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The wit and wisdom of John Cornyn 

From box turtlesand gay marriage to question-free curiosity, U.S. Senator John Cornyn has uttered more quotable quips during his first term in the Senate than most politicians do in a lifetime. Like an infomercial for President Bush and the Republican Party, Cornyn toes the line with a rigidity almost unseen in American politics. Sometimes Cornyn does so even at the expense of his own party’s sanity. For example, while Texas’s other senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was condemning Idaho Senator Larry Craig last week for his little “bathroom incident,” Cornyn took a different tack, saying Craig’s political future “is best left up to Senator Craig and his constituents,” and, “I make it a point not to comment on the personal problems of other senators.”

Over the years, Cornyn has uttered more party-line doozies than you could count on both hands. Here’s a quick retrospective of some of the Junior Corny Dog’s greatest hits:

On the Resignation of U.S. Attorney General (and Texan) Alberto Gonzales: “I think he was probably just worn down by the criticism … This sort of thing has a Chinese water torture effect of drip, drip, drip, drip ... I think the only two people that were going to determine whether `Gonzales` was going to continue in office were the President and Al Gonzales — and I guess Al Gonzales had had enough.”

(Guess it couldn’t be that Gonzales had actually realized he’d lost the support of more than half the nation and almost all of Congress).

On Control of the U.S.-Mexico Border: “I don’t know what ‘operational control’ of the border means, but I do understand the English language. And as I understand that phrase, that’s not true. We do not have operational control.”

On President Bush’s Judicial Nominees: “If there is a nuclear tactic being used here, I submit it is the use of that obstruction where a willful minority blocks a bipartisan majority from voting on the President’s judicial nominees.”

(This was back when Republicans still had control of the Senate, of course).

On the Federal Habeas Process Becoming “Ripe With Gamesmanship”: “In my state, from the time ... the most hardened criminals are convicted of the most heinous crimes ... their case is reviewed by not only a jury of 12 of their peers but up to 23 different judges ... perhaps even more.”

In the Aftermath of the Bush Administration’s Response to Katrina & Media Fall-Out: “When it rains, it pours — figuratively and literally.”

On the Status of the Overworked National Guard During the Katrina Crisis: “Iraq and Afghanistan alone have been stressful. This doesn’t make it any easier. And it probably makes it harder.”

On Media Reports of Conservative Criticism of Alberto Gonzales, Back When He Was a Possible Supreme Court Nominee: “I’ve read about these concerns from some conservatives, and I really wonder where they are getting some of these strange ideas.”

On Courthouse Violence: “I don’t know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country ... And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence.”

Advice to John Roberts (Now Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) When He Sat Down for His Hearing Before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Don’t take the bait. Decline to answer any question that you feel would compromise your ability to do your job.” And this gem, also during the Roberts hearings, on the committee’s desire to, surprise, surprise, ask the nominee questions: “But just because we are curious does not mean that our curiosity should be satisfied.”

And, of course, no Cornyn Retrospective would be complete without what is perhaps his most famous quote, On Gay Marriage:

“It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.”

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Speaking of Last Words

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