Keeling: March Middling and Team Glitch

Contributing ColumnistApril 6, 2014 

FRANKFORT — This and that while the halls of the state Capitol enjoy a brief respite from General Assembly cacophony:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell experienced a bit of personal "March madness" this year.

It began with the picture of him holding a long rifle above his head as he walked on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Sure, it was just a gift for his friend, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. But it didn't take long for some national pundits to label it McConnell's "Dukakis moment," a reference to the infamous photo of former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis manning a tank machine gun, because neither McConnell nor Dukakis looked at home with a gun in hand.

Then came "#Mcconnelling," a viral phenomenon set off when Jon Stewart of The Daily Show invited anyone and everyone to add their own sound to a dialogue-free two-and-a-half minute video of McConnell images his campaign posted. If you're feeling down, just go online and find the #McConnelling video featuring the song Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me. It will banish your blues immediately.

No laughs were involved in McConnell's next madness episode. His campaign's decision to banish LEO Weekly news editor Joe Sonka from a press conference that also featured Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and former 4th District U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis was just dumb, dumb, dumb and still dumber. The banishment became the news, and the purpose of the press conference wound up on what Hollywood refers to as the cutting room floor.

Ironically, Sonka was the first to catch the McConnell campaign's most embarrassing March mistake, the image of two Duke University (rather than University of Kentucky) basketball players celebrating a victory at the end of a McConnell ad. After subbing an image of current UK star Julius Randle only to find out that violated NCAA rules, the campaign scrapped the ad. But not before much ridicule, including Republican primary opponent and Tea Party darling Matt Bevin's ad picturing McConnell in a Duke jersey bearing the number of Big Blue Nation's Public Enemy No. 1, Christian Laettner.

"Team Mitch" used to run errorless campaigns. Now, it seems to have morphed into "Team Glitch."

Fortunately for McConnell (in the primary at least), Bevin followed up on his rather clever ad by making an April fool of himself with his claim that he thought he was speaking at a states' rights rally when he addressed a crowd of several hundred at a Corbin rally for the legalization of cockfighting.

We have two options here. If Bevin truly didn't know he was addressing a crowd of folks who enjoy watching gamecocks engaging in blood sport, he's too politically naïve or flat-out dumb to be taken seriously. No political candidate with enough common sense to look both ways before crossing a busy street speaks to a group he or she hasn't fully vetted.

If Bevin knew exactly whom he was addressing and is dissembling in his excuse, well, we have enough liars in Washington already.

Forgive a doddering old curmudgeon a memory lapse or two, but I can't recall a less productive Kentucky General Assembly session than the one now in veto recess.

Yes, it is most definitely true that no piece of legislation is really dead until the gavel comes down on a motion to adjourn sine die. So, there is still hope, however slight, lawmakers will get a lot more things right when they come back to town for the last few days of this session than they did in the first 57 days. But don't count on it.

One of the more astute observers frequenting the Capitol halls (who will remain nameless lest his reputation be sullied by any association with me) breaks governing/legislating down into three parts: policy, process and politics. With control of the House at stake in the November elections, politics so thoroughly dominated the process during the first 57 days of this session policy (good policy anyway) became almost an afterthought. Expect more of the same during the veto days.

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

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