Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2017

Political friends and foes try to assess Brownback’s legacy as governor, fitness for ambassadorship

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback talks with media members during a press conference in which he personally announced his intention to accept President Donald Trump's nomination for him to become the U.S. ambassador at-large for religious liberty. Brownback's nomination is pending confirmation by the Senate.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback talks with media members during a press conference in which he personally announced his intention to accept President Donald Trump's nomination for him to become the U.S. ambassador at-large for religious liberty. Brownback's nomination is pending confirmation by the Senate.

July 30, 2017


— After more than two decades in elected public office in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback is about to step off the political stage to take a low-profile job in the Trump administration as ambassador at-large for religious freedom.

Brownback, 60, has been the winner of five statewide elections — two as governor and three as U.S. Senator, as well as a U.S. House race. His supporters and detractors agree that he has been one of the most electorally successful politicians in state history.

But what kind of legacy he will leave is a matter of great disagreement.

"I think he is — and the word I’ve used before is — ‘consequential.’ He may be the most consequential governor," Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker said.

"And I understand he’s controversial, and people may support or dislike what he did," Barker continued. "But I can’t think of another governor — whether it was (Bob) Bennett in the early '70s, who reformed Kansas government, or (Walter R.) Stubbs back a century ago was the progressive who brought in changes — I can’t think of another governor that’s done more change for Kansas in more areas."

University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis, a vocal critic of Brownback, agreed with that sentiment, saying that his election, at a time when staunch conservatives held solid majorities in the Legislature, marked a unique time in Kansas political history.

"And so he could legislate, whether it was the tax legislation or social legislation or KanCare, you name it," Loomis said. "He could legislate and he could also administer, which I think is a big part of his legacy, kind of the gutting of Kansas government without much interference from the Kansas Legislature. So without question, he is one of the three, four most consequential governors of the last 50 or 60 years."

Brownback actually started his career in government more than 30 years ago, in 1986, as Kansas secretary of agriculture, which was then a position appointed by the state Board of Agriculture. But a federal judge declared that system unconstitutional in 1993 because only members of recognized farm organizations were allowed to vote in elections for the board members.

Brownback was forced to step down from that position, and the following year ran successfully for the 2nd District congressional seat. That was the same year that conservative Republicans took control of the U.S. House in what came to be known as the Newt Gingrich Revolution, referring to the Georgia Republican who became Speaker of the House that year, and Brownback quickly established himself as part of that conservative movement.

But he only lasted one term in the House. In June 1996, then-Sen. Bob Dole stunned the political world by resigning his Senate seat in order to focus full-time on his presidential campaign, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Then-Gov. Bill Graves first appointed his own lieutenant governor, Sheila Frahm, to fill the vacancy, but he also called a special election for someone to fill out the remaining two years of Dole's term.

Brownback, who had sought the appointment himself, edged out Frahm in a close Republican primary, then defeated Democrat Jill Docking in a hard-fought general election. He went on to win two regular elections in 1998 and 2004 by wide margins.

In the Senate, he established himself as a strong religious conservative, especially regarding abortion. But he was also an outspoken supporter of international religious freedom, often becoming the first to speak out against religious oppression in places like the Darfur region of Sudan and in Tibet.

At the end of his second full term, in 2010, he stepped down to run for governor. He won easily that year, in part because then-Gov. Mark Parkinson, — the former lieutenant governor who became governor when Kathleen Sebelius was named U.S. Health and Human Services secretary — surprised Kansas Democrats by deciding not to run for a full term.

Barker recalled a conversation he had with Brownback in 2011, shortly after he took office, that he said was a signal about what kind of governor he would be.

"It was in Johnson County. We were driving from the Johnson County office to some event. It may have been a campaign event, I don’t remember exactly," he said.

"He told me, ‘If I wanted to get re-elected, all I have to do is do nothing in the first term and make all my big changes in the second.’ But he says, ‘I’m not going to do that. I’m going to go at this hard, and if I don’t get re-elected, that’s where the chips fall.’ And that was just sort of a one-on-one conversation," Barker recalled.

Brownback did move swiftly in his first term. In his first year, he began reorganizing state health care agencies and attempted to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission, a move that sparked a surprising amount of push-back.

But Brownback's most significant initiative, and the one for which he will most likely be remembered, came in his second year in office, 2012, when he pushed for sweeping, historic tax cuts that he vowed would be "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy."

Today, only a handful of his most ardent supporters still support those tax cuts. Instead, they became a central issue in his re-election bid in 2014, when Brownback was almost unseated by Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis.

And they continued to be a central issue in the midterm elections of 2016, when Kansas voters ousted many of his conservative allies in both chambers and elected a more moderate Legislature that ultimately overrode his veto and repealed many of his tax policies in 2017.

Loomis said he believes that political reversal will eventually define his political legacy.

"I think the first line of his obituary will be, ‘Sam Brownback, whose visionary or highly conservative plan to stimulate the Kansas economy failed miserably, died today,'" Loomis said. "'He was a longtime governor, senator, ambassador, whatever.’ I think this large experiment, which essentially has failed, is the defining element of Sam Brownback’s political career."

The announcement that he has been nominated for an ambassadorship brought out a predictably mixed reaction from his allies and detractors.

"Governor Brownback is uniquely qualified for this position. I wish him all the best in his new post and would like to express my gratitude for his extensive service to the State of Kansas," House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said in a news release.

"This position will be a good fit for Gov. Brownback, a staunch defender of religious freedom. I'm sure he will do a great job," Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said.

But Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, a gay rights advocacy group, and a member of the Kansas Democratic Party's executive committee, blasted Brownback's nomination.

“Governor Brownback is unsuited to represent American values of freedom, liberty, and justice, whether at home or abroad," Witt said in a statement. "His use of religion is little different than that of a bully wielding a club. His goal is not to use religion as a way to expand freedom, but to use a narrow, bigoted interpretation of religion to deny freedom to his fellow citizens. He has caused enough damage here in Kansas. We do not wish him upon the world.”

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, was equally harsh in his criticism.

"Sam Brownback will be remembered for becoming the most unpopular governor in America," he said in a news release. "His tax experiment failed to grow the economy as he promised. Instead, his policies have bankrupted our state and led to destroying nearly every agency of state government as well as his own political career."


Phillip Chappuie 9 months, 3 weeks ago

There were the "C" Street days when Sam joined that cult that believed the God ordained religious nuts to run all government. That was not good for anybody. Then later he came home to ruin Kansas with his ultra conservative doctrines that shattered the economy and hamstrung many state services. I think as a state we are much better off to have him off someplace else whining about his temporal hocus pocus. Sam's legacy was to come up with a hair brained idea and promote it, only to do nothing on the sidelines and blame others when it fell on its face.

Paul Beyer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

His legacy is simple. He as a totally incompetent. hate filled, religious nut and the worst governor ever for any state in the country. A prime example of the worse GOP politician ever.

Steve Jacob 9 months, 3 weeks ago

He will be remembered for his tax cuts that failed. If you hear national experts on the right, they blame not being able to cut spending for schools as the culprit. .

Justin Hoffman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Brownback will be remembered in one way and one way only. A brave governor who stood by his religious beliefs and followed God's teachings. Kansas is much better because of him. His fight against abortion, gay marriage, etc is to be commended. Our forefathers would have been pleased with his leadership. All the best Sam! You are a great choice and will do well in your next role.

Ken Lassman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr. Brownback, I believe, honestly tried to act in ways that were answers to the question: "What would Jesus do?" Unfortunately, his ideological fundamentalism and rigidity resulted in a track record more resembling that of General Ripper's in Dr. Strangelove than of Jesus'.

Kendall Simmons 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Are you mad??? God didn't fight against abortion...or against gay marriage. But Jesus certainly spoke out against people like Sam Brownback...and you.

Bob Forer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Which of those teachings are your favorite, Justin?

No, let me guess.

"Don't heal them: let em die"

Kyle Neuer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

My guess is that he'll do for relations with our Muslim allies what he's done for the budget of the State of Kansas.

Ken Lassman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Brownback will hopefully become an insignificant footnote of a governor: someone who created a crisis in state government to an almost unprecedented level, setting the stage for the next governor/governors to step up to the plate and show great leadership by creating a coalition of the pragmatic AND visionary by putting a stop to the hemorraging, creating a sustainably financed state government with a solid foundation for the future. And inso doing, Kansas became a model of how to heal itself by bringing everyone to the table and step out of the morass of ideologically driven financial ruin and become a functioning democracy once again.

We can dream, can't we?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 3 weeks ago

“Governor Brownback is unsuited to represent American values of freedom, liberty, and justice, whether at home or abroad," Justin..........there is NO ONE who can claim to be spokesperson from some nebulous fanciful "God". This is one of the colossal frauds of humanity. These kind of people invoke some sort of curious and strange devotion to some kind of unknown "religion" to try to create the illusion of some sort of "divine" guidance.

Brownback is not fit to be dogcatcher. He is not fit to be part of the human race.

Mike Riner 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I am not a Brownback fan Fred, but I do have one question. . . Is it lonely up there all alone?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Mike.......I am not alone........the many other respondents to this forum confirm that.

I am happy that Brownback is gone. Except the possibility that Chump will be impeached and then there will be another "religious fool" (Pence) in his place.

You need to check out the numerous editorial commentators and forum posters on this site. I am encouraged to belong to a large group that is dissatisfied and disgusted with both the state government (being run to now by "religious" baloney) and a national government run by a colossal fool and jerk.

Believe me......I am neither despondent or sorry for my position. There are many, many folks who share my position. We are in a national crisis and as soon as Kim Ding Dong in North Korea makes a move (which he knows will bring him utter destruction) we will find out just how competent and capable the "never served in the military" fool in the White House is,,,,,,,,,,

Jeremy Smith 9 months, 3 weeks ago

"Not fit to be part of the human race"? This guy does not agree with you politically so you say he is not fit to live?

Bob Hiller 9 months, 3 weeks ago

While I may disagree with Sam Brownback's politics, putting that aside, he has done several things right. He went to KU for Law School, graduating in 1982. He comes across well in person and when speaking to groups such as Kiwanis. He will give you a friendly smile and a wave if you see him filling his car with gas next to yours or at a public event of some kind. He is a good family man. Focusing on the future, I wish him well in all future endeavors.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Well said, Bob.....a little civility in this forum.

Bob Forer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I am sure those hand waves and smiles are special.

But I am more concerned Bout substance. And here Brownback is a scoundrel. For exAmple, when he opposed the expansion of Medicare.

Ask anyone who is poor and ill. I am sure they would rather get flipped off and have health insurance rather than waved and smiled upon, but thereafter left to die because they have no health insurance.

Or maybe it's just me???

Richard Quinlan 9 months, 3 weeks ago

In complete denial of the actual facts Brownies supporters claim God teaches to cut taxes for the rich only and take away aid from the less advantaged. Only a clueless jackass would try and make this argument.

John Brazelton 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Brownback's tax cuts would have worked, except due Obama's national economy, the oil industry and America's agricultural industry went into a depression and never came out of it until Trump was elected. I will agree that when Brownback realized the problem of lower state income, he should have corrected some of his tax cuts to bring more revenue. Government spends too much taxpayer money whether at the national, state or local levels of government. Too many citizens and non-citizens expect someone else (the taxpayer) to take care of them instead of working themselves.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Where did you attend school, John? Did you go to a public or a private school. A state university or a private university?

Vicki Smith Hale 9 months, 3 weeks ago

You can't blame this on anyone but brownback. He had six years in which his "shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy" was supposed to work but the patient, otherwise known as the citizens of Kansas, was finally put on life support, and right before pulling the plug, enough Democrats and moderate Republicans were able to come together and override his disastrous experiment. I didn't appreciate being used as a lab rat, especially when almost any economist, other than Arthur Laffer, have stated and proven over time, that trickle down DOES NOT work. My grandchildren's children will be paying for brownback's arrogance, stupidity, and disregard for basic human life long after I'm gone. I hope the state can survive. There are so many things wrong with your statement but there's not enough time to address them all.

Carol Bowen 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Hmmm, John, I never heard this explanation before. Could you be more specific on how the national economy went into a depression during the Obama era?

Carl Ellerd 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Brownback will be remembered for his disaster of an administration, not his wild claims of success. Hope he leaves quickly before he can do any more damage,

Richard Quinlan 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Early in his reign as Chief Economic Loser he was identified by a most intelligent high school youngster who after a short speech determined him as #heblowsalot. Well said !

Michael Kort 9 months, 3 weeks ago

So Brownie has a legacy ?..............maybe Brownies LOONACY would fit this circumstance better than refusing to notice it .

He is a $ stick it to the poor and middle class type of guy ........while giving to the rich and their political agendas . .

Greg Cooper 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Brownkoch has done much to the state of Kansas and its citizens. He has led the parade to lower school funding; ignored the needs of the elderly and poor for medical care; caused cities and counties to rely on property taxes for improvements to traditionally state-funded programs; stacked the administration with regressive-minded toads in nearly every department; raided, and not repaid, state transportation funds, as well as other earmarked funds, including child welfare programs; presided over one of the lowest-performing economic and job creating states in the Union.

On the human side, he has promulgated disrespect for other religions and those who practice them; has decreed that Kansas will not be a part of protecting political or religious immigrants; promised that Christianity would be the guiding principle of state government while ignoring the basic kindnesses taught by that religion; pushed for sexual orientation laws completely ignoring the reality of other than heterosexually oriented ones.

But, yeah, he smiles a lot and has a great capacity for ignoring truth and lying about his methods and underlying ideology. Yeah, he's been great, hasn't he Justin and all you who don't look at reality?

Richard Neuschafer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Hitler left a legacy in Germany, Mussolini left a legacy in Italy, Saddam Hussein left a legacy in Iraq, along with other madmen throughout history. Brownie is certainly a madman who left a bad legacy in Kansas. Of course there are wackos that think at least one of the 4 had a good legacy.

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