Not fish, but certainly ‘foul’

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 the Apostle Paul says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some.”

This sentiment is both noble and practical. Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-dogmatic and polemical world, being both sheep and wolf — or even just sheep and goat — might just take a miracle of biblical proportion.

Ask beleaguered Sen. Mark Pryor. By attempting to be both sides of the “political McDLT” Pryor has shown himself to be neither too hot nor too cool.

In a bygone era we called these kinds of people “moderates.” Apparently, we can’t have that anymore. What passes for reasoned discourse requires that we pick sides — sides that have no common ground — sides that hate each other.

The litany of anti-Pryor ads from both ends of the nut factory validate this contention. As reported by the Arkansas News Bureau, two ultra-conservative groups, the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Action, sponsored television ads accusing the Pryor of being out of touch with Arkansas values; and of being too closely allied with President Obama, particularly in his support of the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010, the 2008 Wall Street bailout and the $787 billion stimulus program of 2009.

On the other end of the poisoned seesaw, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an extremely liberal group, ran ads criticizing Pryor for his vote against a measure to expand background checks for gun sales.

Like as not, the Republican party will foist incumbent District 4 Rep. Tom Cotton on the rest of us. Cotton is living proof that you can get an Eastern liberal ivory tower education and still embrace numbingly retrograde social and political ideals. As such, he should pose a substantial challenge to Arkansas’ last substantive political legacy.

Pryor will have no one but himself to blame. Despite the apostle’s admonishment, very few of us can be all things to all people. Even in his nascent attempt to pander both ways, he’s shown himself to be grotesquely inept. He’s like the tightrope walker who has chosen to raise both feet at once.

Pryor is hardly alone. Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln trod similar ground. Apart from her unwavering crusade in the sake of big agri-business, she was neither fish nor fowl. Then there’s the special case of former Rep. Mike Ross. Ross, a nominal democrat who took almost $900,000 from medical and insurance industry lobbyists, could never seem to remember on which side of the aisle his chair sat.

To be sure, this is no clarion for more effective dogmatists. Lord knows we have plenty of that. Rather, it’s a suggestion that we have a little truth in advertising. Be who you are. Stand up for what you really hold dear. That doesn’t require foolish consistency, but it does require an ability to effectively articulate the reasons for any perceived deviations.

Absent that, the public will fall back on well-worn themes: personal political expediency; corruption by lobbyists’ dollars; and a lack of convictions. None of those speak to leadership ability or much else that’s admirable.

Maybe Pryor wants to “save some” like the Apostle Paul, but given his present path, it seems more likely that he’ll save neither himself nor anyone else.