“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” Dr. Samuel Johnson famously observed.
The celebrated 18th-century English man of letters was panning those who professed patriotism to mask their selfish ends.
Anyway, at the Fancy Farm picnic, Matt Bevin, the heretofore combative Republican candidate for governor, condemned what he called the divisiveness on display. As a supposed show of unity, he led everybody in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Frankfort State Journal
The most absurd turn of the day may have been what Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin did with his time to speak.
Where I’ve seen Bevin give some very eloquent speeches about patriotism and wax poetically about state sovereignty, I didn’t see that Bevin Saturday — just like no one saw Sen. Rand Paul at Fancy Farm.
Instead of giving any of his solid plans for the commonwealth, Bevin asked the crowd to join him in the Pledge of Allegiance. Equally ineffective, before he finished jumping between his speech themes with a mediocre delivery he had used up his time and was cut off by the Fancy Farm music.
I’m not calling Bevin a scoundrel. Disingenuous is the word have in mind.
I doubt that hearing Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gov. Steve Beshear jab each other –and listening to Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jack Conway gig him—caused Bevin to experience a Road to Damascus conversion to civility in political discourse.
Shortly before Fancy Farm, Bevin and Conway slugged it out at candidate forums sponsored by the state chamber of commerce and the farm bureau.
In 2013-2014, Bevin and McConnell butted heads for the GOP senate nomination. They flayed each other in one of the most vicious primaries—Republican or Democratic—in Bluegrass State history. The McConnell camp slammed Bevin as an “East Coast con man” and a “pathological liar.”
Bevin blasted back, tagging McConnell “Mudslinging Mitch.” Bevin even made a TV commercial in which he had his little daughter call McConnell a liar.
I was also at Fancy Farm in 2013 when Bevin derided McConnell for leaving early. In the senator’s absence, he poured it on: “I’m not going to run to the left of Mitch McConnell. I’m not going to run to the right of Mitch McConnell. I am going to run right over the top of Mitch McConnell.”
Bevin’s tack at Fancy Farm left more than a few Democrats scratching their heads. Naturally, the Republicans whooped and hollered for their guy. But I wondered how many of them were as befuddled by Bevin as the Dems seemed to be.
“The one thing that discourages me however about this process is that we are literally celebrating the worst elements of the political process,” Bevin intoned. “We are celebrating our divisions and we’re doing it in a childish way that frankly does not resolve any of the issues that we face.”
Bevin didn’t talk any issues. One can only guess why not.
Maybe he’s starting to worry that his reactionary tea party politics is turning off more voters, especially middle-of-the-road independents. (Bevin’s running mate is a far right-wing tea party activist.)
So he recast himself–at least for Fancy Farm–as Bevin the uniter, not the divider. The erstwhile compromise-is-surrender Bevin even quoted Kentucky’s motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
Perhaps the independent Bluegrass Poll prompted Bevin to skip the polemics for the pledge at Fancy Farm. The survey came out just before the picnic and had Bevin trailing Conway by three. In an earlier PPP poll—PPP is a Democratic outfit—he was up by three.
Time will tell if Bevin has sworn off bare-knucks politics. But I wouldn’t bet the farm he has.