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Bill Straub: Since it’s baseball season, let’s bat some things around – oops, out of strikes already


It’s baseball season once again — thank the lord — so let’s toss it around-the-horn political style:

First. Give Rep. Thomas Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, credit – he’s not afraid to make a fool out of himself. And this time Wonder Boy, as the old saying goes, did it in front of God and everybody.

Massie serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, presumably because the chamber’s GOP leadership feels obligated to put him somewhere. Last week during a hearing he became involved in a kerfuffle with former senator and secretary of state John Kerry.

The subject was global climate change and Massie, who maintains that human activity may not be contributing to the phenomenon, sought to lay groundwork showing that Kerry, who has raised the seriousness of the issue, did not have the credentials to discuss it.

Of course Massie, in that half-cute way of his, went about it all wrong, hinting that Kerry was trying to pass himself off as a scientist even though his bachelor’s degree from Yale was in political science, which the Whiz Kid termed a “pseudo-science’’ that isn’t anything like chemistry or biology or any other discipline in the scientific field.

Take that libtard!

The problem is Kerry never made any claim to being a scientist but he knows enough about the subject to negotiate the landmark Paris climate agreement, based on the overwhelming consensus of climatologists that carbon dioxide, much of it man-made, is warming the planet in a way that could result in disaster if remedial steps aren’t taken.

Andy Barr

Even though he isn’t a scientist, and, once again, never claimed to be, Kerry has science on his side. Massie, with a pair of engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, does not. Nor, apparently, does he have any common sense.

“Are you serious?” Kerry asked Massie at one juncture, to the laughter of the audience “I mean, this is really seriously happening here?”

Good questions.

Second. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, a notorious empty suit, thought he was being smart when he invited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, to visit Kentucky and tour a coal mine to “meet the men and women who do heroic work to power the American economy.” This after Ocasio-Cortez, author of the Green New Deal, which would, among other things, ratchet down the use of coal as an energy source, raised the issue of global climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez readily accepted and almost immediately thereafter some folks in the Republican ranks started to worry that it was not such a hot idea. Ocasio-Cortez is smart, photogenic and has attracted a lot of attention during her first year in Congress as a proclaimed democratic socialist. And her environmental package funds coal miners’ pensions, which is sure to attract some support.

“I think a lot of Republicans are making a mistake picking on her,” Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, said on the television program “Hey Kentucky!” “I think we need to be very prepared when we debate her on issues that we’re having a hard time with.”

So Barr is using a ruse to disinvite Ocasio-Cortez, claiming she spoke rudely about another congressman, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-TX, after he criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN, for her characterization of the attacks on 9/11.

Unless Ocasio-Cortez apologizes to Crenshaw, Barr said, he intends to withdraw his offer.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Such humiliation!

Now forget for a minute that Barr’s congressional district has just about as many coal mines within its borders as Ocasio-Cortez’s home in the Bronx and remember that individuals, whether they happen to be members of Congress or not, can freely travel from one state to another without having to produce a visa. She doesn’t need his permission to cross the street or, if she so opts, to visit Harlan County.

And she may do so, with Barr as her tour guide or not. If she comes, the cameras likely will follow. Anyone who suspects she can’t hold her own is making a grave mistake.

Third. Comer, on that same “Hey Kentucky!” telecast, predicted that Gov. Matt “Yosemite Sam’’ Bevin could face “a rough road to being re-elected’’ and that “if the election were today he would lose.” But he cushioned that view by adding “when November rolls around I would still say that by then after he’s been able to advertise the conservative message that he’ll be the one probably to beat in the end.”

“If you’re an incumbent and you’re a Republican in Kentucky, you have an advantage,” Comer said.

Now it’s important to remember here that Comer and St. Matt of New Hampshire aren’t exactly bosom buddies. Comer barely lost to Bevin in the vicious 2015 Republican gubernatorial primary and has remained critical of him during the ensuing three-plus years, contemplating a run against Mad Matt in this year’s GOP primary before backing off.

Mitch McConnell

It’s safe to say Bevin is not popular, with good reason. He is, in fact, one of the nation’s least popular governors and his miscues, arrogant demeanor and ignorance are the stuff of legend. Why, for instance, would a governor choose to criticize University of Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz, whose team was ranked number one in the nation at one point, after it lost to the University of Connecticut in the Elite Eight? All because Walz chided him for failing to congratulate his team for making the tournament?

Bevin has been a massive failure and he’s done it with aplomb. As Comer noted, St. Matt “won’t go down in history as being the greatest governor in the history of Kentucky.”

No kidding.

But the Commonwealth, already politically conservative, is becoming increasingly so as demographics take much of the nation in a different direction. As long as Kentucky voters feel their culture is under attack from outside forces, aka “the elites,” they’ll grudgingly stick with the likes of Bevin who will continue to embrace their way of life. He is likely to slide through regardless of who the Democrats offer, be it former State Auditor Adam Edelen, State House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins or Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Rounding third and heading for home we run into our old pal, Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell, of Louisville, who launched his re-election campaign for a historic seventh term with an ad promoting his ties to President Trump – who remains popular in the commonwealth – and his ongoing efforts to stack the federal courts with conservative judges.

Root-‘n-Branch also posted his campaign site on social media, which included a video of Trump calling him “Kentucky tough.”

Like Bevin, McConnell is unpopular, not only in the Commonwealth but the nation as a whole, where he has shown time and time again that he places the aspirations of the Republican Party above the needs of the nation. With him, it’s always party over country. As noted by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, McConnell has transformed what was once described as the world’s greatest deliberative body into a “partisan lap dog’’ for a president who is in well over his head.

There is an argument to be made that McConnell is the worst lawmaker ever to serve in the position of majority leader. The competition isn’t very close, really. And, like Bevin, he likely will glide to victory as he continues to scare people into believing his opponents are trying to bury their culture.

Kentucky should be so proud.

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.


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