Keeling: Mourning a public servant; watching McConnell make nice

Herald-leader columnistAugust 26, 2012 

FRANKFORT — This and that following a spot of tea for U. S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

My apologies, but the fun stuff takes a back seat to sadness today.

I knew Mike Haydon, the governor's chief of staff, as far back as my Little League baseball days. We were just acquaintances then, two kids growing up in the same county, occasionally competing in sports, running into each other at school events or on the streets of Springfield and later coming of age (too early, of course) in the bars of Lebanon.

Several years ago, when my job caused me to start hanging around the state Capitol a lot, we reconnected. That's when we became friends. Not close personal friends (my great loss), but rather solid professional friends (my great gain).

Mike was the best, most trusted source I ever had in state government, the guy who always knew and often would share (with a grin and a joke thrown in for good measure) the real story behind any given day's outbreak of political spinning and posturing beneath the Capitol dome. More than once, a lot more than once, a chat with Mike helped me look like I knew what I was writing about in my next column.

Since his recent death at a far too early age, news stories have detailed Mike's years of service to his state and his community. I won't repeat all that here. I'll just say he was one of the genuine good guys, a damn good guy. I will miss the hell out of him, and I will raise more than one glass to him in the future.

Mike would cuss me out if I strayed too long from being my usual curmudgeonly self, so we'll move on now.

McConnell's tea party on Tuesday had some fun moments, one of which apparently stemmed from the sound system taking one of Mother Nature's showers just before the party began. It started making strange noises during the introductory remarks by the event's organizers.

And by the time U.S. Sen. Rand Paul got a few words in as the first featured speaker, the strange noises had become an almost constant roar, forcing him to just stand there for what seemed like a good five minutes before someone found a new (dry) microphone.

Now I wouldn't presume to speak for Ma Nature, but I do recall her getting angry about a margarine trying to fool her back in the 1970s. And although this party was all about trashing "Obamacare," I would note that all the featured speakers (the ones from Kentucky at least) are OK with blowing away Ma's mountains in pursuit of coal.

Just sayin'. But draw your own conclusions.

Also got a chuckle when McConnell told the crowd, "Thank you for sending Rand Paul to the Senate."

If you're reading this, former Secretary of State Trey Grayson, I still remember who McConnell supported in the 2010 Republican primary, even if he has moved on and forgotten.

Following Paul and McConnell, the speaking order was state Sen. Damon Thayer, state House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, an anti-Obamacare doctor from California and Andy Barr, the Republican candidate in the 6th District congressional race.

Anything jump out at you about this list? Not who's on it, but who's not? State Senate President David Williams, who was at the party and sporting a very John Boehner-esque tan.

When I asked Tea Party activist David Adams about Williams' absence from the lineup, he responded, "That was quite intentional."

"Legitimate" rape? Skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee? Republican Kentucky legislators trying to pass off "creationism" as science? I would have loved to hear Mike Haydon's comments on these jewels.

Farewell, friend.

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

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