Who is Alan Keyes? Bill Kristol’s college roommate, the stalking horse the neoconservatives put up to take the conservative vote away from Pat Buchanan, the zany who cried racism when, after failing to attract any significant support, he was not allowed into the Republican presidential debates, the senatorial candidate who scandalized some of his supporters by living off his own campaign, a good talker in love with the sound of his own voice but who has never accomplished a political objective, conceived an original idea, or written something worth reading. He is the quintessential representative of a political movement that prefers illusion to reality and must live off the sizzle because there is no steak to offer. ~ Thomas Fleming, The Race Is On

As someone who once regarded Alan Keyes very highly, I found the announcement that he was accepting the Illinois Republican Senate nomination to be perhaps even more embarrassing for him than his unprincipled defense of the Iraq war. His constant invocations of the wisdom of the Destroyer of the Republic (i.e., Lincoln) always sat very badly with me, and it soon occurred to me that someone who defines his political philosophy by the Declaration of Independence and regarded the Declaration as a kind of theoretical trump card over whatever the Constitution itself said was likely to come to some fairly poor conclusions about American history and government. Indeed he has.

The chief virtue that Keyes displayed during his campaigns was an ostensible commitment to restorting the constraints imposed on the government by the Constitution. He also made worthwhile arguments against the Kosovo war during the 2000 debates. But his defense of the Iraq war can only be described as unprincipled and partisan, because the Iraq war lacked both the constitutional, congressional mandate that he had insisted upon in 1999 for attacking Yugoslavia and it also failed to serve any demonstrable national interest. Above all, I remember very distinctly that in 2000 Alan Keyes argued in support of the long tradition of American nonaggression and supposedly feared the consequences of abandoning that tradition to engage in arbitrary warmaking. Obviously, he either never really believed this or abandoned this “conviction” when it became inconvenient to his party when 2003 came around.

With this latest stunt, Alan Keyes has shown that he apparently regards himself as just what he was supposed to not be: the token black Republican, to be wheeled out for special occasions to impress the crowds with his oratory. He will fare very badly in Chicago, and probably far worse in the suburbs than Republicans usually do. Say what you will about Mr. Obama, but he is evidently a much more able speaker and campaigner than Rick Lazio–no interloper, even if he had come in a year ago, could make much headway in this atmosphere.