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January 19, 2006

Two days in Kentucky: Bush and Fletcher said a few things last week. Here’s what they might’ve said to each other.

It was nice of President George W. Bush to give Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher a ride in the limo that carried him from Louisville International Airport to the Kentucky International Convention Center last week.

After all, Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, has widened the distance between himself and his former protégé so much that it’s now about the width of the Red River Gorge.

Nobody knows for sure what the President and the Governor discussed, of course, but you can bet it wasn’t their latest approval ratings. Recent polling by Survey USA showed Fletcher’s approval rating at a dismal 31 percent in Kentucky, with Bush marginally better at 42 percent.

At that rate, Bush and Fletcher soon will find themselves in the company of UK basketball coach Tubby Smith, which is not the place you want to be this winter.

Only two days before Bush took his war against terrorism to the people in Louisville — well, actually, it was a crowd of boosters that was carefully vetted by the administration — Fletcher had delivered his state of the state address in Frankfort.

A study of the two speeches shows why W. and Ernie are giving Republicans anxiety attacks as they look forward to the fall elections. Both were classic examples of desperate men trying to justify the unjustifiable.

Let’s play with some of their actual quotes to imagine a conversation between the two as their police escort whisked the limo to the KICC.
“I wish I didn’t have to say this,” Bush says, “but we’re still at war. And that’s important for the citizens of this commonwealth to understand. You know, no President ever wants to be President during war. But this war came to us, not as a result of actions we took, it came to us as a result of actions an enemy took on September the 11th, 2001.”
Gov. Fletcher nods sympathetically, then shares with the President the strategy he used in his State of the Commonwealth address to divert attention from the on-going criminal investigation into what an assistant Attorney General has called his administration’s “corrupt political machine.”

“We turned a projected billion-dollar deficit into a $214 million surplus without raising taxes,” the Governor says. “We raised the cigarette tax and reduced smoking. General Fund revenues have expanded without a break for 23 consecutive months. This is easily the longest continuous expansion since at least 1995. Again, without raising taxes.”

Nodding his approval, the President is too polite to mention that the Governor failed to mention the new 7.62 percent tax on telephone, cable and satellite television services, or the new wholesale tax on alcohol. Apparently, those don’t count as tax increases in Ernie World.

As he turns the conversation to the economy, the President offers the Governor a pair of rose-colored glasses with the White House logo on them.

“Things are going good when it comes to job creation, 4.5 million new jobs since April of 2003,” the President says.

Taking off the rose-colored glasses and passing them to the President, the Governor decides not to mention that since Bush took office, only 2 million new jobs have been created, putting him only 12 million new jobs behind the growth rate during the Clinton administration, when 22 million new jobs were created in eight years.
Not to be outdone, the Governor tries out a boast of his own to see how the President will react.

“Since January 2004, more than 65,000 new jobs have been added in the Commonwealth,” Fletcher says, smiling his best Grover Norquist smile.

As the limo nears KICC, the Governor asks the President if he’s ready with an answer in case an Iraq war protestor or two somehow manages to sneak past the security assigned to keep the President from having any actual contact with a dissenter.

“Under any objective measurement, what took place last year in Iraq was remarkable, when you think about it,” Bush says.

The limo chauffer, a Vietnam veteran and devoted union member, almost turns around to tell his two distinguished passengers that by any objective measurement, there were those 846 American soldiers killed and another 5,939 wounded in 2005 alone — a “remarkable” measurement, but probably not the way the President meant it.

But the chauffer holds his tongue when the Governor asks the President to discuss his strategy for cleverly disguising his belief that his fundamentalist religious values should be injected into the public school system.

“So to answer your question,” says the President, “it’s going to be the spread of democracy, itself, that shows folks the importance of separation of church and state. And that is why the constitution written in Iraq is an important constitution, because it separates church for the first time in a modern day constitution in Iraq ...
“The enemy knows that a democracy, as it spreads, will help deal with issues such as the separation of — it will encourage the separation of church and state.”

The Governor looks confused, especially when Bush also expresses concern about the performance of American school kids in science classes — an ever-growing issue in Kentucky where the Governor wants to teach creationism as science.

The President asks the Governor to explain his position.
“What we have from our founding fathers is there was a creator and the assumption there and from self-evident truth was that that creator was an intelligent creator and that he endowed us with certain inalienable rights,” Fletcher says, loosely quoting from the Declaration of Independence.

The limo finally stops and the two leaders get out, promising to continue their discussion sometime soon.

Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com