OH GOP's threats to Rep. Jim Jordan - Is swamp draining in order?

Can we all agree that politics can be dirty business?   The seedier side of it visited Ohio Thursday in the form of alleged threats to Rep. Jim Jordan, a conservative lawmaker who is the Chairman of the Republican Study Commission (RSC).  The Columbus Dispatch reported:

“Jim Jordan’s open defiance of Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to solve the debt-ceiling crisis could cost the Urbana Republican his safe House seat in next year’s election.

Two Republican sources deeply involved in configuring new Ohio congressional districts confirmed to The Dispatch today that Jordan’s disloyalty to Boehner has put him in jeopardy of being zeroed out of a district. “Jim Jordan’s boneheadedness has kind of informed everybody’s thinking,” said one of the sources, both of whom spoke only on condition of anonymity. “The easiest option for everybody has presented itself.” [emphasis added]

As a result of the most recent census, Ohio will lose two Congressional seats.  Nearly everyone, including Rep. Dennis -I see UFO’s – Kucinich himself, believes Kucinich will be the first to go. Rumors of other scenarios have run the gamut, with none of the proposed scenarios squeezing out Jordan, the influencial Republican in a “safe” district. Until yesterday, that is, when Jordan refused to budge on the Boehner plan and encouraged others to follow his lead.  In a heated conference with RSC members, Boehner told them:

“I have fought for you and I didn’t do that and expect to turn around and not see an army behind me so get your asses behind me.”

Payback time in the eyes of the eloquent statesman.  Some members at the conference chanted “Fire him! Fire him!” (at Jordan, not Boehner) (I know, right?)

And so we have a big, fat, GOP quagmire.  Should a legislator like Jordan be free to follow his  conscience, even if it means going against The Family Party?  Should he be free to encourage others to do likewise?  Fundamentally, it’s a question of whether he took a vow to defend and protect the GOP or the Constitution.  In this instance, Jordan felt the best interest of the country was in conflict with his party and he voted against the party.  In a press release Thursday he explained why he could not support the Boehner plan:

“While I thank the Speaker for fighting for Republican principles, I cannot support the plan that was presented to House Republicans this afternoon.”

“The credit rating agencies have been clear that no matter what happens with the debt limit, the U.S. will lose its AAA credit rating unless we produce a credible plan to reduce the debt by trillions of dollars. Cut, Cap, and Balance is the only plan on the table that meets this standard. Only a Balanced Budget Amendment will actually solve our debt problems.”

“Washington wants a deal. Americans want a solution. The Senate should resume debate on the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, amend it if necessary, and pass it, so we can provide the American people a real solution.”

He had plenty of company.  Twenty-two GOP members voted against Boehner’s bill Friday, including eleven freshmen.  Also against it were Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Heritage Action, and the Club for Growth.  And the Cato Institute informs us that the Boehner plan’s spending cuts are the stuff of fairy dust and unicorns – they’re imaginary. Today, Moody’s reported that neither Boehner’s nor Reid’s plan will even protect the nations AAA credit rating.  So it’s not like Jordan is some wing nut out on a limb all alone.

That didn’t stop a Dispatch “source” from conspiratorially whispering :

“He doesn’t know it, but he solved a problem for Republican line-drawers by (figuratively) standing up and saying, ‘I’m a jerk and I deserve to be punished.'”

Jordan, a former champion wrestler, didn’t exactly take it lying down.  He posted a link to the Dispatch article on his social networking sites, with this comment:

“I would be interested to hear your comments on this article, suggesting that my vote will result in my congressional district being eliminated.”

I must say, I admire his restraint. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a longtime burr the the Ohio GOP saddle, wasn’t so restrained.  He tweeted:

kenblackwell J. Kenneth Blackwell
J. Kenneth BlackwellIf Boehner eliminates @Jim_Jordan‘s district, we will finally have a proven conservative running for the US Senate: http://bit.ly/p3wcVp

Both Blackwell and Jordan recently announced that they would not run for the Ohio senate seat currently held by Sherrod Brown, clearing the way for popular State Treasurer Josh Mandel.  I wouldn’t expect Jordan to run against Mandel, but Blackwell is a scrapper and his shot across the bow reminds the Ohio Republican Party that a costly primary would not be in anybody’s best interest.  Starting a war between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party would be a foolish tactical error.

Boehner almost immediately distanced himself from the Dispatch article and the allegation that he would ever in a millions years threaten Jordan, because, they’re like, BFF’s and all:

“Jim Jordan and I may not always agree on strategy, but we are friends and allies, and the word retribution is not in my vocabulary. I look forward to continuing to serve with him in the U.S. House after the redistricting process in Ohio is complete.”

So we have a case of he-said/he or she-said from the Dispatch. If the story is true, it would be a disgrace and an embarrassment for the Ohio Republican Party and for Boehner, who carries a lot of influence and pulls a lot of strings in this state’s party politics.  To repeat: it would be a strategic miscalculation.

Congressman Jordan has earned a reputation as a staunch, principled conservative.  He’s an evangelical Christian who is the kind of leader we want and desperately need more of in Washington.   He’s extremely popular with the Tea Party because of his consistent fiscal conservative votes over the years and because he puts principal above party.  A move to redistrict him out because of his vocal opposition to Boehner would be off the charts on the political slime scale.

This whole sordid episode calls for an immediate explanation from Ohio GOP officials involved in the redistricting process and accountability from the officials who made the threat. Since the Dispatch article cited “two Republican sources deeply involved in configuring new Ohio congressional districts,” any and all of the following could have been the unnamed “sources” threatening Jordan:

Secretary of State, Jon Husted and State Auditor Dave Yost are both on the Redistricting Commission, as is Gov. Kasich.  Senate President Tom Neihaus (R-New Richmond) is on the commission and recently appointed the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting that will oversee the redistricting “feedback” from the public.  House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina) also appointed GOP members to the House Redistricting Subcommittee.

Ohio Republicans deserve to know who made these threats and Jordan deserves an immediate apology.  We didn’t send these people to Columbus to be arm-twisting thugs and to wallow in the mire of dirty politics.  There’s important work to be done in this state and this country. We may need to start draining our own swamp.