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Bill Straub: Kentuckians excel at picking racehorses and UK ballgame spreads, not so much DC reps

Kentuckians over the decades have exhibited a great knack for picking the exacta at Keeneland and coming down on the right side of the point spread at UK basketball game.

But that acumen seems to escape them when it comes time to choose their representatives in Washington, where winners have proved few and far between.

The Commonwealth has long been saddled with Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, of Louisville, whose flaws are well documented and, just now it seems, are rising to public perception.

But the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that have beset the Commonwealth, the rest of the nation and the globe for that matter in wake of the COVID-19 epidemic have shown a bright light on two other dubious talents in the Kentucky delegation – Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, and our old friend, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty.

KyForward’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.

Paul, you may recall, was the first member of the U.S. Senate to contract the novel coronavirus although he never exhibited any of the symptoms. He attended a function where one of the participants was found to have been infected. The senator got it checked out but went about his normal business – including a swim in the Senate pool – rather than enter quarantine as generally recommended until the results rolled in. Of course, his test was positive, forcing others he had come in contact with into solitary.

Now one might think that exposing an untold number of people to COVID-19, albeit unintentionally – including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, whose wife suffers multiple sclerosis – that our boy Rand might choose to lay low for a while, mutter incoherently to himself rather than subject other unfortunates to his usual gibberish and vote against efforts to right the ship, which, after all, is what he does best.

But no. In addition to opposing the admittedly expensive recovery initiatives, Paul has decided to weigh in on the efforts of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, for attempting to waylay the bug’s spread by essentially shutting the commonwealth’s doors for an extended spell and hanging up a closed sign.

Beshear, who was hit in the mouth with all this a scant three months after assuming office while simultaneously dealing with a legislature in session, has to this point received glowing reviews statewide and nationally. Even the GOP-dominated General Assembly has been somewhat muted, although some lawmakers tried to make hay during the session’s final day over the issue of, of course, abortion and why the practice was allowed to continue during the wide-spread economic activity shutdown.

Paul was more direct, accusing Beshear of “totalitarianism” because of limitations placed on protestors around the Capital who want the Commonwealth to ease economic restrictions and his desire that places of worship decline to meet communally until the crisis has passed.

“Usually in a totalitarian state they first shut down dissent, then they shut down religion,” Paul wrote on Twitter. “Gov. Beshear did it backwards, but still the same result.”

Now coupling Andy Beshear with the Uncle Joe Stalins of the world for attempting to secure constituents from a widespread and potentially fatal malady like COVID-19 would, to most folks at least, appear to be a step too far, even for a twit like Rand Paul. But even before that incident, Paul was leaning on Beshear for asserting that state police would take down the license plate numbers of those attending Easter services – ordered to advise folks flouting social distancing requirements that they should quarantine themselves for 14 days to suppress the potential spread of the bug. Advice that Paul had infamously ignored.

And now, of course, Paul is pushing for the quick reopening of the American economy, ready or not, because it is being “strangled by quarantine.”

“The one choice that will get our economy growing again is reopening American commerce,” Paul said during a floor speech offered in opposition to a measure appropriating an additional $484 billion for small businesses suffering under the corvid-19 restrictions.

“This economic calamity will only be resolved when we begin to reopen the economy,” he added.

Of course, that could take a while. There is no vaccination available to thwart the virus, although researchers in Britain are beginning the analysis on one. There remains insufficient testing to determine just how many folks are carrying the bug, thanks to the inexplicable inaction of President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, who twiddled his thumbs and played golf for weeks while word was circulating about the global menace.

The one thing that can be done, and is being done, under present conditions, is isolation so the disease doesn’t continue to jump from one person to the other. Reports are coming in that some states, including Kentucky, are beginning to see incidences of the malady plateau, hopefully leading to a decline. But even then, abandoning the safeguards in place could result in a backlash, a potentially worse experience than what has thus far been experienced.

Not to sound morbid but as of this writing, there were more than 833,000 cases reported in the U.S., resulting in more than 46,000 deaths. Fatalities are likely to exceed 60,000 in May.

All of that is better than the original estimates of the Centers for Disease Control, which offered a worst-case scenario estimating between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. would be infected by the disease and 200,000 to 1.7 million would die as a result. The intervention by individual states closing up shop and requiring residents to remain home with certain exemptions has proved relatively successful – relatively only if you can call limiting deaths to somewhere under 200,000 a good deal.

Breaching the dike post-haste could, therefore, prove disastrous. But the ball is starting to roll. Trump is urging folks to get out and protest the necessary closures damaging the economy and he has placed Paul on a bipartisan task force that will allegedly consider the best time and safest ways to get Americans back to work.

“Deaths from infectious disease will continue” when commerce returns, Paul noted, “but we cannot continue to indefinitely quarantine.”

Perhaps not but you might want to consider the opinions of folks who know what the heck they’re talking about before you wander into the quicksand. What Paul seems to be acknowledging is that more folks will die if he gets his way than if the nation follows the advice of the experts and continues social distancing until the coast is clear.

There’s no question the U.S. will face difficulties if it continues on the present path. People are losing jobs, going broke, the economy is in the can and folks are understandably getting impatient. The federal debt is growing by leaps and bounds (let’s forget for a moment that Paul contributed to that by championing a disastrous tax cut a few months back).

But the alternative is people dying when alternative tracks are available. Portraying a governor who opted to protect people’s lifeblood over capitalistic principles as totalitarian adds nothing to the debate. And perhaps Sen. Paul would like to have the opportunity to determine who lives or dies under his scenario, grabbing a seat at the Coliseum in Rome, giving a thumbs up or down.

Then, of course, there’s Wonder Boy Massie, or, as Trump characterized him, a “third-rate grandstander.”

Massie, rather infamously, balked at the first stimulus bill resulting from the COVID-19 fallout, a $2 trillion package, delaying approval and forcing lawmakers to return to Washington during the height of the coronavirus scare rather than allowing it to pass quickly without objection. Both Democrats and Republicans took him to task. It wasn’t the first time Massie had thrown a monkey wrench into the proceedings, and it won’t be the last. He is not, obviously, a favorite among his congressional cohorts.

The maneuver placed his challenger in the Republican primary for the 4th congressional district seat, Ft. Mitchell attorney Todd McMurtry, in the spotlight. The animus toward Massie was so great that Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the third-highest ranking House Republican, contributed to McMurtry’s campaign.

But that didn’t last long. A McMurtry tweet from six months ago revealed that he described himself with the rather curious hashtag “#racist,” raising questions about just what the hell was he thinking.

That was too much even for Republicans. Cheney demanded her money back.

Kentucky, you sure can pick ‘em.

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One Comment

  1. Chris Aldridge says:

    Straub, you are such a hack that it’s comical. If Mitch cured cancer, you’d still hate him!

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