Before he entered politics, Kentucky Republican Jim
Bunning was an outstanding baseball pitcher who was inducted
into the Hall of Fame. But so far the burly right-hander has
struck out in his seven years in the Senate.
In addition to
being hostile to staff members on the Hill and occasionally
even other Senators, Bunning shows little interest in policy
unless it involves baseball, according to congressional
experts and colleagues. When asked, they struggle to recall
any legislation Bunning has worked on, although he did join
Arizona Senator John McCain last spring in demanding tougher
punishments for steroid use in professional sports.
Congressional observers consider Bunning, 74, a
disappointment also because his sharp questioning of former
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on fiscal matters
during hearings over the past couple of years suggest he has
the smarts to be an effective Senator but doesn't put in the
Bunning's lackluster performance has created strains
between him and the G.O.P. in Kentucky, according to Laurie
Rhodebeck, a University of Louisville political-science
professor. Having served Kentucky for 12 years in the House
before moving to the Senate in 1998, Bunning exhibited
bizarre behavior during his 2004 re-election campaign. He
said his Democratic opponent, a child of Italian immigrants,
looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. He refused to go
to Kentucky for the campaign's only debate and took part
instead from Washington. It was later revealed that he had
read some of his answers in the debate from a teleprompter.
He was returned to office by just two points in a state that
President Bush carried by 20.