October 2, 2007

Who’s who behind the scenes in the Fletcher administration?

Story of the day: OK, it’s not a story. But it should be. Aren’t you curious to know which members of Gover-not Ernie Fletcher’s inner circle convinced him to adopt the fatally flawed strategy that has characterized his administration and is crippling his re-election hopes? If not, you should be. And our newspapers should be telling us.When the merit-system hiring scandal broke, Fletcher was on an economic-development trip to Japan. His initial reaction was the correct one: He promised to find the “unvarnished truth” and, if necessary, make changes.But when he got home and had the chance to meet with his inner circle — known among the media as the “disciples” because several share Fletcher’s fundamentalist religious views — the Gover-not changed his mind and, instead of taking responsibility, launched an attack on Attorney General Greg Stumbo for conducting a “political witch hunt.”That was his strategy then and it remains his strategy now. It led him down the road of stonewalls, cover-ups, indictments and pardons. It led him to take the Fifth when asked to testify before a grand jury. It undermined his credibility and overshadowed his accomplishments.In what amounted to an official mea culpa, Fletcher signed his name to a plea-bargain agreement, saying that Stumbo’s investigation was proper and necessary. But even before the ink was dry, he was yelling “witch hunt” again. What honorable man would sign his name to something he didn’t believe was true? To this day, the Fletcherites are sticking to the “witch hunt” charges. Never mind that polls taken by The Courier-Journal prove conclusively that the public sees through the smoke generated by the Fletcherites’ hype machine. The newspaper reported Wednesday that a large majority of those polled strongly approve of Stumbo’s job performance.Supposedly, the same geniuses who orchestrated the “witch hunt” strategy are behind the Gover-not’s decision to base his re-election campaign almost exclusively on his opposition to casino gambling — a position he took only after Steve Beshear, who supports a statewide referendum on the issue, won the Democratic nomination in May.By almost all accounts, the voters still are seeing through Fletcher’s smoke. The polls indicate that a vast majority wants at least the right to vote on the issue. Heedless, Fletcher plunges on, even stooping to use a child actress to read lies about Stumbo in a couple of his TV commercials.So who are these “disciples” who apparently have taken over the Govern-not’s soul? At one time or another in the last four years, their ranks have included Daniel Groves, Stan Cave, John Roach, Brian Crall, Robbie Rudolph, Dick Murgatroyd, LaJuana Wilcher, Brett Hall and Fletcher’s wife, Glenna. Are there others? If so, who are they? Were they unanimous in talking Fletcher into adopting strategies that were fatally flawed? Wasn’t there even one “disciple” who might have said, “Uh, Ernie, we’re getting into a Watergate mentality here. The cover-up always is worse than the crime. Let’s do the right thing and take responsibility.” If anybody said that to the “disciples,” he or she must have been declared an infidel and stripped of club privileges. Because come hell, high water or the grand jury, Fletcher has never strayed from his party line, no matter how many holes have been shot through it.I’d like to see one of our major newspapers do some digging and give us the story about what has gone on behind the scenes in the Fletcher administration. Which of the “disciples” holds the most sway? Why have they stuck with a strategy long after it has proven to be not only ineffective, but also damaging?Who convinced Fletcher that he needed to keep secret the list of donors to his legal defense fund instead of voluntarily releasing the information in the interest of full disclosure?Unfortunately, instead of pursuing these sort of the stories, the newspapers have allowed the Fletcherites to lead them on another kind of “witch hunt.”The Fletcherites floated the idea that Beshear may have been guilty of ethical violations during his law firm’s handling of the 15-year-old Kentucky Central Insurance case. The media, eager to prove it’s not biased against Fletcher, took the bait and ran with it. As a result, reporters from the state’s largest newspaper have been diverted from covering the campaign to chasing an old story that apparently won’t amount to more than a blip on the screen.Or, as Fletcher might put it, the reporters have been “noodling.”Flush It: Speaking about Democrats, Fletcher said, “It’s going to take more than four years to turn around decades and decades of these kind of folks being down there (in Frankfort). The last thing we want is for them to come back.”What do you mean “we,” Kemo Sabe?News and notes: Fletcher owes an apology to Vicki Glass, spokesperson for the Beshear campaign. Angry that Glass was holding a tape recorder near his face as he was talking with the media, Fletcher pushed her hand out of the way with what the Courier described as “a quick upward stroke of his right hand.”C’mon, Ernie. There’s no reason for that sort of boorish behavior. All you had to do was say, “Vicki, would you please move that recorder a little farther away?” Looks as if Ernie belongs in the same boat with Mike Grundy, the Oklahoma State football coach who tongue-lashed a female reporter in an ugly tirade earlier in the week.Thought for the day: “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” (Andrew Carnegie). Kentucky Hall of Fame journalist Billy Reed’s political columns may be found at www.StraightNFlush.com. Contact the writer at citystrobe@leoweekly.com