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Bill Straub: Where oh where have all the statesmen gone, and look what’s left? Then there’s Tom Loftus

Some years back, Kentucky had a gentleman serving in the Senate named John Sherman Cooper, from Pulaski County, who regularly voted against the positions endorsed by his own political party, worked diligently with members of the opposing party — befriending one who ultimately would become president — and pulled out all the stops to end the Vietnam War, much to the consternation of a president who also was a member of his party.

Cooper generally is recognized as one of the great lawmakers of the 20th Century.

For part of his time in office, Cooper was joined by Thruston Morton, of Louisville, who also was renowned for voting his conscience. Morton elected to retire after serving almost two full terms because, in part, he was disappointed his party had failed to take a more active role in addressing social issues like civil rights.

Morton was succeeded by Marlow Cook, also of Louisville, who also proved himself independent from his party, opposing a Supreme Court nominee who wasn’t up to snuff and standing as the first member of his party in the Senate to call for the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon.

All three of these men earned the title of statesman, placing country before party, sometimes to their political detriment, and deviating from accepted norms when it served the national interest.

And all three were Republicans.

Compare their record of achievement to that of the Commonwealth’s GOP lawmakers who currently are taking up space in the nation’s capital at a highly volatile time, a period when a sick and delusional individual is running a proud country into a ditch, calling on foreign interests to dig up dirt on political rivals in return for favorable treatment from his administration.

President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, is operating the White House like the capo di tutti capo of the Gambino crime family, ignoring all calls to rein in his insanity, refusing to recognize or comply with constitutionally valid congressional probes into his hijinks and openly calling on Ukraine and China, of all places, to aid him in his re-election effort.

There is no rationalizing this behavior. None. Trump is essentially forcing the House of Representatives to impeach him and that process is finally underway.

And how are some of our stalwart Republican representatives, members of the party of Cooper, Morton and Cook, reacting to these criminal acts and provocations?

Well, Rep. Andy “Empty Suit” Barr, R-Lexington, is on record calling the impeachment inquiry an “obstructionist and politically motivated witch hunt.” Barr said a partial transcript establishing that Trump pressured newly elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” to open a corruption investigation into former Vice President Biden, a Democrat running for president, showed that Trump was “just doing his job.”

“…the call is routine diplomacy,” Barr told NPR.


Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, who has emerged as one of Trump’s best buds despite an ugly exchange of insults with him during the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign, is calling the crisis “a fake witch hunt.”

Paul told National Review magazine, “I think the Democrats have made this such a partisan exercise that I think most of the public has discounted the idea of it.”

“All President Trump said was do me a favor, he was asking them to investigate this,” said Paul, who holds the seat once belonging to Morton and Cook. “But he in no way, to my knowledge threatened to cut off any aid.”

But, of course, the granddaddy of them all here, the man who never passes up an opportunity to place the welfare of his party over the good of the nation he is sworn to protect, is our boy Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, of Louisville, aka Moscow Mitch, who is not only defending the indefensible when it comes to Trump, he’s endeavoring to make money off the crisis as well.

There’s disgusting. And then there’s Moscow Mitch.

McConnell, who could play a vital role if the House ultimately succeeds in adopting articles of impeachment and sends the issue to the Senate for trial with the Chief Justice of the United States presiding, is on record saying the effort will assuredly fail as long as he remains as majority leader.

In a 17-second video posted on Facebook, Moscow Mitch asserts that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, is “in the clutches of a left-wing mob,” and that said mob has “finally convinced her to impeach the president.”

“All of you know your Constitution,” McConnell said. “The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader. But I need your help. Please contribute before the deadline.”

The message is clear – regardless of Trump’s actions, despite whatever level he might stoop to in order to soil the Constitution, ol’ Moscow Mitch will be there to protect him as long as you good folks out there ante up.

This, friends and neighbors, is your United States senator, the man who maintains the seat once held by the treasured John Sherman Cooper. Not only is he openly admitting here that he intends to put the party ahead of the nation’s needs, he’s endeavoring to make a dime off the ploy.

The whole idea is sickening, and so is ol’ Root-‘n-Branch, who has been getting away with this assault on everything that makes America decent and whole for much too long now. This is no longer behind the scenes shenanigans, his attempts to upend former President Barack Obama’s agenda or destroying the federal court system. It has now become public that he will protect Trump regardless of the cost to the nation, and send him a few bucks while you’re at it.

One can’t help but ponder the status of the Kentucky Republican Party. It’s certainly true, and McConnell deserves the lion’s share of the credit, that the party has gained historic stature. Democrats may maintain an edge in voter registration but the GOP controls both the state House and Senate, the governor’s office, holds five of six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, both Senate seats and has consistently voted for the Republican nominee for president.

Indeed, Republicans maintain a lot of power in Kentucky. But it has come at the cost of their souls.

The party once offered the Commonwealth men like Cooper, who socialized with a young President John F. Kennedy even though he was a Democrat. And he authored the Cooper-Church Amendment with the late Sen. Frank Church, D-ID, to try to draw an immoral war to a close. Cook was one of the leaders in the fight against G. Harold Carswell, nominated by Nixon, a fellow Republican. And he followed that up by supporting Nixon’s ouster.

Where are the Coopers, Cooks and Mortons of today’s Kentucky Republican Party? They’re busy forming a blockade around a worthless president who treats the Constitution like so much toilet paper. And then they try to raise money off of it.


Tom Loftus

A quick note. A significant event occurred earlier this month that may have escaped widespread public notice. Tom Loftus, who was the Frankfort bureau chief for the Courier Journal of Louisville for almost 30 years — and preceded me covering the state capital for the late, lamented, Kentucky Post — has finally retired after what can only be described as an extraordinary career.

No one covered Frankfort as well as Tom Loftus, from the governor’s office down to the smallest nook in a relatively anonymous state agency. He was everywhere. And nothing escaped his notice.

Newspapers don’t hold the sway they once did and Tom may be the last of a breed. But the people of the commonwealth owe him a debt of gratitude for remaining all along the watchtower in a state where the government has never been known to play the game according to the rules of Hoyle.

Most folks knew little about him. And they have no idea how much they’re going to miss him.

And, by the way, he has been a close friend of mine for 40 years. The only individual I feel really sorry for in all this is his wife, Kay, who must now put up with him full time.

Poor girl.

The NKyTribune’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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One Comment

  1. ruth bamberger says:

    Cooper, Cook and Morton were true statesmen. They demonstrated that one can be a statesman and a politician at the same time. The Republican Party began its decline in the early 80s when it succumbed to the hardball politics of the Lee Atwater era, and McConnell, Paul, and Barr willingly inherited that politics. Are there any Republicans in KY willing to cut this destructive cord and bring the party to its senses?

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