Monday, July 21, 2008

Town-Hall Meetings & Casinos?

Here is the first sentence of an Associated Press account of 10 July: "Gov. Steve Beshear is planning a series of town hall meetings across Kentucky in an effort to regroup from a rocky start as the state's top-elected official." Here is the second sentence: "Beshear Chief of Staff Adam Edelen said the town hall meetings are intended to help the administration retool its agenda in the wake of uncertain economic times and a rough first go-around with the General Assembly this spring."

Well…which is it, the first explanation or the second? Is the Kentucky governor trying to burnish a badly damaged image or is he actually interested in finding out things he already knows? And, by "rough go-around," did Edelen mean to drag the legislature into the governor's troubles?

Town-Hall meetings have been in the forefront of politics in this country for well over a year, as they are in especially the last year of every four-year presidential-election cycle. They are designed for one thing only – as campaign efforts in the drive to win an election. The governor is starting almost four years ahead of time with regard to his situation, but only a few months ahead of time concerning the November elections in the state, the results being absolutely vital to his "retooling" of his agenda, which has only one item at present – casino gambling, euphemistically referred to by the pooh-bahs as "gaming."

Perhaps the main subject in his now infamous trip – because of wasting thousands of dollars to fly everybody but the Frankfort street-sweepers – to Pikeville/Virgie last week was casino gambling, a subject near to the governor's heart since he sees it as the pathway to financial glory…for the state coffers, of course, though one always has to wonder just which official is getting what in the run-up to effecting the proper legislation, bill-signing, etc. In the early 90s, state officials were on the make (or make that "take") over other matters, and quite a few of them went to the Big House for their trouble. If Bill Clinton hadn't fired all the federal prosecutors right after taking office, without giving any reason, there might have been some more vacations taken where the barbed wire crowns the fences around pastures not frequented by cattle.

Make no mistake. The governor will conduct 12 more "town-halls" before the dust clears (Somerset and Winchester on 21 and 24 July, respectively) and the major motive for same will be drumming up support for casino gambling come next January, when the legislature enjoys its "short" biennial session. That it can do anything in 30 days will be problematic, given the usual performances by the solons, but that may be why the guv is getting such an early start on getting his ducks in a row, the major element of such effort probably being to make the gambling the preserve of the horse-racing crowd, rich folks perennially whining about the travails of the "sport."

Naw…the guv's not worrying about his 39% approval rating last April…is he? He's just "retooling the agenda," meaning, "get the word out that the state will go bankrupt if more suckers do not join the lottery crowd and lose their money in the slots or by way of cards, roulette wheels, etc., in these uncertain economic times, as Edelen would have it.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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