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Editorial: Schmitt's litigious pandering shouldn't be rewarded with a Senate seat

Editorial: Schmitt's litigious pandering shouldn't be rewarded with a Senate seat

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Eric Schmitt is at it again. Missouri’s lawsuit-happy Republican attorney general — who has sued China over the pandemic, sued schools over mask mandates, and sued to overturn the 2020 presidential election — is now suing the Biden administration over its attempts to address climate change. This ongoing abuse of litigation to stoke the hard-right base for his U.S. Senate run should tell voters everything they need to know about Schmitt’s fitness for that office. Or this one.

As the state’s top lawyer, the attorney general’s primary duty is to represent the Missouri government in court, and more broadly to represent the legal interests of Missouri citizens. Of course, attorneys general of both parties, here and in other states, routinely push beyond their formal job description to weigh in on political controversies. This isn’t always a bad thing, as long as they observe the line between serious litigating and ideological pandering. Schmitt lands on the wrong side of that line a lot.

Last year, he sought national headlines and instead became a national punchline for his lawsuit against China’s Communist Party over that nation’s handling of the coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Missourians and, the complaint asserted, “the rest of the world.” China may well have much to answer for regarding the pandemic, but no serious person thinks it will be answering to Schmitt’s office in Jefferson City.

Just in case anyone were to mistake that lawsuit as an indication that Schmitt takes the pandemic seriously, he has also sued St. Louis County to thwart its mask mandate. And on Tuesday, Schmitt sued again, this time to prevent Missouri school districts from enforcing mask mandates for kids — this even as Missouri coronavirus infections have spiked because the more aggressive delta variant is attacking younger people in record numbers.

It’s difficult to imagine a more cynical and potentially dangerous stunt by Schmitt, unless it was his participation in the suit with other red-state attorneys general seeking to overturn last year’s presidential election.

Having already used his elective office to attack public health and democracy itself, it perhaps was only a matter of time before Schmitt went after the world’s climate. On Wednesday, he made Missouri the lead plaintiff in a multistate suit over the Biden administration’s plans to revamp how the federal government calculates the cost of greenhouse gases. The new guidelines won’t even be completed until next year. But of course Schmitt has a GOP Senate primary to think about, so he’ll need the headlines well before that.

Hesitant as we are to give him one of those headlines, Schmitt’s craven politicization of litigation has become such a recurring theme that it’s important to call attention to it. Missouri needs a leader in the Senate, not someone who follows his base, summons in hand, down every rabbit hole.

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