In 2017, certain words, in the mouths of certain politicians, morphed into their opposites. Some excellent (by which we mean awful) examples come from prominent Kentuckians, who should (but won’t) resolve to spare us from such duplicity in 2018.
Matt Bevin: Transparent
In a live Facebook post on May 23, Gov. Matt Bevin said, “There is nothing more transparent than live video, me talking straight to you, nothing more transparent than your ability to hear directly from me.”
In fact, there is nothing less transparent than government spoon-feeding the people only what the government wants them to know. Transparent is when the public can judge whether a governor’s decisions appear to be influenced in any way by his personal finances or business connections, now impossible in Kentucky because Bevin, unlike previous governors, has never released his income tax returns.
Bevin also said it’s a waste of his time to answer questions from the Herald-Leader and Courier Journal. Turns out Bevin dislikes hearing directly from other constituents as well. He has blocked more social media accounts than any other governor. Of the 1,298 accounts blocked by governors and 22 federal agencies, Bevin accounted for 652 of them, more than half, ProPublica discovered. The people Bevin has blocked can no longer comment on what he says on Facebook and Twitter. Bevin briefly blocked state Rep. Attica Scott, the legislature’s only black woman. Bevin’s office said no one “knowingly” blocked Scott, but the governor refuses to explain his criteria for excluding certain speakers from the public forum that he deems most transparent.
Rand Paul: Read the bills
Kentucky’s junior senator has gotten a lot of mileage from criticizing Congress for voting on bills without demanding time to even read them. Kicking off his presidential bid, Paul said that bills are “often plopped on our desks with only a few hours before a vote. So, I’ve proposed something truly extraordinary ... let’s read the bills, every page.” Last summer he reintroduced his Read the Bills Act, which would require public posting of a bill at least 72 hours before a vote.
So, when the Senate was handed a sweeping tax overhaul, amendments to which lobbyists were still writing , with revisions handwritten into the margins of the 479 pages, just a few hours before voting on it in the wee hours, what did Paul do? Voted yes, enthusiastically.
Mitch McConnell: Regular order
For years the majority leader pined for it. Though not precisely defined, regular order was why the Senate once was hailed as the world’s greatest deliberative body: careful analysis, public hearings, amendments, debate, respect for Senate traditions such as the requirement that major decisions win 60 of the 100 votes, necessitating bipartisanship.
McConnell promised a return to regular order even while producing near total blockage during the Obama years, culminating with his refusal to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat. Then he ditched the 60-vote requirement to confirm the justice he wanted.
McConnell this year tried to rewrite in secret the health-care law on which millions of people depend. The GOP’s defeat left Republican Sen. John McCain pleading for you-know-what. “Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order,” McCain said after withholding a vote his party needed. “We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”
McConnell again excluded Democrats when rushing through an overhaul of the tax code without a single hearing. Senate Republicans unveiled their bill mere hours before voting on it. McConnell brushed off criticism as complaints from sore losers. He even insisted, “We followed the regular order.”
So now at least we have a precise definition. Regular order is whatever McConnell says it is.
Bonus: War on anything
McConnell flogged the war on coal, but now that the Trump administration has declared it ended, McConnell says Democrats are waging a “war on Kentucky.” The whole darn state. Take to the trenches, don your gas masks, fellow Kentuckians, and brace for more of the same in 2018.