By D. Allan Kerr
Political courage among America’s elected leaders is likely at its lowest point since the “Red Scare” McCarthy era of the 1950s. It’s reached the point now where even the most modest feats of rationality are worth noting.
So in that vein, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu should be recognized for calling out whack jobs in his own party. As he recently told CNN, “When crazy comes knocking at the door, you gotta slam it shut.”
Sununu’s comments were in response to Granite State Republican lawmakers who have been making some pretty nutty comments against Covide-19 vaccines, including one who claimed the vaccine contains self-aware organisms with tentacles.
“I’ve got a lot on my plate, I don’t need crazy getting in the way,” the governor said. “I don’t care what party you’re from, we’ll push back on it every time because we have a big job to do.”
Prior to these remarks, Sununu clashed with Republicans on his own Executive Council who stunningly, stupidly, rejected $27 million in federal funding last month intended to help distribute vaccines in New Hampshire. The council has since reversed itself, nearly, by voting to approve $22 million.
I haven’t yet heard a coherent reason for the refusal to accept the funds in the first place, but apparently those four Republicans thought to do so would be considered an endorsement of vaccine mandates.
I recently saw a video of that session in which an extremely befuddled councilor named Joe Kenney suggested state government should prevent private businesses from mandating vaccines for their employees, and then immediately agreed government should not tell businesses what to do.
Sununu, in pretty impressive fashion, called the guy out and decimated his argument.
“I think the private sector has the individual right to manage themselves. That is capitalism. That is America,” he said. “I mean, government is telling businesses how to run their business? That isn’t even socialism – that’s actually pure communism.”
The council later wound up voting to accept a much smaller $4.7 million package of federal funding for the same purpose.
Yeah, I don’t get it either.
But given the sort of wild-eyed mob mentality we’re seeing from segments of the Republican Party regarding pandemic-related issues, it’s been refreshing to see a GOP governor inject some blunt, waffle-free common sense into the discussion.
Now Sununu is following up these statements by reportedly filming a public service announcement urging residents to get the vaccine. Democrats are complaining about this, claiming it’s an attempt at free publicity ahead of next year’s elections.
But you know, when other Republican lawmakers are getting jeered by their own supporters for even mentioning vaccines in a positive light, Dems should appreciate the effort.
We’ve seen this tendency toward independence before, on occasion. Back in May, when disgraced former President Donald Trump tried to drag New Hampshire into his Big Whine about losing the White House because of a massive voting conspiracy – rather than his own incompetence – Sununu shut him down fast.
“A discrepancy of 300 votes out of over 800,000 cast does not constitute ‘massive election fraud,’” the governor said. “We have the best system in the country – a system where we will do an audit even if it’s over a couple hundred votes.”
His comments were in reference to a voting machine malfunction in Windham during the 2020 election, which screwed up about 300 ballots. Democrat Joe Biden, of course, won the state by almost 60,000 votes.
Sununu was considered a strong candidate for the US Senate in 2022 against incumbent Maggie Hassan, although he has since thrown cold water on that prediction. Speculation over another Hassan opponent initially shifted to Kelly Ayotte, but Politico reported “a source close to the former senator confirmed she will not run for Senate next year.”
Now, I didn’t just fall off a Lincoln Log. If Sununu had intended to crack New Hampshire’s all-Democrat congressional delegation he may have been compelled to move more toward the center. And he might not have had to tap dance all that much.
Last November, even as Trump was getting thumped pretty handily in New Hampshire at the head of the Republican ticket, Sununu won his third term as governor with a whopping 65% of the vote. That’s a pretty significant accomplishment.
For now, I’m willing to believe Sununu genuinely believes in these things he’s saying in public. He’s got an engineering degree from freaking MIT – he’s not what you would call a dumb guy.
It’s been bizarre to see self-proclaimed conservatives across the country telling corporations and small businesses whether they should require employees and customers to wear masks or get vaccines.
A hands-off government attitude toward business is supposed to be a granite principle of conservatism. And in a vast majority of these instances, I don’t think these politicians honestly believe what they’re preaching. I think they’re just flat-out terrified of their more vocally-inclined constituents.
Florida’s governor has gone to court to prevent cruise ships from taking measures the owners believe necessary to protect the health of their passengers and employees who spend days at a time in pretty confined quarters. Really think about that for a moment.
I don’t agree with Sununu on a lot of issues, but he at least is willing to call out this kind of blatant hypocrisy, and he did so during the same council meeting previously referenced.
“You can’t say the Biden administration is forcing a mandate here and we have to stop it, but the state government should institute a mandate here,” he said.
D. Allan Kerr no longer lives in New Hampshire, but works and spends a lot of his income there.