Believe it or not, Jamie Comer was once seen as ‘reasonable’ Skip to content

Believe it or not, Jamie Comer was once seen as ‘reasonable’

Some Kentucky Democratic Party bigwigs confess they can remember when Rep. James Comer was a “reasonable” Republican.

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Some Kentucky Democratic Party bigwigs confess they can remember when Rep. James Comer was a “reasonable” Republican.

They agree that since he showed up in Washington, Comer has become what Northern Kentucky Tribune columnist Bill Straub has called “a walking, talking disgrace of a human being who has fully absorbed the sleazeball spirit of the long-discredited Senator from Wisconsin through his reckless use of lies, hyperbole, and unsubstantiated accusations that are exercising great harm on the nation he is pledged to serve and protect.”

A Kentucky Journalism Hall of Famer, Straub was referring to Joseph “Tail-Gunner Joe” McCarthy, who pandered to post-World War II fear (if not downright hysteria) of communism by falsely claiming that communists and communist sympathizers had infiltrated the U.S. government, Uncle Sam’s armed forces, colleges and universities, Hollywood, and even Main Street America.

McCarthy-like, Comer has spent weeks going on TV and recklessly claiming — without proof — that the Bidens are a crime family in cahoots with communist China.

Before he was elected to Congress in 2016, Comer was an agriculture commissioner and a state representative. He ran for governor in 2015 and narrowly lost the GOP primary to Matt Bevin, who won the governorship.

Congressman Comer has decidedly changed his tune, according to two top-tier Democrats. When he took on the unabashedly hard-right Bevin, “Democrats felt like they had a reasonable guy in Comer,” said one.

“In 2015 and before, Comer had always been seen as kind of a reasonable guy by Democrats,” said the other. “He was a conservative, but Bevin was definitely far-right and a demagogue.”

So what turned Comer into a latter day McCarthy? (Straub nicknamed Comer “Tail-Gunner Jamie.”)

“We used to have an expression, ‘I believe he’s gone Hollywood,’” Straub said. “He’s now full of himself and thinks he can turn history.”

Straub cited another expression he says fits Comer, this one from his friend Chuck Wolfe, the longtime Frankfort Associated Press editor and writer who now heads up public affairs for the state transportation cabinet: “He doesn’t even have the good sense to be embarrassed.”

Straub, who covered politics in Frankfort and Washington, agreed that Democrats in the state legislature didn’t view Comer as overly partisan. “He did not have that reputation.”

Straub thinks Comer, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, might be getting bad counsel. “When you’re chair of a committee, you put a lot of faith in your staff,” Straub said, adding that MAGA staffers “may be stringing him along because frankly I don’t know that the guy is all that smart. I think he’s easily influenced by his staff to overstate everything that's been going on.”

Comer, too, aims to please the House Republican leadership “so he can continue to serve in the chair,” according to Straub.

Straub also believes that Comer figures that by non-stop bashing the Bidens, “he’s shining a light on himself. I think he’s fooling himself to a large degree. It’s easy for a guy like him to fool himself. It’s just not a very pretty picture with him.”

A footnote: Straub hinted that another Comer column was in the works. It popped in the Northern Kentucky Tribune on Friday: “Once again, we find our hero, the mild-mannered Rep. Jamie Comer, R-WhereverHeHangsHisHatIsHisHome, transforming from the congressman most likely to be mistaken for a member of the ‘Hee-Haw’ cast into an avenging angel, cape flapping in the breeze, fists planted firmly on hips,” he wrote. “While he may be a laughingstock, a walking, talking human punchline in search of a joke, our boy valiantly blunders on, more than content to make a fool of himself for the public’s amusement.”

Continuing in the down-on-the-farm Hee Haw vein, he concluded: “Our boy the Tail-Gunner is like the man standing in the middle of a field surrounded by bow rakes. Every time he tries to move, he steps on the rakes’ teeth and the oak handle flings up and pops him in the mush – over and over again.”


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY