By John David Dyche
Two Kentucky Republicans are running for U. S. Senate in 2014. Too bad the GOP will probably once again fail to field a credible candidate for the Third District U.S. House of Representatives seat occupied by liberal Democrat John Yarmuth.
Matt Bevin, who is challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell for the Senate nomination, would have done more for the cause of conservative constitutional government by trying to oust Yarmuth. Holding the House should be the top priority for Tea Party true believers.
It is impossible for Bevin to make a case that McConnell has been insufficiently hostile to President Obama's anti-coal, big government, high tax, pro-dependency agenda. Obama would probably call McConnell the single biggest obstacle to administration ambitions.
On the Tea Party's animating issue of federal spending, Bevin's website says he supports a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. But McConnell has been voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment since 1995 when one passed the House and fell one vote short in the Senate.
Bevin's website also says he will "refuse to vote for a debt limit increase unless we make substantial spending cuts and reforms." But McConnell was instrumental in getting $1.2 trillion in real spending cuts in the last debt ceiling deal.
Another Bevin-backed plan it is to balance the budget in 10 years or less. But McConnell was one of only 18 Senators to vote for his Kentucky colleague Rand Paul's plan to balance the budget in five years by reducing spending $9.6 trillion.
Bevin also advocates permanently banning earmarks. But McConnell supported the current moratorium on that much maligned and misunderstood practice.
Earmarks long helped Kentucky get federal funds that otherwise would have been spent elsewhere. They also let Kentucky's representatives direct spending instead of deferring to distant executive branch bureaucrats.
Bevin may have a hard time convincing Kentucky communities that benefited from earmarks that they would have been better off if their projects had gone to California or New York with no reduction in federal spending in the process. Will he say which ones he would have opposed?
Last year McConnell, like Paul who supports him for reelection, earned a 100 percent rating and "Defender of Liberty" status from the American Conservative Union, which "was founded in 1964 to promote the principles of liberty and the strength of the Constitution." That was McConnell's fourth perfect ACU annual score, and his lifetime rating exceeds 90 percent.
Despite this demonstrably conservative record, McConnell is fair game for some criticism. He was not, after all, a Tea Partier before that movement manifested itself. Most attacks from the right are a function of two things, both flowing from his leadership roles as the most powerful Kentucky Republican in Senate history.
First, during the Bush administration, McConnell understandably helped carry the agenda of a president from his own party. But that agenda included more government, too much spending, and waging two wars somewhat ineptly and without paying for them.
Second, during the Obama administration McConnell has made some deals with Democrats. But legislative minorities cannot control events, even in the Senate, and some of McConnell's concessions to political reality saved his party from public relations disasters.
So while a well-funded conservative, Bevin, assaults an even better funded conservative, McConnell, in a year when Republicans have a real chance of retaking the Senate, the far left can rejoice that Yarmuth will likely breeze back into the House without serious opposition. That helps liberals trying to retake that chamber.
Kentucky's political media is practically giddy. The reporter/opinion hybrids who populate the state press may claim it is merely the prospect of an interesting campaign that has them singing from the same hymnal. More likely it is the chance to play their part on the team trying to topple McConnell.
The liberal echo chamber that is the editorial pages of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader recently tut-tutted about McConnell's aggressive campaign tactics. Their self-righteous indignation rings especially hollow, however, since they have relentlessly savaged him for several decades!
It is fitting that McConnell, who has bestrode our commonwealth's political landscape like a colossus since the turn of the century, faces such a formidable task to win what must surely be his final Senate term. But if he pulls it off you can bet that Democrats and their media adjuncts will diminish the feat and dismiss him as a lame duck the very next day.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is email@example.com.