Politics and politicians being what they are today -- and, unfortunately, how the public views too many in politics -- it is understandable that many Kansans as well as political observers around the country are somewhat suspicious of Sen. Sam Brownback's announcement earlier this week calling on President Bush to initiate new strategies concerning Iraq and Uncle Sam's role in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Brownback urged those in the Bush administration to quickly reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. He said, "the daily troop loss is really a difficult thing, and it hurts us. Every life to us is sacred, and it pains all Americans when we lose anybody in the field of combat."
The senior Kansas senator added, "It is critical to us that we stand up an Iraqi police force and military and start to garrison our troops and pull our numbers down. This is the most vulnerable time for us."
Brownback said he supported Bush's request for $87 billion for military operations and reconstruction of Iraq, but he said half of the $20 billion directed for reconstruction should be in the form of a loan rather than a grant.
Brownback said the Israel-Palestinian peace process was not working and changes needed to be made if there was to be any hope of success.
In the past, Brownback has been a strong, loyal backer of Bush policies. The senator has supported the president on domestic matters and maintained he was confident the United States would be successful in its Iraqi efforts.
Nevertheless, Brownback has made it plain he differs with the president's current and past strategy in Iraq.
This is where politics enters the minds of many observers.
Brownback is up for re-election next year. He wants to return to the Senate and, in fact, there are those who suggest his eyes are looking toward the White House perhaps in 2008 or 2012.
Could it be that Brownback, in light of some public opinion polls, thinks it might be wise to distance himself from the Bush policy in Iraq and call for a more effective peace plan for the ongoing Israel and Palestinian conflict? (Actually, it is a war of terrorism and ages-long hatred.)
Chances are, Brownback's political team has been polling Kansans to determine voters' interests and concerns, both domestic and abroad, and maybe those polls show Bush losing some support.
If this is the case, it is possible Brownback's advisers suggested he back off a bit in his almost-blanket support of the president. And, politics being politics, the senator can always come back at some later date -- if and when Bush's policies are working in Iraq, if and when the president's policies seem to be making progress between Israel and Palestinians and if and when the U.S. economy is showing a strong recovery -- and tell his fellow Kansans he always has been a loyal, strong, enthusiastic supporter of the Bush administration.
In the meantime, and when there is a sign of some softness in the president's popularity numbers, Brownback and those in his inner circle may think it is wise to back off just a little when he is trying to wrap up broad support in Kansas for his re-election effort.
On the other hand, those who know Brownback well are quick to say there is nothing phony or insincere in his actions, now or in the past, and that his re-election efforts played no role in his call for a change in the Bush strategy in Iraq and in the Israel-Palestinian quagmire.
Staying with Kansas politics, it appears residents in the 3rd Congressional District are in store for an interesting contest among Republican voters to see whether Adam Taff, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Rep. Dennis Moore in 2002, or newcomer Kris Kobach will end up being Moore's competition in next year's election.
Taff came surprisingly close to knocking out Moore but didn't have sufficient funding as the campaign wound down from Republican offices in Washington, D.C. If he had had the money in the last few weeks of the campaign, Taff might have pulled off an upset.
Kobach has an impressive record in his academic pursuits, as a White House Fellow and working closely with Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. Along with his undergraduate degree from Harvard and four years at Oxford, he received his law degree from Yale. He served on the Overland Park City Council and now is a member of the faculty at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Taff has excellent name recognition, ran a strong race in 2002 and started his re-election efforts and fund raising shortly after his loss last year.
State Rep. Patricia Lightner, a third-term legislator from Overland Park, also has entered the GOP race.
It will be a tight horse race between Taff and Kobach, but if they can avoid serious name-calling and if the rift between Johnson County Republican moderates and their Republican cousins who call themselves staunch conservatives does not become too deep, there is a good chance the Republican primary winner could defeat Moore.
Moore is a master of saying what voters in the 3rd District want to hear, but his voting record in Washington does not necessarily parallel what he tells the folks back home. He is a vigorous, effective campaigner, enjoys high visibility and is sure to run a strong race.
How the presidential contest will affect the 3rd District primary and general election is difficult to predict at this time. Although the margins seem to be narrowing, Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the 3rd District. This being the case, and if there are not too many scars from the Republican primary, Taff or Kobach would seem in a position to regain the 3rd District seat, which traditionally has been held by the GOP.
It is sure to be an interesting race, one that will be watched closely by both Republican and Democratic leaders, particularly when the GOP margin in the House is narrow. Already, some Washington writers are starting to highlight the Kansas 3rd District contest.