July 17, 2007

A robot took his place

Fletcher and GOP chair Robertson dispatch robocalls mischaracterizing Democratic walkout in Frankfort. Like this pair has any room to talk about valuesHad Justice or God or any sort of unbiased spirit in which you endeavor to believe been on the side of Democrats after they walked out of the House of Representatives two weeks ago in protest of Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s campaign-booster of a special session in Frankfort, taxpayers would be heaving praise at them for putting a stop to a citizen-subsided campaign event. And, naturally, the Democrats wouldn’t be left to explain to the people whose phones were targeted by a shrewdly political Republican campaign last Monday that their walkout didn’t mean they’d just voted to reanimate Saddam Hussein and send him to perform a coat-hanger abortion on your gay daughter’s in-vitro fetus. Alas, rare is Justice in forgotten places that are left to pigs. Phones jangled and beeped like off-time alarms across Kentucky on that day; on the other end of the line was some watery mp3-voice ascribing all kinds of twisted meaning to the Democrats’ decision to abandon the $60,000-a-day session — just the gist for average Kentuckians, as paid for by the Republican Party of Kentucky. The point of the calls, according to state GOP chairman Steve Robertson, was to hold House Democrats “accountable” for not dealing with a proposal to give a government handout to a major coal company. The party made more than 150,000 calls in 40 Democratic districts. Of course, they were targeted to specific members — if your district is near Fort Knox, for instance, the Republicans said you voted against the troops. The low-rent political stunt has offered occasion for a quick reexamination of the GOP record, particularly Fletcher’s. Let’s see what the robocalls said about Democrats, and then put that up against the GOP record, shall we?One call explained that the House’s vote to adjourn was a vote against Kentucky’s soldiers — one of Fletcher’s 67 agenda items would have exempted active-duty members of the military from state income taxes. As a U.S. Representative (KY-6, 1999-2003), Fletcher voted to authorize the Iraq war; more than 70 percent of the American public now believes American forces should withdraw, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released last week. So what is Fletcher’s solution for sending Kentuckians (and, of course, so many Americans) into a war we now know was based on false pretenses and, as many experts predicted, has fallen into a horrible and violent civil war in which American troops don’t belong? Buy them with a tax break! The first time Fletcher brought it up was at a Louisville airport, where he was “welcoming home” a clutch of soldiers from Afghanistan. And that was a different position than the governor had taken the year before — in fact, it was the opposite position. Imagine that. But that assessment of Fletcher’s supporting-the-troops-ness is admittedly shallow. It overlooks the 2005 flap over HB 441, a bill brought by Republican Rep. Marie Rader, R-89, that would’ve given Iraq veterans a combination hunting and fishing license for $5 annually, plus four free park passes (including overnight accommodations) at a state park. At the time, according to the bill, some 6,650 vets would’ve qualified, setting the Department of Fish and Wildlife back about $630,000 a year. The House passed the bill. It soon died in the Senate, however, after an inexplicable counteroffensive from the Fletcher administration. A state government source told BluegrassReport.org at the time that, simply, “They didn’t want her to bring it, and they didn’t want it to pass.” Seemed like a small enough token of appreciation for veterans of the Fletcher-Bush Iraq war. Let’s look at the other option for fresh high school graduates: college. Another robocall, predictably surgical in its placement, accused House Democrats of denying more than $2 million in funding to the University of Kentucky. For those of us paying attention, that’s one of the 28 university projects vetoed by Fletcher just a few months ago, during the regular session. Other matters of sudden urgency killed by Fletcher before Paris Hilton did time: about $65 million for renovations and new construction at the University of Louisville. Of course, that — along with the university’s domestic partner benefits that Fletcher and his hate cabal are trying to quash — may help draw more smart people to Kentucky, which stands in direct opposition to the GOP’s fear-and-loathing campaign of vote getting. But enough with the low-hanging fruit. “You can’t taint water that’s already filthy,” chairman Robertson told the Lexington Herald-Leader for a story about the robocalls last week, abdicating his responsibility for adding salt to the gaping wound Fletcher’s political special session has opened. That was also about the time he called on Jonathan Miller, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, to resign over the House walkout. With his gall displayed in shimmering full relief, Robertson said the walkout was a political move orchestrated by Miller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear. Here was the crux of Robertson’s argument, issued last week in a press release: By helping orchestrate the House walkout, Miller is playing politics with the taxpayer money that funds his salary as State Treasurer, and he should resign one of the two posts. (Miller takes no salary as party chairman; Robertson’s is reportedly more than $100,000.) Speaking of taxpayer money funding political moves, let’s look at Robertson’s job just prior to this one, when he was commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Local Development. During the merit system investigation, it was revealed that Fletcher had intended to use GOLD and a subsidiary organization, Local Initiatives in Kentucky (LINK), to dole out funding to counties actively supportive of the Fletcher administration and coming re-election campaign. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported in February that nearly $14 million had gone to community development funds during that month in six counties, all of which were represented by legislators and judge-executives supporting Fletcher’s primary campaign. It seems the water’s been filthy a lot longer than Robertson and friends are ready to admit, and for reasons that they’d just as soon keep in the closet.  Contact the writer at sgeorge@leoweekly.com