Forty years ago this week, Ed Ryan, as head of the Courier Journal Frankfort Bureau, began the annual tradition of giving fake Christmas gifts to Kentucky politicians, as a thank you for all the material with which they had given reporters to work during the year about to finish.
Today we live in a very different political world from the one Ed left when he died much too young in 1984. There is more material than ever to work with, but not a lot of good humor and good humor. faith. And with a super-contagious virus resurfacing from a pandemic, and people from every major party viewing the other as a threat to democracy, the humor may seem out of place at this point. But in times like these we could use a smile or a little laugh, Christmas is a time to go back to tradition, and we have a lot of material. So this is it.
There is never a shortage of gift ideas for Kentucky’s greatest journalist in years, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
First, a symbol of the greatest legacy he is likely to leave: a model of the United States Supreme Court building, occupied by the McConnell Court as much as the Roberts Court. He kept Merrick Garland out of the High Court, creating a problem that helped Donald Trump get elected; he stood firm when Trump’s candidate Brett Kavanaugh was in danger; and he helped bring justice to Amy Coney Barrett even as Trump was losing the presidential election.
The model lies in a box of sand, as the leader’s excessive politicization of the tribunal and its resulting right-wing turn has weakened the foundation our highest tribunal needs for the public support of its authority. It’s a staple of our democracy, which is already threatened by over-politicizing the vote-counting process in some states – something McConnell doesn’t seem to care about, probably because it’s mostly done by Republicans.
The senator also gets a piÃ±ata, as Trump, his allies and some Republican Senate candidates try to make him one. After dismissing Trump’s false election claims and blaming him for the January 6 riot, McConnell stopped trying to steer his party in a direction he didn’t want to go and helped block an independent investigation bipartisan on the riot. But as a House committee inquiry drew closer to Trump this month, McConnell approved it.
United States Representative John Yarmuth, D-Louisville: A showcase for those pens that President Biden uses to sign bills that have gone through the House Budget Committee that Yarmuth chairs. But Yarmuth’s biggest job of his last term could lie ahead of him: better rebuilding Biden’s Build Back Better bill, torpedoed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
The Rest of the Kentucky Congressional Delegation: Copies of the United States Constitution, with this passage from Section 6, highlighted in yellow: “Senators and Representatives … They all opposed an inquiry independent on the unconstitutional riot provoked by Trump.
US Senator Rand Paul: The doctor is getting an extra giveaway, for the quackery he applied to the pandemic, most recently his claim that masks don’t work against the coronavirus. The Washington Post Fact Checker gave him four Pinocchios; in this space he gets a rubber duck.
Gov. Andy Beshear: A few sessions with a speech coach, to help him be more consistent in public presentations; those of us who write them often feel pressured to use paraphrases, ellipses, and other devices to concisely express what he is saying. And to repeat a point, an audiobook version of a 2020 giveaway: Governor Reagan from Lou Cannon, about succeeding with a legislature controlled by the other party. He didn’t see them as enemies.
The General Assembly: For each member, a printed copy of the cutting plans drawn up by the Kentucky League of Women Voters. Yes, well-compacted districts ignore political realities altogether, but as the legislature prepares to fill most of the political office – presumably with the ruling Republicans increasing their benefits, much like the Democrats did when they did. run the show – they need to have some sense of what ideal cards would look like.
Every Kentuckian: a COVID-19 vaccination and a booster to ward off the Omicron variant and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed. An N-95 mask to protect yourself and others from the virus. For your smartphones, application from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so you can get the facts instead of the flimflam being spread by people trying to make money or gain political influence. And finally, our best wishes to each of you for a year in which the COVID-19 virus and misinformation both subside. We can only hope and pray.
Al Cross, a former Courier Journal political writer, is professor and director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. He writes this column for the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism. Join him on Twitter @ruralj.