Remember the scene from Animal House, in which Otter is trying to persuade the Deltas to pledge the sad-sack Flounder?
When Otter was a freshman, he says, “I myself was so obnoxious the seniors beat me up once a week.”
That’s the kind of start Mark Kirk is getting off to in the U.S. Senate. Here in Illinois, we’ve always known he was a self-aggrandizing pipsqueak -- remember those triumphant little hops every time he scored a point in a debate against Alexi Giannoulias? Now, his new co-workers are finding out, too.
According to Politico, Kirk has been rubbing his Senate colleagues the wrong way with smug behavior. Apparently, he’s too full of himself even for Ego Mountain, as the Senate is sometimes known.
In December, the Senate defeated a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, loaded with the earmarks Kirk campaigned against.
“As the most junior people, for those who don’t understand what just happened, did we just win?” Kirk asked, rhetorically. He knew the Republicans had just won, but wanted to rub it in. Kirk also got into a “heated discussion” with John McCain about their differences on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Kirk’s eagerness to jump into the Senate fray with both fists flying is an early example of how he and the 12 other new Republican senators — particularly those like Kirk with inside-the-Beltway experience — will fight to prove they’re taking on the Washington establishment for the folks back home. But in an instant, the showboating for voters became a lesson in the perils of punching above your weight in a club in which methodically won stature is everything. For freshmen such as Kirk, it’s a case of learn the ropes or make rookie mistakes.
“I think his whole demeanor wasn’t that appropriate,” Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) told POLITICO after chiding Kirk on the Senate floor. “I saw what he said, and I thought, ‘I’m going to say something.’ And I thought that that was the politics that people are fed up with. So he has to be very careful.”
Among Republicans who privately complained about the episode, one called it “amateurish.”
Kirk must be making a bad impression if senators are going on the record to slap him down as an uppity newbie. Kirk has been on his new job less than two months. He’ll learn the culture, and someday, he’ll be one of the Senate’s old bulls. We can just hear him lecturing freshmen:
“When I was new here, I was so obnoxious the other senators used to leak dirt about me to the press every day. But it didn’t take me long to learn the ropes. By the end of my first year, I passed eight bills in one day, broke a filibuster all by myself, and became the first sitting senator to fly a combat mission over Afghanistan…”
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