Richard Burr had a bad day yesterday. There’s really no other way to characterize it. So, for your reading pleasure, here’s a blow by blow of everything that went wrong for a career politician who has a real shot of losing his bid for reelection.

First, his campaign banned The News & Observer from receiving notifications of campaign events because reporter Colin Campbell and the N&O had, in Burr’s view, “failed to cover the race objectively” (read: wouldn’t print Burr’s press releases uncritically). Then, last night, CNN published a video of Burr speaking with supporters in Mooresville over the weekend. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of his finer moments.

A couple of highlights:

The North Carolina Republican, locked in a tight race for reelection, quipped that as he walked into a gun shop “nothing made me feel better” than seeing a magazine about rifles “with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it.”

  • “I was a little bit shocked at that — it didn’t have a bullseye on it,”

On the Supreme Court and being proud of blocking Obama’s appointments to lower courts:

“If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court,” he said.


“This is not tough for me,” he said of blocking a judicial nominee. “I had the longest judicial vacancy in the history of the United States on the Eastern District of North Carolina. Not many people know that.”

Burr explains that during Obama’s first term, he’d made a deal with the president: He’d back a court appointment for “(then-Sen.) Kay Hagan’s best friend” if Obama would nominate Burr’s preferred candidate for the Eastern District. But after Obama was re-elected, Burr says the president told him the deal was only good during his first term. Obama instead nominated Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former state Supreme Court justice.

“Let me make you a promise,” Burr recalled telling the president after hearing about the nomination. “This seat will be vacant on the day you go out of office. There’s no question that it was the right thing to do.”

On the media:

Burr said “the North Carolina media is disgusting,” and because of negative coverage, “I sort of felt like Donald Trump,” who frequently slams media organizations covering him.

Burr says he’s been avoiding news interviews. “They want me to go be in front of a TV camera or in front of a reporter,” he said, referring to his campaign staff. “That doesn’t work very well for me right now. That just comes up with a negative story.”

On the possibility that Clinton may pardon herself once in office:

“Here’s the problem: Could she pardon herself? And the answer’s yes. That’s not disputed.”

You get the idea. Basically, an ICBM hit Burr’s campaign, and in one of the closest races in the Senate—one that could, ultimately, decide which party controls it.

Burr, who sounds a lot like Trump in this video, did take a different tack from his nominee in at least one way: he apologized, telling CNN, “The comment I made was inappropriate, and I apologize for it.”

Not surprisingly, N.C. Democrats jumped all over it. Burr’s opponent, Deborah Ross, said Burr’s comments about the bullseye were “out of line” and called it “the latest in a disturbing pattern of Senator Burr failing to represent North Carolina values.”

Unwrapping all of this—and attempting to make sense of it—is a hefty charge, but we’ll give it a go.

First, Burr’s pride at blocking Obama from filling a district court vacancy that has been open since 2005 is pretty spectacular, considering the Eastern District has one of the largest workloads in the country, and the number of civil cases in the federal backlog is at record highs. From The Wall Street Journal in 2015:

Ronald Porter filed a federal lawsuit in 2007 after the Navy eliminated his job. He still is waiting for his employment-discrimination case to be heard.

Civil suits such as Mr. Porter’s are piling up in some of the nation’s federal courts, leading to long delays in cases involving Social Security benefits, personal injury and civil rights, among others.

More than 330,000 such cases were pending as of last October—a record—up nearly 20% since 2004, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. The number of cases awaiting resolution for three years or more exceeded 30,000 for the fifth time in the past decade.


“Over the years I’ve received several letters from people indicating, ‘Even if I win this case now, my business has failed because of the delay. How is this justice?’ ” said Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in Fresno, Calif., who sits in the Eastern District. “And the simple answer, which I cannot give them, is this: It is not justice. We know it.”

And then there’s Burr’s flippant remark about Clinton, which was sharply denounced by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, whose attempted assassination ended her career in Congress and kickstarted her career as a tireless gun control advocate. “Senator Burr’s comments cross the line from political speech to outright suggestions of violence. They are dangerous,” Giffords said in a statement. “Statements like these are a stain on our politics and an insult to responsible gun owners like us across our country.”

Burr is, in many respects, the ultimate Washington politician. He was in the House for ten years, has been in the Senate for twelve, has seen his wealth rise dramatically since he was elected, voted against a bill banning insider stock trading for top federal employees (it also required his own stock disclosures to be made available on the Internet), still supports the PATRIOT Act, has never met a war he didn’t like, and on and on and on. The last time Burr got in trouble for running his mouth, he ended up in an AP story saying he’d rather support Bernie Sanders than Ted Cruz.

If you need any more proof, look no further than an email uber-centrist Erskine Bowles sent to Burr, as well as Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) back in 2012, leaning on him to confirm Sylvia Burwell as Obama’s HHS secretary:

Richard. Thank you for calling me back. It means a lot to me.

What I wanted to talk to you , Tom , and Mike about is Sylvia Matthews Burwell. I am going to copy them on this email . No one has asked me to contact you. I simply got concerned as I listened to some of the talk today on the TV and radio. As you may remember , I picked Sylvia to be my Deputy Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House. I chose her because she is brilliant ( Rhodes ), really nice , informed , and smart all rolled into one , but most importantly to me because she knows how to run a big , complex organization and run it effectively. Any large public or private organization I wanted managed and managed well , my first choice to do so would be Sylvia. All you have to do is look at the job she did at the NEC , Treasury , White House , OMB , Gates Foundation , and Walmart to judge her capability.

I know that you and Tom and Saxby and Mike have worked hard on the Senate floor to make our Country work more effectively and efficiently. To folks like us regardless of whether it’s a republican or democrat president , we want them to pick leaders who are competent to head a complex cabinet department. What I want to assure you is that Sylvia is that kind of leader. I have the highest respect for her.

I hope you and Saxby have a good trip. I look forward to talking to you when you get back home. All my best – Erskine

In other words, Burr is the exact same kind of politician who was the reason for the backlash that caused Trump, and now he’s campaigning like he’s Greg Brannon. Why?

The simple truth is that Burr is fighting for his political life and thinks it might help him if he panders to the kind of person who wants to see Clinton hanged. As one Trump supporter said of Burr in the video, “I want to thank him for being a strong supporter of Mr. Trump. I appreciate his loyalty.”

Given that Burr is a national security advisor to Trump, it’s probably not all love; if Trump wins on November 8, Burr could very well be in line for a job in the administration. And given that Burr has already said that this is his last campaign, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t accept an offer to become a cabinet secretary or agency head.

And if Trump loses, and Burr loses, then oh well. Give it about three years tops before Burr helps form Burr, Bayh, and Lieberman Global Intelligence Consulting, or does something similarly dystopian in which he can make real money and have a bigger say over policy without being forced to pander to voters anymore.

The polices that Burr supported created Trump. Now, instead of fighting for the soul of the Republican Party, the senator—who, like so many of his fellow neocons, would much rather have Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, or maybe even Clinton herself running the country, but would never say that in public—has cowered to his party’s id in the most craven way. And now that he’s hitched his wagon to this ugliness, the only hope remaining is that, if Trump goes down in spectacular fashion, he brings Burr down with him.