DYCHE OPINION | Good week for McConnell and Paul - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE OPINION | Good week for McConnell and Paul

Posted: Updated: April 18, 2013 08:48 PM EDT

By John David Dyche
WDRB Columnist

Last week was a good one for Kentucky's U. S. Senators.  Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul dominated the news. Despite hostile media's best efforts to portray recent events as somehow damaging to the ubiquitous Republican duo, both men benefited from the attention.

A comical clown corps of Democratic "activists" managed to do what previously seemed impossible.  Their illegal recording of a private McConnell campaign strategy session made him into a sympathetic victim. 

The three stooges reportedly involved in perpetrating, witnessing, and publicizing the privacy invasion are no strangers to controversy, and worse.  So this is what Kentucky's once mighty Democratic political machine has become? 

Employing its typical "ends justify the means" attitude toward the eavesdropping, the Left labored mightily to depict the McConnell team's exposed discussion as a liability for him. Most of that confidential conversation focused on policy and residency issues related to then-potential opponent Ashley Judd.

No one should be offended by the McConnell campaign's mere discussion of other relevant matters that Judd herself injected into the public arena. Can anyone seriously contend that a U. S. Senator's mental health is not a relevant consideration for that powerful position? 

Depression is not a disqualifier. After all, Lincoln battled what he called the "black dog." But it is a legitimate issue for someone seeking responsibility for issues of nuclear weapons, war and peace, and other grave matters.

The same is true for Judd's religious opinions. Her critique of the traditional Christian orthodoxy sacred to so many Kentuckians may have merit, but it might also lead her to policy positions repugnant to the commonwealth's conservative citizenry. Again, it is political fair game.

The truly noteworthy thing the recording reveals is just how clean and mild the McConnell meeting was. There were no expletives. McConnell rarely, if ever, resorts to profanity. Indeed, the conclave was practically a Sunday School class compared to some such sessions conducted by other politicians.

Maybe there is more to come that will be worse for McConnell. So far, however, this fiasco has been a blessing for him. Meanwhile, his junior colleague Rand Paul has been busy grabbing his own helpful headlines.

The biggest were about Paul's outreach efforts to African-Americans at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Simmons College in Louisville.  Paul proselytizes for a purpose.  "The Republican Party will no longer be a national party if we don't somehow attract the African-American vote, the Latino vote, the Asian American vote, and we haven't been doing very well," he correctly says.

Paul reminded his audience of the Republican Party's prominent role in civil rights history, but the past is not necessarily prologue to improved GOP prospects with today's black voters. 

Some of Paul's positions -- "choice in education, a less aggressive foreign policy, more compassion regarding non-violent crime" -- resonate with minorities.  He has a harder challenge convincing them "that the objective evidence shows that big government is not a friend to African Americans."

Paul still struggles to explain his 2010 comments about the Civil Rights Act, and he embarrassingly stumbled over the name of black Republican former Senator from Massachusetts, Edward Brooke. But the electoral potential of Paul's evangelizing so frightened liberals that they focused more on the audience in the room's reaction than on the events' broader national significance. 

Last week also found Paul preaching to religious conservatives. He and his wife sat for a flattering feature on a popular conservative Christian television program. In a related interview Paul said America needed a "spiritual cleansing of the people" and said "salvation" does not come through elected leaders.

Paul boldly declared that "Some in the evangelical Christian movement I think have appeared too eager for war." He noted that Jesus called for peacemakers, not war makers. 

Separately, Kirk Lippold, commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked by al Qaeda, said Paul represents "a new form of Republican leadership" that asks "hard questions" about "our national security interests in getting involved in any nation."  Lippold said Paul's approach is eclipsing more aggressive views long espoused by GOP stalwarts like John McCain.

McConnell and Paul are already among the most consequential senatorial pairs Kentucky has ever had. After last week their political prospects look even better.

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