Rep. Tom Tancredo isn’t so much a lightning rod for controversy as he is the lightning itself; if there’s no controversy, by golly, he’ll create his own! If there’s no fire to report on, Tancredo will gladly take a match to his own suit to get one started. The Colorado congressman (CD6-Littleton) has mastered the art of self-promotion, but he’s gone so far in doing so that he’s become more of a sideshow than anything else.

Tancredo has always been a controversial figure because of his militant stance on illegal immigration, but he didn’t really start getting regular national attention until last year. Once the media started to really pay attention to him, Tancredo started to rachet up the rhetoric to the point where he now will say just about anything, anytime, as long as it gets his mug in the news.

It was revealed today that Tancredo told Aaron Harber of “The Aaron Harber Show” that he would run for the U.S. Senate in 2008 if Sen. Wayne Allard decides not to run for re-election, which is a very real possibility. From The Denver Post:

“Yeah, sure,” Tancredo replied when KBDI Channel 12 interviewer Aaron Harber asked him, “If Wayne Allard were to not run for re-election, would you run for the Senate?”

Harber then asked, “Who else do you think would look at it, if you were just guessing?”

“The governor, Gov. Owens,” Tancredo replied.

Harber then asked, “And you’d run against him?”

Tancredo replied, “Yeah.”

Tancredo has been talking about running for President in 2008 for more than a year, and now he’s talking about running for U.S. Senate…in 2008. In other words, he can’t possibly be serious about both options, so he’s just talking about it for the sake of talking about it. Just so people will pay attention to him.

Look at Tom Tancredo! Are you looking? Look at him! Listen to what he is saying! Isn’t he wacky? Look at him

The fun doesn’t stop with Tancredo, either. Even his staff seems to have been trained in the art of creating controversy. The Denver Post reported today that Tancredo spent more taxpayer money than all but five of his colleagues last year on car leases (as a side note, I didn’t even know you could do that), and when the Post called him on it, a staffer stuck out his tongue, put his thumbs in his ears and wiggled his fingers in response:

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo spent more taxpayer money than all but five of his colleagues on car leases last year, but he won’t give any specifics as to where he went and what he did.

“We have no obligation to provide that information,” Tancredo spokesman Will Adams said Tuesday about the $1,183 a month that his boss spent to lease two cars. “He spent what is consistent with what other offices pay.”

Tancredo spent a total of $14,201, nearly three times the amount spent by Reps. Diana DeGette, a Democrat, and Bob Beauprez, a Republican, the only other members of Colorado’s delegation who leased cars on the taxpayer’s dime. Tancredo also is one of only six members of the House to lease two vehicles. Two representatives rented three each.

Tancredo spokesman Will Adams is clearly just trying to pick a fight here, because a response like that is bound to provoke a reporter into doing further research on the matter. Of course, Adams could be just trying to deflect the question because Tancredo was using the cars to race at Bandimere Speedway, but either way the response sounds a lot like a six-year-old child telling his mom, “You’re not the boss of me!”

While this “throwing a tantrum in the supermarket aisle” strategy has been very successful in getting Tancredo the attention he craves, it is also slowly diminishing whatever statesman-like appeal he might have had, and the attention won’t last forever. People will stop paying attention at some point when Tancredo is forced to say crazier and crazier things in order to top the last crazy thing he said.

Tancredo reminds me in some ways of Pat Robertson, who people used to listen to but is now just brushed off as a nutcase. Robertson will say almost anything these days in order to get attention, and he still pops up occasionally when he says something really absurd. But that’s all he has left; nobody listens to him unless his message is so ridiculous and incomprehensible that the media will cover it because it’s weird — not because it’s poignant. Tancredo is going down that path, and quickly, and before long he’ll be forced to drive around to small towns in the Southwest in a big RV just so he can find somebody who will take him seriously.

Oh, wait.