Op-Ed

Paul: Clueless in Kentucky

Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, spoke at the 130th Fancy Farm Picnic Aug. 7.
Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, spoke at the 130th Fancy Farm Picnic Aug. 7.

Cue up Cream's Strange Brew for another trip to the land of Rand Paul and the Tea Party movement.

Sure, that means other worthy topics will be limited to cameo appearances today:

Final thoughts on the political theatrics at the 130th Annual Fancy Farm Picnic (somewhat boring this year): Senate President David Williams' search for a No. 2 on his gubernatorial slate (Richie Farmer, please call home if you want to let someone else use your popularity to get elected governor); Chief of Staff Adam Edelen's impending departure from Gov. Steve Beshear's administration (followed shortly, everyone assumes, by an announcement that he's running for state auditor); the plight of Kentucky's signature Thoroughbred racing industry (best described by H. Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound" quote); even the question on the minds of everyone who lives, works or plays in downtown Lexington: When the (insert deleted expletive of choice) will downtown streets be walkable/drivable again?

And that's just the short list of people and issues shoved into the wings because the darling of the Tea Party movement keeps hogging the spotlight.

Until last week, I didn't know it was "that" kind of Tea Party movement. I knew the dude was from Texas, but I didn't know we were talking about a "Texas Tea Party."

No, I don't mean the stuff fouling the Gulf of Mexico for the past several months. I'm referring to the other Texas tea, the kind that lets you fly Mexican airlines, the stuff we in Kentucky sometimes call wacky backy — and yes, the herbal base for a potent concoction known as "buddha." Throw in a bong, and "Aqua Buddha" starts to make some sense. Worshiping it? Well, that's another matter.

(Note to law enforcement officials: Internet research was necessary for me to bone up on marijuana slang. My relaxation agent of choice is good Kentucky bourbon, mostly consumed in the privacy of my own home.)

(Note to serious stoners: If the slang I plucked from the Internet is dated, obscure or otherwise completely stupid, see the note about bourbon above.)

If true, "Randy" Paul's little college prank certainly moved the needle on the weird meter. Kinky stuff involving blindfolds and chanting tributes to an Aqua Buddha tend to do that.

But kids not only say the darnedest things, they do them as well. And Paul was a college kid at the time.

Kentuckians should be more concerned that, as an adult U.S. Senate candidate, Paul pegs that weird meter on an almost daily basis. And never more so than when he demonstrates that, after 17 years of residing in Kentucky, he doesn't know diddly about the state.

Notice the use of "residing" as opposed to "living." People who "live" somewhere for 17 years will pick up a little knowledge through osmosis even if they don't bother to get out and learn about their surroundings. A person who merely "resides" somewhere is more like the little knickknack that "resides" in the bric-a-brac case hanging on the wall.

A person who has "lived" in Kentucky for 17 years might know how "Bloody Harlan" got its name and that The Dukes of Hazzard was set in the fictional Hazzard (two Z's) County, Georgia, not the Kentucky city of Hazard (one Z).

A person who has "lived" in Kentucky for 17 years might know the community of Fancy Farm is in a dry county and the picnic put on annually by the old folks of St. Jerome Parish is a family affair where no one has to worry about having beer or anything else thrown at them.

Those are just a few items someone who has lived here for several years might know. But there are some things a person who has lived in this state for any amount of time can't help but know.

Right at the top of that list is this fact: Not only is Eastern Kentucky's drug problem "a real pressing issue," it is arguably the region's and the state's most pressing issue. For Paul to think otherwise, he must have spent his 17 years in this state in a cocoon — perhaps paying 24/7 homage to Aqua Buddha.

Drug trafficking and drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky are both symptoms and causes of other state and regional problems.

They are symptoms of the region's poverty, joblessness, corruption, inadequate health care (numbers of doctors) and shortage of drug rehabilitation opportunities.

They are causes of shortened lives (114 overdose deaths in 21 counties in the first two months of this year), fractured families and the crime that has given Kentucky the dubious distinction of having the fastest-growing prison population in the nation. The cost of housing those prisoners cuts into the state's ability to deliver other vital services to its citizens.

Not "a real pressing issue"? Only someone who is totally clueless would say that, or suggest that Eastern Kentucky's drug epidemic can be cured at the local level without any federal help.

Which suggests to me Paul's opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, got it a bit wrong when he said at Fancy Farm Paul just wants to be "prince of cable TV."

Clown of cable TV I'll believe. Prince? No.

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