Some Kentucky Politicians Make Sense

steve beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

If nothing else, Gov. Steve Beshear has shown the country that not all Kentucky politicians are “wacko birds” and partisan obstructionists who think the Affordable Care Act is the spawn of Satan.

Beshear, a moderate Democrat who doesn’t equate compromise with surrender, was on MSNBC twice recently. He said the ACA, President Obama’s greatest legislative achievement, will be a boon, not a bane, for the Bluegrass State, where I have lived all 63 years of my life.

“We need a big tool to make transformational change,” the governor said. “It’s the law of the land; it’s a tool that I can use to change this state for the good for the next generation and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Beshear conceded that the ACA is “not perfect.” He’s “sure we could come up with two or three different changes in it.”

The Republicans wouldn’t help Beshear or anybody else improve the law. They want to kill it. To that end, the GOP is “weaving a web of misinformation and deception,” Beshear said.

He didn’t name names. But Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell are front and center among the web weavers.

Paul, a freshman, is one of the tea party “wacko birds,” according to Sen. John McCain, a fellow Republican. McConnell, the senate minority leader, famously said in 2011 that his “single most important goal” was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Hence, whatever Obama and the Democrats are for, McConnell and the GOP are against, and vice versa. The Republicans are even cool with shutting down the federal government to get their way.

“If the doctors told Sen. McConnell he had a kidney stone, he would refuse to pass it,” zinged Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s almost certain opponent in next year’s senate race.

McConnell brags that he’s the longest serving senator in Bluegrass State history. But greatness requires more than just longevity.

“Senator No” couldn’t carry Sen. Henry Clay’s hat. Clay is, by far, Kentucky’s greatest political leader. (Clay was also a speaker of the house, secretary of state and three-time presidential candidate.)

Unlike McConnell and Paul, Clay considered compromise a virtue. Dubbed “The Great Pacificator,” he brokered a trio of historic North-South agreements to save the Union and stave off civil war.

Clay was a devout Whig. But he always elevated the Union and sectional harmony above party politics. He invited Democratic help with his compromises. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, a Democratic presidential candidate in 1860, was a prime mover in the Compromise of 1850, Clay’s last and most important compromise.

Compromise didn’t mean capitulation to Clay. “What is a compromise?” he rhetorically asked in his speech supporting the Compromise of 1850. “It is a work of mutual concession – an agreement in which there are reciprocal stipulations – a work in which, for the sake of peace and concord, one party abates his extreme demands in consideration of an abatement of extreme demands by the other party: it is a measure of mutual concession – a measure of mutual sacrifice….”

Clay didn’t live to see 11 Southern states secede in 1860-1861 because they were scared Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans would abolish slavery. While Clay put the Union first, white Southerners put their slaves and their section first. (When Clay died in 1852, Lincoln, then a Whig, eulogized Clay as his “beau ideal of a statesman.”)

Doubtless, Lincoln would be scorned as a RINO – “Republican In Name Only” in the GOP of McConnell and Paul. Clay would be unwelcome, too, for uttering “heresies” like, “All legislation, all government, all society is founded upon the principle of mutual concession, politeness, comity, courtesy; upon these everything is based.”

Berry CraigClay added, “Let him who elevates himself above humanity, above its weaknesses, its infirmities, its wants, its necessities, say, if he pleases, I will never compromise; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromises.”

The disdainer Paul sits in Clay’s senate seat. Though I live in deep western Kentucky, I can almost hear the Great Pacificator spinning in his marble tomb in Lexington, his hometown in the Bluegrass.

Berry Craig

Thursday, 10 October 2013

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