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Bill Straub: Bevin has high-flying aspirations; loves taxpayer-owned airplane, fending off immigrants

Give Gov. Matt Bevin credit. His highfalutin aspirations are frantically taking him from local embarrassment to national laughingstock.

Say what you will, but the man we lovingly call St. Matt the Divine of New Hampshire continues to display grand ambitions. And there appears to be no bottom to the depths he’s willing to plunge to achieve whatever nasty goal he sets.

St. Matt’s inanity consists of more than just the comedy routine that has developed over his obvious misuse of a state-owned aircraft, using it as if it were an Uber service transporting him to pick up a latte at Starbucks when the caffeine gods strike. It also involves, in his oily desperation to win re-election in his race against Democrat Attorney General Andy Beshear, overt racism, portraying undocumented immigrants as lawless invaders with face tats endeavoring to “swarm our state.”

Only St. Matt and fellow superhero, President Trump, aka President Extreme Stable Genius, are standing between the brown hordes of Latin America and the innocents of the Commonwealth, rising to oppose any effort by a Kentucky town to become a so-called sanctuary city, a move that would offer legal protections to women and children who have crossed the southern border in search of a better life.

The message can be found in a 30-second television ad running in September and October, part of a $3.7 million media effort by the Bevin re-election campaign to convince Kentucky voters that our boy Matt is not the doofus they have come to know and despise.

Gov. Bevin

First, let’s state the obvious – there is no outpost in the Commonwealth seeking to declare itself a sanctuary city, a designation that would result in a refusal to cooperate with some aspects of the federal government’s immigration law.
And there is no reason to believe undocumented immigrants are targeting Kentucky. At one time, farmworkers from Mexico and other points south were welcomed with open arms in the Commonwealth. They were the ones who came annually to help cut and store burley and then, with the task completed, they either returned from whence they came with cash in their pockets or moved to the next job in some other state.

Now, in St. Matt’s telling, it seems those workers are “hurting America, the crime, the cost,” and, by God, St. Matt ain’t gonna let it happen, even though there is no evidence of increased criminal activity from undocumented workers and the jobs they are willing to perform probably end up saving the nation millions.

But by all means, let’s portray that as monsters for St. Matt’s political benefit.

Let’s be honest. There is a real debate to be had over the best way to address border issues, with some of the deliberation dealing with national security. But the argument shouldn’t involve portraying undocumented immigrants as, essentially, outlaws eager to cross over from Del Rio, TX, to rape women and drink the blood of our children. It is the very definition of racism.

And, please, don’t cite the old canard that our boy Matt can’t possibly be cited for racism because he and his wife adopted four children from Ethiopia and that he selected an African-American woman, Jenean Hampton, to run on his slate as lieutenant governor in 2015. Adopting the kids might be noble but it doesn’t afford him carte blanche to spout hateful things about brown-skinned Latinos. And we all know he dumped Hampton like a bad habit when he decided to seek re-election and then treated her like Thursday’s trash by firing most of her already limited staff.

Something struck me this week while watching Ken Burns’ epic program, “Country Music,’’ on PBS. One segment discussed a so-called hillbilly band, The Maddox Brothers and Rose, that was popular in the middle part of the 20th Century. The brothers hailed from Boaz, AL. the progeny of sharecroppers. When times got tough during the Depression, the family, with seven children, commenced to walking – that’s right, walking – from Alabama to California, in search of a better life. They eventually found it.

These folks looking to “swarm our state,” many of them walking to the border from Guatemala and Honduras, are in a sense retracing the path of the Maddox family, looking to create something better for them and their children. The only difference is they were born in a different country. You may want to stop that flow. But they certainly don’t deserve to be portrayed as sporting prison tats on every available space on their bodies or cast them as criminals living off the public dole.

It’s disgusting and absolutely shameful that the sitting governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky would depict people in this fashion.

Now we get to the plane.

Joe Sonka, one of the state’s better reporters with the Louisville Courier Journal, revealed last week that St. Matt has been flying hither and yon over the past few years, piling up more miles than Captain Kirk on Star Trek, using the state plane. And he won’t reveal the purpose of these ventures.

The latest total, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, comes to 67 trips to 29 states over a two-year period. The cost of these outings came to $377,404.50, with 49 percent of the cost reimbursed by the Republican Party of Kentucky, the hosts of conferences St, Matt attended, his campaign fund or our boy personally, meaning Commonwealth taxpayers are still stuck for a cool $193,000, give or take.

St. Matt, as you might expect, isn’t anxious to let folks in on his travel plans, or why he couldn’t just hop on Southwest like the average jamoke.

“Why does it matter what the purpose (of the trip) is?” Bevin asked a reporter from the Bowling Green Daily News. “Did taxpayers pay for it? If they did, then they should know the purpose. If they didn’t pay for it, it’s none of their business.”

Now, as you may have figured, it’s a little difficult to determine if the Commonwealth was properly compensated for the governor’s gadabouts if he is unwilling to disclose where he went or what he was doing. Some of the excursions certainly had legitimate state purposes – like, perhaps, checking out the details of a Russian oligarch dispensing millions of dollars to build an aluminum plant in Greenup County. But perhaps he just felt the urge to coopt the jet to try the cuisine in another state and paying for the joyride just slipped his mind.

Regardless, if he won’t reveal the purpose of the expedition, it opens up a whole can of worms for abuse. The state is left with taking his word that it’s being appropriately compensated paid for the non-governmental usage, and, folks, that’s not nearly good enough.

It has been speculated, here and elsewhere, that St. Matt has his eyes on bigger game – like 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after his BFF, President Extreme Stable Genius, finally takes a powder. It would not be surprising to learn that some of these excursions to test the waters. If such a trek occurred, it certainly wouldn’t be considered a legitimate Commonwealth purpose, and how is anyone supposed to know if compensation was properly made if the purpose remains hush-hush?

It was John Denver who wrote the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane,’’ with the refrain, “Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

Don’t hurry back on our account, governor.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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