GIVING SMITH THE BOOT. Back in 2002, I wrote a profile of Bob Smith, then the incumbent Republican U.S. senator from New Hampshire. Smith was a likeable flake who once gave an unforgettable speech on behalf of an elephant that a circus had ensconced briefly on the grounds of the Capitol. (Yes, yes, you can all make your own jokes now. We'll wait. All done? Good.) However, in 1999, Smith also had made a speech excoriating the Republican Party for moving away from its guiding principles and, for a period of four months, Smith left the party entirely. Republicans in New Hampshire, in response, threw up Congressman John Sununu against Smith in that year's primary election. This was based partly on Smith's public apostasy, and also partly on the notion that the young and relatively charismatic Sununu could keep the general election with formidable Democratic governor Jeanne Shaheen close enough so that some jiggery-pokery with phone-jamming could help the GOP steal... ah...narrowly win it. Even some of Smith's colleagues in the Senate publicly threw him under the Sununu train.
All of which came to mind when I recalled the other day that the defenestration of Bob Smith occasioned no national hysterics. There was no talk of "purges," or "inquisitions." There was no mock horror about "defining moments" in the future of a political party. No, a cranky apostate was facing the consequences of his public career in the best way it is possible to face them in a democracy. The only difference between this race and the one going on in Connecticut is that Bob Smith was infinitely less insufferable, and manifestly more fun, than Joe Lieberman ever was.
--Charles P. Pierce
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