Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback poised to quit job he never really wanted

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will be named the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture in Rome, according to a Kansas Public Radio report.

If true, it’s fitting that Brownback would leave the governor’s office before his term expires. He never seemed to want the job in the first place.

Before he was a governor, Brownback was a U.S. senator. The job suited him. In the mid 1990s, Brownback emerged from a melanoma scare thinking that he was more than a rank-and-file congressman. He came to believe that he served one constituent, who lived in heaven. He spent a night in prison to draw attention to efforts to reduce recidivism and plunged into world affairs. “When Brownback talks about Africa, he sounds like JFK, or even Bono,” journalist Jeff Sharlet wrote in a 2006 Rolling Stone profile.

And for all the talk of his humble origins, Brownback has an elitist streak. He married into a newspaper fortune. His conversion to Catholicism was shepherded by the Rev. C. John McCloskey III, a priest of the traditionalist Opus Dei order who caters to men of influence. The U.S. Senate is a good place for people who like to have doors opened for them, literal and spiritual.

Alas, he was bound by a promise. As a congressman running for the Senate seat Bob Dole resigned to run for president, Brownback had made a term limits pledge. He kept his word and announced that he would not seek re-election in 2010.

Instead, he ran for governor. 

Brownback coasted to victory. But his campaign was lifeless. His “road map for Kansas” was conservative Republican boilerplate. We wrote during the campaign that he already seemed bored with the job.

True enough, once in the governor’s office, Brownback outsourced decision making to right-wing think tanks. The result was a disastrous tax policy that left huge holes in the budget and re-engerzied the Kansas Republican Party’s moderate wing. Earlier this week, the Kansas Senate voted down a Brownback tax plan by a 37–1 vote. “He’s not really part of the solution right now,” Tom Holland, a Senate Democrat, told reporters.

Marginalized, Brownback is apparently considering a post that would put him back on the world stage, far from the school finance formulas and other drudgeries of Topeka. He surely will enjoy being called “Ambassador.”

Among those not impressed with the move is John Weaver, a Republican strategist and harsh critic of President Donald Trump. 

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