First test: part of the solution or a wrench in the gears?

So, as a politics watcher, Iím supposed to be jazzed about the prospect of a U.S. Senate run by U.S. Rep. Steve King.

Unleashing the Kiron firebrand on a high-stakes statewide race would be a sight to behold, Iím told. The Republican congressman says heís nearing a fateful decision on seeking his partyís nomination. Pins and needles.

Democrats are giddy, figuring Kingís red meat rhetoric and record will offend the more moderate palates of general election voters. Some Republicans are nervous for the same reason. Scribblers are salivating at prospects for superb political theater.

Yeah, it would be an entertaining race. One for the ages. But Iím hoping King stays out.

Thatís not because I disagree with King on issues. And, in many, many cases, I do disagree with King.

But I think any candidate for the Senate, regardless of party, needs to pass another test before we even get to issues. With the Senate locked in what seems like perpetual dysfunction, and unable to address the most pressing problems facing the republic, will he or she be part of the solution or one more ranting wrench thrown into the gears?

Iíve known King since the fall of 1997, when I was covering politics at the Sioux City Journal and he was one of my local state lawmakers. King is an intelligent, interesting guy. Heís a great quote. But he is not a leader who brings folks together to solve important, nagging problems. King is a wrench. Heís a crate of wrenches.

And he is right, always. Not even Ronald Reagan was as right.

ďI still have the dent in my filing cabinet that I kicked it after I heard the news that he had signed the amnesty act of 1986,Ē King said during his speech last month at CPAC.

This is King in a nutshell. While leaders such as Reagan struggle and work and sweat to hammer out the sort of agreements necessary to govern a big, diverse country, trying to balance their core principles with the views of others and the needs of the nation, King kicks filing cabinets. And heís been kicking them ever since.

It seems like weíve sent a lot of filing cabinet-kickers to Washington in recent years. I understand that certain segments of the American electorate greatly admire cabinet-kicking, as do talent bookers for cable news and radio talk shows. Cabinet kicking is now what passes for ďprincipled.Ē

But I donít think thatís working out so well for us. And I donít get a sense that most Americans think itís working. Congressional approval ratings could not be more dismal. Apparently, lurching from crisis to crisis, from ceilings to cliffs, from tantrum to tantrum, is unpopular.

And itís not just squishy moderates and loony liberals who think kicking and screaming are a poor substitute for governing. A Gallup Poll out this past week found that 26 percent of Republicans believe their partyís biggest problem is its unwillingness to compromise. Among problems respondents identified, it ranked first.

King could win. I know some will scoff at that, but elections are funny things. Less funny is the idea of sending someone to the Senate who will basically make things worse.

Iím hoping Republicans pick someone who can actually pass that first solution-or-wrench test. Iowa Agriculture Sec. Bill Northey and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds strike me as good possibilities. .

Maybe theyíd be less entertaining. But Iíve come to find comfort in dull.

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