do press conferences doing nice, easy things that nobody is against. You take positions that nobody is against and maybe you can keep your poll numbers high," while the planet's leader spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on pollsters and political advisers and holds untold numbers of press conferences to spout lines that are specifically designed to increase his poll numbers.
On Keyes World, many formerly enthusiastic inhabitants are frantically attempting to book passage on the next rocket ship back to Earth. Luckily, the Keyes World freak show returns to Maryland after the November election. The rest of us are stuck on Planet Blagojevich for at least two more years.
Chicago journalist Rich Miller publishes
Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter.