Stealth Zealot

Arizona has two U.S. senators: John McCain and that other guy.

The other guy is a decent man, so decent that in his 11 years as a senator in Washington, D.C., he has often seemed constitutionally incapable of promoting himself in the manner common of national political figures such as our hero, John McCain.

And the other guy really is a national political figure. Quietly, behind the scenes, he has ascended the majority Republican leadership to become one of the five most powerful senators in Washington.

Even though you may not know his name, the other guy argues that he should be reelected by Arizonans in November because people in Washington, and people in power, do know his name. He argues that his high stature is a benefit to his constituents and the state of Arizona.

This point, however, is up for debate.

Because opponents argue that the reason you don't know the other senator from Arizona is because he doesn't do much for Arizona. Yes, he is powerful, but he is powerful because he has spent his time in Washington kowtowing to the Bush administration and the radical right, very often to the detriment of Arizonans.

For example, our other senator is vehemently against "big" government, with "big" meaning federal spending for things other than defense. In the past 11 years, that has sometimes meant he will make a point of voting against federal spending packages such as highway funds that would have brought multimillion-dollar projects to Arizona.

He also consistently has cut spending for programs supporting senior citizens and students, while cutting taxes for the richest Americans, and voting for most any defense spending increases wanted by the Bush administration.

From his perspective, he is keeping America strong while trying to keep money in the pockets of those who earned it and who keep the U.S. economy rolling.

He is a staunch conservative, arguably one of the most conservative politicians in Washington, a conservative arguably locked in when Barry Goldwater's book Conscience of a Conservative was published in 1960.

That Goldwater moderated his politics greatly after the publication of that book seems lost on our other senator.

So here is the choice for Arizona voters:

If you want an Arizona senator more in the mold of past legends such as Carl Hayden, Goldwater and Dennis DeConcini -- guys who spent much of their time in Washington fighting for budgeted dollars to flow to oft-forgotten Arizona -- then your choice in November is our other senator's opponent, moderate Democrat Jim Pederson.

If you're not into conservative ideologues, if you're sick of the Bush administration, you also will want to vote for Pederson.

But, if you want to keep a powerful conservative voice in the federal government, if you want to keep a man who most everyone says is a hardworking, keenly intelligent, humble, civilized gentleman who seems always to be doing what he believes is best for America, then you should vote to keep the other guy.

Whose name, by the way, is . . .

Jon Kyl. The senator has just blown into his campaign office near 22nd Street and Camelback Road this early morning from a botched visit to the doctor's office. He had gone to get blood drawn, but the office staff wasn't available as promised, so he sat around for half an hour and had his tightly orchestrated campaign-day-back-home thrown to hell from the get-go.

For all Jon Kyl has done to limit malpractice suits against doctors, you'd think they could show up on time to take his blood.

So he arrives for an interview at his offices a bit disheveled, a bit peeved. He hates when people "get it wrong."

"It's very true," his communications director confirms.

"I think it's from being an attorney," Kyl notes as he straightens his tie. "You have to get it right or it's meaningless." But his upset is not too intense. No yelling. A few sighs. He regains composure quickly. He smiles a genuine smile and sits to talk.

He in every way carries himself as a WASPy Presbyterian Republican from the Midwest. Humble before God. But stern, quietly stern, in quiet imagination or reality a piece of the sound, diligent old rock on which America's greatness was built.

When such a posture goes sour, as it has in the Bush administration, it becomes a sort of Puritanical humility built upon the unspoken arrogance that godly white guys from Europe long ago corrected the formula for American supremacy.

Jon Kyl will be portrayed as such an arrogant Puritanical white patrician in the upcoming election cycle. Distant, elite, uncaring, ultimately damaging and dangerous. And it may work. Because of all the water he has carried for a fading George W. Bush, numerous national political analysts say Kyl is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. Senate.