Government Spending

Jim Bunning Collapses in Late Season of Baseball, Senate Careers[*]


When you call Central Casting for a GOP villain, you can't do much better than Sen. Jim Bunning, the long-serving, foul-mouthed, foaming-mouthed, motor-mouthed but—oh Bartleby! oh humanity!—soon-to-retire Kentucky Republican who also happens to be a Hall of Fame baseball player. Which is pretty cool, even if he was part of the greatest collapse in MLB history.

Bunning's latest turn as something out of an Aaron Sorkin cocaine-fueled fantasy of EVIL Republicans is his doomed stand against a spending bill that would have extended, says The Washington Post, "unemployment benefits, Medicare payments to doctors, satellite TV to rural Americans and paychecks to highway workers." Bunning's Eephus pitch was holding out for offsetting tax credits before approving the $10 billion spending package. Imagine that, insisting on something like pay-go this soon as after the president had crowed about doing the same? Bunning's argument was an irrefutable thing of simplicity (and, quite possibly, spiking blood sugar levels): We're already spending too much on everything, goddammit. Now get off my lawn! And I'm keeping this ball, you unnerstand! 

Let any among us who couldn't find a measly $10 billion among $4 trillion cast the first beanball at Bunning, who still quivers at false memories of facing Stan "The Man" Musial in the batter's box and denies amphetamine use despite eyewitness testimony to the opposite. Seriously, if the '64 Phillies couldn't close out the season in first place with a six-plus game lead in late September, this latest squeeze play of fiscal restraint in a world gone mad had no shot whatsoever.

But like seeing Andy Hassler penciled in to start, Bunning's antics made his opponents happy, as he put a GOP face on a manufactured problem (come on, there wasn't enough spare change in the couch cushions of the Senate lounge to pay for this? Can't Chris Dodd personally beam satellite signals off his pearly whites to folks getting TV in the hinterlands?). Even Bunning's hometown papers gave him bad press on this one, which is akin to blaming the loss in a tight ballgame to one final, visible error, rather than all the errors we all made not just in this game but in the whole season! You, over there, Tommy, do you remember that missed signal in last week's game? And Billy, didn't you overthrow the cut-off in the first game of the season? No, no one dast blame Jim Bunning for tossing one last slurve that got away from all of us. We all lost the spending game, fer chrissakes, one mental error (are there any other kind?) at a time.

Fellow Republicans were mostly mortified, with legislative "gentlewoman" (the Post's term) as Sen. Olympia Snowe trying to talk him off the mound and even spending-hawk and evolution-denialist Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma crying for the hook already: "It's important that the American people understand that there is bipartisan support for extending these vital programs," said Inhofe. "This is not a partisan issue."

Well, we know where bipartisanship gets us. Which is, scrounging for $10 billion to pay construction workers on make-work government projects. And laughing, not without reason, at stories of Bunning telling his colleagues "tough shit" and kicking ABC News reporters out of "Senate-only" elevators.

[*] Warning: You are about to approach a zone where baseball metaphors are as overworked and tired as the Phillies pitching staff in the waning days of the '64 campaign.

But as Jim Bunning bangs the drum slowly and hits the showers of his second, far-less-interesting-than-the-first career, as he exits the mound for the final time, as he enters that good, great locker room of life and clears out his gear, to snap legislative jocks no more, when he has received his last shaving cream pie and/or hotfoot, when he has gotten the hook in the final inning of the final game of the final season, when the Margo Adamses of life and love and liberty finally stop hanging around and the Kissing Bandit, like Death on a pale horse or Tug McGraw in the Met Mobile, passes by without a second glance, I prefer to remember him as Matt Welch did a year ago: As having always been nuts.

Much as it's delicious to imagine yet another clinically insane man in the U.S. Senate, there's ample evidence to suggest that Bunning's just sorta always been this way. There was his 2004 campaign comment that Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo, an Italian American, looked "like one of Saddam Hussein's sons" and "even dresses like them, too." ). Bunning denied ever seeing amphetamines in the amphetamine-littered Major League clubhouses of the 1960s, despite eyewitness testimony to the contrary about the historic 1964 Phillies team that collapsed on Bunning's back. He not only thinks all baseball records set by players who used forbidden drugs should be erased from the record books, he introduced legislation to make that federal law. He has talked about "little green doctors" lying in ambush at public gatherings, ready to pound his back (no really).

So when the Kentucky senator unleashes another "goddamn" on a conference call with reporters, when he tells the New York Times that dealing with Stan Musial was much more challenging than dealing with any modern-day Republican (even though Bunning never once faced Stan the Man), when he threatens to sue his own party if they don't get behind his re-election campaign, there's an explanation even more frightening than early-onset Alzheimer's: Maybe Jim Bunning has been this crazy all along.

But if it's autumn for Jim Bunning, when all good ballplayers hang up their cleats and start thinking about selling aluminum siding or shilling for casinos in the off-season, that only means that training camp and a brand-new season is but months away. And just as Wally Pip being sidelined made room for Lou Gehrig, Bunning's retirement may well prove more historic for who follows him in representing the Bluegrass State. Take a look at the guy currently warming up in the bullpen and realize that, just like Jim Bunning the ballplayer, we won't miss Bunning the senator at all when the new season gets underway. Because this time, when the crocuses bloom and the chill April winds snap the pennants out there in center field, we got a real good prospect with a 100 mph fastball and more junk than Doc Gooden in rehab:

NEXT: Reason Morning Links: Obama Claims Overtures to GOP, Rangel Defiant, Straight Talk from Doug Christie

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So he’s crazy. His he joining the Libertarian party?

    1. Another product of our failing public school system…it’s sooo sad 🙁

      1. capitol l, don’t make me put your name is the search box. I am sure you have had a few slips. IS IS IS

  2. Jim Bunning did throw a perfect game in that dreadful ’64 season.

  3. Bunning was my rep before he was my senator and I have semi-proudly voted for him the entire way. Unlike McConnell, when I vote for random LP candidate every 6 years (I did vote for McC the election after he killed the flag burning stuff off).

    Bunning was the most loud opposing TARP. And he was called crazy for that. Bunning also has voted for a lot of stupid shit, but why is called crazy on the rare instances that he is right?

  4. I wonder if it’s something about Reason, or just the people attracted to work there that has a fascination with baseball?

    “But as Jim Bunning bangs the drum slowly and hits the showers of his second, far-less-interesting-than-the-first career, as he exits the mound for the final time, as he enters that good, great locker room of life and clears out his gear, to snap legislative jocks no more, when he has received his last shaving cream pie and/or hotfoot, when he has gotten the hook in the final inning of the final game of the final season, when the Margo Adamses of life and love and liberty finally stop hanging around and the Kissing Bandit, like Death on a horse, passes by without a second glance, I prefer to remember him as Matt Welch did a year ago: As having always been nuts.”

    Jesus Christ…..

    That made my head spin.

    1. Well, Nick has to get in good with Matt, after all. Matt’s a big Angels fan, and his powers as Reason editor are no doubt enormous.

      1. I would stop inviting him to my cocktail parties otherwise.

        1. I read “I would stop inviting him to my cock tail parties otherwise.” I thought , Nick must really want the job.

    2. Journalists in general seem to have an odd fascination with baseball. Don’t know why.

  5. “Hey, get back here! Who’s gonna pay for this window?”

  6. Still trying to figure out the point of this post.

    1. Baseball metaphors. I think it is a sexual thing for men;-)

      1. Could be – I keep a pine tar soaked rag on my bedstand.

        1. Learn something new everyday


  7. Bunning was way ahead of the curve on the Greenspan watch, too. He hated Greenspan before it was cool.

    He deserves a little credit for that.

  8. The ’64 Phils’ troubles started when some fans hoisted a “Goldwater Loves the Phils” sign in the left field bleachers one Sunday afternoon.

    Given the relative payrolls, hype and star power, the collapse of the ’08 and ’09 Mets has to rank above the collapse of the no-expectations ’64 Phillies squad.

    1. Sadly, yes.

    2. I agree. And don’t forget the 69 Cubs.

  9. So Bunning played for the Phillies for six years, compared to nine for the Tiggers, yet he wears a Phillies cap on his plague? And yet they make Andre Dawson wear a silly Expos cap in his embossing.

    1. It’s the player’s choice. He chose the ‘Spos.

      1. And I am mistaken. E-ed.

      2. It hasn’t been the players choice for about 5 years now.

        He sent 11 years with Montreal and 6 with the Cubs. The only year the Cubs made the playoffs in his time there was his worst season there. The HOF made the correct decision on this one.

    2. Back when Bunning was inducted, it was up to the player. Then, for some bizarre reason, they decided to take it out of the players’ hands a few years ago. I think it had something to do with Wade Boggs threatening to go in as a Devil Ray.

      1. Part of Boggs contract with the D-Rays was that he would choose them for his HoF cap. Hence the HoF changing the rules and taking it out of the players control.

        1. Since most players now being inducted wore several caps, my solution would be a blank cap on the bust, with little caps (and logos) at the bottom of the plaque, listing dates served with each. The player’s importance and significance to each team can be highly subjective, but then, so is his induction.

    3. His best years were with the Expos, and the one season they would have made the World Series, they got derailed by the strike.

      1. Since subsequent posts have made it unclear, let me say that it was Dawson who I was referring to.

  10. Bunning’s stint as the left’s favorite Villain of the Year of the Week was eclipsed this morning by Charlie Rangel’s “voluntary” stepping-down from Ways and Means Chairman. Yet as late as last night, when a deal had been struck between Bunning and the Senate, effectively making unemployment payments retroactive, CNN and MSNBC were running stories about the poor unemployed widows who had had their government checks stolen by the evil Bunning.

  11. Jim Bunning’s pointless stand may give the Dems political cover to pass health care. Congrats you crazy old man.

    Bunning was also hugely involved in the Senate’s involvement steroid crap.

  12. “political cover to pass health care” I don’t care how it is done.

  13. “Here comes Jim Bunning – Jim fucking Bunning, with that shit slider of his. I can’t believe he thinks he’s going to get me out with that shit.”

    1. If there’s one cranky old crazy coot that has Bunning beat, it’s Ted W.

  14. Awesome, totally awesome. Best H&R piece of the year to date.

  15. I am waiting for SugarFree to give us his opinion.

  16. The Republicans managed to make sure they would have no fiscal responsibility bona fides on this one. They could have stood shoulder to shoulder with Bunning on this one, saying they are not opposed at all to the benefits AS LONG AS THEY ARE PAID FOR.

    Instead, they pussied out and left him out there all alone.

    1. Yup. Unless and until they stop being craven, we are screwed. They will just get in there and fuck up slightly less then the Democrats. And after a few years the Democrats will lie their way back into power. UGH!!

      1. Yep. Diarrheatic Cycle? continues.

      2. But we should still vote for them anyway, right John?

        1. No you should vote straight line Democratic ticket every election. At least then you know you didn’t do anything to contribute to Republicans being in power.

      3. The Democrats are afraid of being called “weak” on things, thus they start and continue wars, including Iraq, the WoT, the War on Crime, and the War on Drugs.

        Thr Republicans are afraid of being called “mean”, thus they start or continue welfare programs, including SCHIP, No Child Left Behind, Medicare part D, etc.

        1. so naive…yes the democrats are “afraid” and that is why they support the military-industrial-prison complex. It has nothing to do with money and the power of certain groups to control who is considered “serious” and who is considered “fringe”.

    2. This strikes me as the wrong issue to take a stand on for fiscal responsibility. Temporarily extending unemployment benefits in a deep recession is one of the better fiscal stabilizers that one could use. I could understand making a stand if these were permanent changes because that would have a corrosive effect when we came out of the recession. However, in a recession where unemployment is an issue because there aren’t any jobs out there, rather than people are getting fat and happy on unemployment benefits.

      1. Temporarily extending unemployment benefits

        Problem is, they keep extending these “temporary” benefits, effectively creating a new stealth welfare program.

      2. Temporarily extending unemployment benefits in a deep recession is one of the better fiscal stabilizers that one could use.

        Lowering the minimum wage a little and lowering the unemployment benefits a lot would help.

        1. No it wouldn’t. Unemployment benefits aren’t that generous and aren’t the reason people don’t have jobs. Lowering the minimum wage isn’t going to make jobs appear out of nowhere as well. Reducing minimum wage may work in a normal economy, though the research is inconclusive one way or another on that count at current levels of minimum wage, but this isn’t really a normal time. Mass, long-term unemployment is pretty toxic and without temporary benefits to tide people over during extreme slumps, can significantly harm a recovery.

      3. More important than that, this ended the federal flood insurance program, which is the only flood insurance available in the vast majority of the country. Basically, this means that anybody who is buying a house that is close enough to a water source to require flood insurance can’t close escrow until Bunning quits (unless they pay 100% cash-banks will require flood insurance if they give a loan).

      4. This strikes me as the wrong issue to take a stand on for fiscal responsibility.

        Just cut spending somewhere else.

        You’ve fallen for the Democratic trap here – this wasn’t about cutting off these benefits, it was about PAYING FOR THEM.

        (sorry for the all-caps, but jeebus h, some days . . . )

        1. This the first spending bill he’s decided to take a stand on. He opposed cutting funding for the F-22 program, which is a huge waste of money.

  17. If Nick gets to do baseball posts, that means Matt gets to wear The Jacket(tm) for a week, right?

  18. Nick, I said “More Cowbell,” not “More Baseball.” There is a difference. A big difference.

  19. Jim Bunning’s pointless stand may give the Dems political cover to pass health care. Congrats you crazy old man.

    I really do not see how that’s true.

    1. Simple. A one time extension of unemployment benefits is one of the more reasonable uses of countercyclical government spending in a deep recession such as the current one*. It’s popular not only among the electorate, but also within both chambers. Having one Republican stand up and make his stand on this, rather than on some other bill, like another pointless DoD appropriations bill, makes the Dem rhetoric of Reps being self-interested obstructors ring truer and lets Blues feel a bit safer about this as public opinion turns on the Reds over this.

      1. He isnt opposing the spending though, he is just asking for it to be paid for out of the unspent stimulus funds.

  20. I fucking hate Bunning. Figures the one time he does something right is the time he gets most vilified. I suppose that serves him right, but it serves us wrong.

  21. In complete sincerity, I was touched and moved by the last paragraph of this post.


  22. What nobody seems to be mentioning is that Bunning was totally on the ‘right’ side on the ‘Black Liquor’ paper mill boondoggle that he was trying to get rid of in return for eliminating his stranglehold on this money. A Democratic Rep. from MD even proposed getting rid of this subsidy last November.
    I would say the Republicans could fight back by pointing at all the Democrats who voted against eliminating this perk for paper mills, but probably just as many of them voted the same way.

  23. Bunning is IN the Hall of Fame, but he was not a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.

    1. Hard core fans like to complain a lot about the writers, but IMHO the Veterans’ Committee is worse by a mile.

      There’s more cronyism on that committee than there is on Capitol Hill.

    2. This is incorrect, unless your Hall is so small as to exclude over 80% of those already inducted. Not only was Bunning one of the most dominant pitchers of his era (Koufax is the other one, natch), he was *significantly* better than his “idiot stats” (especially W/L) would indicate.

      He’s not inner circle among pitchers, but he’s a respectable addition.

      1. False. His career ERA+ is 114, which is less than Pettite and Barry Zito. He’s most similar to Mickey Lolich and Luis Tiant, neither of which are HOF players. He only has 28 in the black ink test and his HOF monitor score is 98 (less than the 100 preferred by Bill James). So at best, he’s a border HoFer. The Veteran’s Committee is a joke.

        1. 70.5 WARP1, 56.4 WARP3, both of which are low. But, he adds extra credentials for his labor involvement. Not a no brainer HoFer but he isnt Jesse Haines either.

          1. Borderline. What pushed him over was that he was the second pitcher to win a hundred games in each league, which is a meaningingless stat especially when you consider the first pitcher to do it was Cy Young, won 200 in each league.

      2. BTW, the average black ink score for an HoFer is 40.

      3. Marichal and Gibson were more “dominating,” no?

        1. Bunning was washed up before Gibson became Gibson, so not really same era (although some overlap).

  24. Amphetamine psychosis. Clearly.

  25. The Dragon Reborn get’s my vote!

  26. Nick Gillespie officially wins the internet. For all time.

    Seriously, reading that masterwork was like shooting heroin in my eyeball.

  27. To demonstrate how powerfully evil Bunning really is, these excerpts from ABC News:

    March 2 World News on ABC:

    DIANE SAWYER: Good evening. Even his fellow Republicans have asked him to stop, but Republican Senator Jim Bunning still has Congress under blockade. For another day, he’s kept thousands of unemployed workers from getting their benefits and forced some highway construction projects to stop.


    JON KARL: Jim Bunning was at it again today-


    KARL: …Joung Moon, an unemployed microbiologist in Texas, says no unemployment check will mean she will have to move out of her house.

    JOUNG MOON: I don’t know what the next step is. So-

    KARL: Bret Ingersoll of Denver is an unemployed forklift operator, who has already lost his apartment and is living with friends.

    After a two-day filibuster? Bunning is the Antichrist!

  28. more junk than Doc Gooden in rehab ? After reading this I am thinking that Gillespie lacks any real political ideology other than maybe smarmy elitist. He’s probably a failed sportswriter deep down, and the only gig that was open during the early 90’s recession was at Reason.

  29. I read that unemployment benefits extend 26 weeks under normal circumstances (supposing that they aren’t extended). 6 months. How long should these benefits extend? Is there any serious analysis involved in coming up with these numbers, or is congress just demagoguing this issue like everything else.

    1. Unemployment duration is at a 60 year high of 30 weeks, the median is 20 weeks. Over 5 million people were unemployed for over 27 weeks. So we are really in a historically bad jobs market.

      Now, I’m guessing Congress is demagouging the shit out of this, but there are pretty sound reasons to make a temporary extension in the current economic climate.…..-high.html

    2. My firm of analysts will do a serious analysis of this question for $2.1 million dollars. The deliverable will be a 30 minute power point presentation that my team of mathmeticians and economist produce(unemployed contrators) over the course of the next 4 weeks.

  30. Meal-planning is one of the cornerstones of diabetes management

  31. You call Bunning “long-serving.” It may seem like a long time, but he’s actually the junior senator from his state, in his second term, & is tied w/ 5 others for 47th-52nd in seniority in the chamber – the middle of the pack. On the other hand, he served in the House from 1987, & is old, even for a Senator – the 6th oldest member of the chamber.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.