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July 11, 2006

Bluegrass Report: The Godfather speaks, silently

When Jack Richardson IV, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, unambiguously denounced Gov. Ernie Fletcher last week, it was yet another indication that Republican godfather Mitch McConnell has finally decided to intervene and stem the bleeding of his political party. And by mobilizing people like Richardson, who accused Fletcher of “political ineptitude” and urged him not to seek re-election, it’s clear the Godfather is using surrogates to push Fletcher off the cliff, once and for all.

Richardson’s comments came a day after Fletcher announced that his newly reformulated re-election campaign (after replacing Lt. Gov. Steve Pence with Robbie Rudolph) had raised more than $300,000 in campaign funds in just a few weeks.

But the timing of Richardson’s remarks was no coincidence, coming on the heels of similarly critical comments from Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville), who declared he and fellow Republicans had “serious doubts” about Fletcher’s re-electability. Williams’ comments came immediately after a successful special legislative session, and, like Richardson’s, had the effect of raining on Fletcher’s parade at the worst possible moment and confirming that the effort to topple the Fletcher administration from within is well under way. And the palace guards are leading the charge.

About the same time, the results of an internal national Republican Party poll were leaked, in full, to conservative publisher Lowell Reese of The Kentucky Gazette. It showed Fletcher getting trounced by Rep. Ben Chandler (D) in a hypothetical 2007 match-up, by a 55-28 margin.

While careful to keep distance from the public dirty work of his political henchmen, McConnell nevertheless managed to send his own subtle message about Fletcher’s political health.

Last week, after an event with top Republicans in Louisville to announce the building of a new veterans’ hospital, McConnell was asked for his assessment of Fletcher’s political trouble. McConnell responded, “I sort of make it a point to keep up on Frankfort, but I don’t have any observations to make.” Asked if he endorses Fletcher, McConnell declined and said, “I really haven’t given it any thought.”

Conspicuously absent from the event was Fletcher himself — hardly an oversight when it comes to big political events like these.

But while McConnell has managed to stay generally tight-lipped about the misfortunes of the man he’s credited with electing as the first Republican governor in 32 years, evidence of McConnell’s influence is increasingly clear, particularly in hindsight.

Six weeks ago, conservative political commentator John David Dyche penned an especially critical op-ed of Fletcher in The Courier-Journal, titled “For Fletcher, his term as Governor ‘is effectively over.’” Dyche’s piece ran the day after the May primary election. And while Dyche denied any McConnell role in his column, it’s worth noting that Dyche is presently writing a biography about McConnell.

Several months before, McConnell loyalists were able to torpedo Fletcher’s effort to remove Darrell Brock as chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. It was a dramatic emasculation of a sitting governor and particularly noteworthy since it was McConnell himself who privately told Fletcher to do that very thing a few months earlier. At the time, Fletcher refused.

But McConnell’s influence over recent events has created some cracks in the historically smooth façade of his political empire, particularly with the state’s junior U.S. senator, Jim Bunning (R).

Word is Bunning became furious with the McConnell-led machinations following a private meeting of the state’s federal Republican delegation in Washington to discuss Fletcher’s fate. Bunning didn’t support getting involved in Fletcher’s affairs at that time.

But shortly after that meeting, Lt. Governor Pence (R) opted to leave the 2007 ticket in a very public manner, and McConnell’s surrogates then swung into action. The normally intemperate Bunning let his anger showcase itself when he took a barely-veiled public jab at McConnell’s opposition to the flag-burning amendment — which failed in the Senate by just one vote.
But McConnell’s efforts continued without skipping a beat.

Ultimately, for those waiting for McConnell to appear before us and unambiguously declare Fletcher’s days done, well, you might be waiting a very long time.

Instead, it’s important to focus on the nuance and the aggregate comments made by a variety of Republican surrogates, particularly those known to be close to McConnell.

Be sure to pay close attention, because it’s not every day you get a chance to watch political theater like this, especially when it comes to a top U.S. senator finishing off a governor of his own party still in his first term.

Mark Nickolas is publisher of the political blog BluegrassReport.org. Contact him at Mark@BluegrassReport.org

Mark Nickolas:ruining reputations or honest journalist?

By cc

Mark Nickolas has certainly made a lot of innuendoes in this column. First he is implying that John David Dyche might not be less than honest when Dyche said that McConnell had no role in Dyche’s May op-ed -- because Dyche simply is writing a biography on McConnell. Oooookaaaay.

Second, Mark is implying that McConnell is in charge of and the architect of distancing other Republican officials from Fletcher.

Third, Mark is implying that McConnell and Bunning are now mad at each other after a private meeting of Republicans in Washington regarding Fletcher. Hmmmm ... does Mark Nickolas have a Republican insider that attends private meetings with high republican elected officials? ... I doubt it.

Bear with me while I point out three things.

First, For some reason it seems as though Mark Nickolas wants to tarnish the Dyche name. On Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Mark Nickolas posted a thread titled, “More Judiciary Problems.” Mark’s “source” for his post is: an email from a reader of his blogsite. The entire thread is designed to be inflammatory and degrade both Judge Jane Dyche and Judge Robert Dyche. By cutting & pasting the alleged letter from the alleged reader, Mark Nickolas is implying that since Judge Jane Dyche is the President-Elect of the KBA for next year, Judge Jane Dyche will be in a position to have the entire KBA allow for Judge Robert Dyche to receive retirement salary plus his regular salary.

I hate to say this, again, but Mark’s post, I believe -- is only meant to imply that both Judge Dyche’s AND the entire KBA are unethical with absolutely no solid proof to his innuendo. It is not only preposterous to charge that every member of the KBA would allow for a Judge to be unethical but also an ugly-style and mean-spirited style of writing. Why would Mark do that? Why would Mark start a thread where his source is an email he received from a reader? Doesn’t that sound like the style of writing one would get off of a bathroom wall? So, okay, maybe Mark just has it in for the Dyche family? But, why would Mark have it in for the Dyches?

My second point is that while it is no new news that Fletcher has been in political and legal hot water for a very long time. It is equally no new news or surprise that any, if not all, Republican elected officials would want to publicly steer clear of the governor. That, in itself, is no new political shuffle. In fact, it happens all the time, in every election, all over the country. If one political leader is in hot water with constituents, other elected officials in the same party try to distance themselves from that politian.

Consequently, while it is true that republicans across the state are indeed distancing themselves from Fletcher, that does NOT mean that Mitch McConnell is the “Godfather” of Fletcher’s political demise. In fact, it sounds more like “politics as usual.”

My third point is that for some unknown reason Mark Nickolas would like for us to believe that somehow Mark Nickolas, of all people, has a “Republican insider” that attended a private Republican meeting. Also, Mark would like us to believe that Mark’s Republican insider told Mark Nickolas about the content of that private meeting. Now, I certainly don’t think that with Mark Nickolas’ perpetual republican-bashing reputation that Mark would actually have an “insider” that would be so high up to have attended a private meeting with high republican elected leaders. My point is that Mark Nickolas appears to be stating something as “fact” that may not necessarily have any basis to it. Maybe there is NO Republican insider? Maybe there was a meeting and Mark is GUESSING what MIGHT have gone on in the meeting? No mention in his article about any “insider.“ So, is that “fact” or “innuendo?“ If there is NO insider, how would Mark KNOW what went on behind closed doors? By the way, who really cares if Bunning is mad at McConnell?

On a side note. Mark Nickolas filed a law suit against some KY. state officials claiming that Mark’s First Amendment Rights have been violated. In the suit, Mark’s lawyer describe Mark as, “an online journalist.” I am no lawyer but if Mark is free to write his blog I do not see how Mark’s First Amendment rights are being violated. Plus, I think it is a stretch for Mark Nickolas to don the title of “journalist.” I believe journalists are held accountable for their “truth” in writing about people, places and trends. I would think that a “journalist” would need to have credible sources, report data correctly, and main unbiased in their writing. Mark Nickolas does not always have credible sources, he reports data INcorrectly, reports misleading and sometimes FALSE information, and is clearly not an unbiased writer. In other words, I have the belief that Mark Nickolas does not practice “truth” in reporting ... and hence ... I don’t know, but I think Mark is more intent on ruining peoples reputations as opposed to honest journalism.