Larry Dale Keeling: Puny Democrats disappoint at Fancy Farm; McConnell sipping bitter tea

Herald-leader columnistAugust 14, 2012 

Larry Dale Keeling

FRANKFORT — This and that on a two-day delay:

Sorry I wasn't in the usual location Sunday, but more important stuff happens. And young folks' opinions on violence are way more important than one of my rants.

Couldn't make the 132nd Annual Fancy Farm Picnic in person, but I caught most of the political pontificating on the KET broadcast. Seemed a bit tame for obvious reasons: a dearth of pontificators. Seemed a bit one-sided, too, also for obvious reasons. The invited Democratic pontificators went AWOL in far larger numbers than the invited Republican pontificators.

Must have been something they ate at their labor luncheon or bean soup supper the Friday prior to the picnic or at the Democratic Party breakfast the day of the main event. Because if they weren't hugging a porcelain convenience somewhere, I'm sure those AWOLs would have been right there at the microphone giving as good as they got in defense of all things Democratic.

Surely, they weren't dodging any linkage to the guy at the top of their November ticket.

OK, so he brought us Obamacare. For an old curmudgeon like me on Medicare, that's cool. However, others seem to have problems with a little more government involvement in health care.

And yes, his administration actually enforces rules on coal mining that haven't been enforced since I was getting carded when I ordered a drink with my dinner. That's a bit dicier in Kentucky, even though our coal is running out and we're living through another episode of "As the World Burns" this summer and should be getting the message about the whole carbon-footprint thing.

But so what? President Barack Obama is a true believer in our state religion. He Joneses on basketball. He's one of us. And because he is, we can even forgive him for picking some minor ACC school to win the NCAA title this spring. Right?

So, I'm sure some kind of intestinal virus laid Democrats low in Western Kentucky 10 days ago. And I applaud Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and House Speaker Greg Stumbo for the strength they displayed in fighting off the effects of the virus long enough to show the good folks of St. Jerome Parish the respect they deserve.

As for the AWOLs, well, sorry about their luck in catching a case of the runs.

Not only did Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson skip Fancy Farm, he dissed it a bit in a subsequent speech to the Louisville Rotary Club. According to CN|2 Pure Politics with Ryan Alessi, Abramson said he didn't miss being at the picnic. "I think the days of yelling and screaming at folks who are up on the stage, just to yell and scream and make fun of them, are days of the past," he said. "Where was I? It was my anniversary."

Yes, the yelling and screaming get out of hand some years. OK, most years. But showing up at Fancy Farm to take what the other side throws at you comes with the territory of running for statewide office in Kentucky. Guess we can drop one name from the 2015 gubernatorial discussion.

Can't leave the Fancy Farm topic without mentioning an "Oops" moment on the part of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, the emcee for this year's political speaking. All in good fun, of course, because he has made all the right moves since succeeding an "Unforgettable" Republicans now hope Kentuckians quickly forget.

But introducing U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Comer gave him a slight promotion by saying, "He's the highest ranking elected official in the United States."

I'm sure what Comer was trying to say is that McConnell is the highest ranking elected official from Kentucky in the country. But as the minority leader, McConnell isn't even the highest ranking elected official in the U.S. Senate, much less in the country. Not yet anyway.

Can't leave the McConnell topic without noting his scheduled speech to an Aug. 21 Tea Party rally at the state Capitol, where he will share the spotlight with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Tea Party darling.

For decades, McConnell has been considered the godfather of the Kentucky Republican Party. The Man. The dude who could make or break a Republican politician's career with a nod of the head or a wink of the eye.

Sorry. Erase that last image. A wink of the eye may be so very Sarah Palinesque, but it seems so out of character for McConnell.

Anyway, I'm a movie junkie, the older the better. The '60s and '70s were great. The '50s were greater. And the '30s and '40s were the best of all.

So, when I read about McConnell, who endorsed former Secretary of State Trey Grayson over Paul in the 2010 Republican primary, now planning to go sort of hat in hand to make nice to Paul acolytes at a Capitol rally, my mind immediately flashed on the title of a 1933 Frank Capra classic: The Bitter Tea of General Yen.

One can only wonder how bitter the Tea Party tastes to McConnell.

Reach Larry Dale Keeling at lkeeling@herald-leader.com.

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