Kentuckians McConnell, Alvarado buck GOP fearfest, strike optimistic notes

Sen. Mitch McConnell waves to delegates after addressing GOP convention.
Sen. Mitch McConnell waves to delegates after addressing GOP convention. Associated Press

Kentuckians of both parties can be proud that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and state Sen. Ralph Alvarado stood out at the Republican National Fearfest, er, Convention for delivering speeches that were more substantive and more optimistic than most of what was heard.

What came through most pungently from the convention floor and podium, aside from fear of everything, was surly resentment.

So, despite being booed, a droll McConnell was a refreshing break as he counseled patience, which he said he learned early as a toddler immobilized for two years by polio and which was reinforced by his years in the Senate.

McConnell lit into presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, ticking off a list of issues on which he said she’s so starkly changed positions that it’s “impossible to tell where the conviction ends and the ambition begins.” (The same could be said of Republican nominee Donald Trump and many politicians.)

McConnell then proudly ticked off another list: legislative accomplishments since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2014, including major education and highway bills and most recently landmark legislation shifting the nation’s approach to opioid control from punishment to treatment.

Then, disappointingly, MConnell ran off the rails and onto the fear bandwagon when he tried to blame Democrats for Congress’ failure to fund a plan for combating the Zika virus, something President Barack Obama requested in February. “As we sit here tonight, a terrifying mosquito-borne illness threatens expectant mothers and their babies along our southern coast. Just last week Clinton Democrats in the Senate blocked a bill aimed at eradicating that virus before it can spread.” (The Republicans in Cleveland would happily have believed that Clinton is sneaking around at night personally injecting people with the virus.)

What sunk the Zika bill is Republicans’ fixation on contraception and Planned Parenthood. Democrats rejected GOP poison pills restricting funding for contraception. The dispute is more than partisan sniping. Contraception and education about sexually transmitted disease are vital to preventing birth defects and adult cases of Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and sexual contact. Last week, the first Zika sexual transmission from a female to a male was documented, which might move the male-dominated Congress. Alas, the members are on break until after Labor Day. The height of this country’s mosquito season and the Olympics in Brazil, site of an early outbreak of the virus, will likely pass with no action on Zika by the Republican-controlled Congress.

We’ll note that none other than Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate, was the first to attempt to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007 when he was in the House.

Republicans also are trying to use Zika funding to loosen environmental restrictions on pesticide use. So it took some nerve for McConnell to accuse Senate Democrats of being cynical.

Alvarado, a physician who lives in Winchester and the first Hispanic elected to the Kentucky legislature, used his family’s uplifting story to invite other Hispanics into the Republican tent, saying they share “traditional family values, church, faith in God, the dignity of work, and the opportunity for self-sufficiency that comes from a free society and a limited government.”

The son of a Costa Rican and Argentinian, Alvarado said many factors motivate immigrants — corruption, crime, anarchy, hunger, despair. What draws them is the American dream of opportunity and abundance.

We wish we had heard Melania Trump’s immigrant story — she grew up in Slovenia when it was still Communist Yugoslavia and moved to Milan at 18 to launch a fashion modeling career — rather than Michelle Obama’s filched bromides.

The Trump campaign’s fumbling of the plagiarism backlash and Sen. Ted Cruz’s repudiation of the nominee just before Pence took the stage show that surly resentment alone guarantees neither a skilled campaign or presidency.