Longform

Stealth Zealot

Page 5 of 8

Says Maguire, "To put it simply, that landmark water deal -- that very, very important, very complicated settlement to make sure we have water -- wouldn't have happened without him and his keen mind and all his hard work. It's just that simple."


What isn't so simple, Kyl's critics say, is why a guy who is so seemingly thoughtful and civilized can have the voting record of a Jesse Helms, the retired Republican senator from North Carolina.

While John McCain is seen as an independent-thinking moderate Republican, Jon Kyl is considered in lockstep with the Republican Party's far right.

Kyl loves big American business. He is good to the very rich. He has backed the Bush administration on every significant position regarding the war in Iraq, the "war on terror" and growth in defense spending. He has continuously defended the actions of military interrogators at Guantánamo and has been supportive of widespread government eavesdropping powers to combat terrorism.

In an in-depth analysis of voting records, the National Journal gave Kyl a 91 percent conservative rating, topped only by Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming) with 92 percent. John McCain, by comparison, had a 52 percent "moderate" rating.

Studying Congressional Quarterly voting records, Kyl has sided with the president's position 96 percent of the time. When Dubya was up for reelection in 2004, Kyl voted with him 100 percent of the time.

That was the year that the Sierra Club held a press conference announcing that Kyl had a "0 percent" voting record on pro-environment legislation.

One of those votes was against John McCain's legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Kyl on numerous instances has belittled research suggesting greenhouse gasses are contributing to global warming.

Kyl has voted nine times to open up Alaska to oil drilling.

He also voted against international cooperation to limit greenhouse gasses.

Sandy Bahr, longtime leader of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, says Kyl has been "disastrous" on environmental issues. She says Kyl consistently put out false information essentially blaming environmentalists for the massive Rodeo-Chediski fire in east-central Arizona in 2002, pushed for Gale Norton for Interior Secretary ("who has done more damage administratively than we ever thought possible by one person," Bahr says), and has consistently supported a rollback of the Clean Air Act.

"Did you like the air over downtown Phoenix this winter?" Bahr asks. "If you didn't, talk to Jon Kyl, because he didn't think it was a problem."

Regarding war power, Kyl was one of 19 senators in 2005 to vote against requiring the president to submit a report to Congress every three months on U.S. policy and operations in Iraq.

He has consistently sided with federal interrogators and investigators in cases seemingly in violation of constitutional habeas corpus and privacy rights.

In 1997, Kyl opposed a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.

At the same time, Kyl opposed the production of Humvees with improved armor to help protect soldiers from roadside bombs.

Kyl also has consistently sided with pharmaceutical companies on issues regarding Medicare and senior citizens.

In a 379-8 House vote in 1987 in support of the Older Americans Act -- which included Meals on Wheels -- Kyl was one of the eight.

He voted to roll back laws protecting Medicare patients against overcharging by physicians.

In the late 1990s, he proposed legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat Medicare patients. In 2005, Kyl cast the deciding vote against an amendment that would have allowed the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices under Medicare.

He also consistently harpooned federal assistance to college students. And he has not been much of a friend to the state's universities, colleges or any other federally assisted school programs.

He has for decades been vehemently opposed to abortion as well as stem-cell research.

And Kyl's record on civil rights is just plain disturbing.

In 1987, while opposing the creation of the Martin Luther King holiday in Arizona, Kyl mocked those who said it would hurt tourism in Arizona.

"I say fine," Kyl said in a story in the Red Rock News. "Let them go someplace else. . . . We've got much too nice a place to worry about attracting people to the state."

On Native Americans, from the Navajo-Hopi Observer:

"I'm concerned that too many Indian people -- and I will not characterize where they come from -- talk about trust and responsibility when they really mean, deep in their heart, having someone take care of them."

When Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond's notoriously racist 1948 campaign platform in 2002, Kyl dismissed Lott's remarks, saying, "He was trying to make an old man feel good, and there's nothing wrong with that."

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Robert Nelson