By John David Dyche
Republican heads explode over Democratic lying. Conservatives, including this one, go a little crazy when Democrats get away with deceit.
Whether it is President Barack Obama saying, "If you like your plan you can keep it," when he knows that is not the case, or Hillary Clinton blaming the Benghazi attack on a video, when she well knows it was terrorism, the GOP is understandably outraged.
Do Republicans have a double-standard for double-talk that comes from their own? It seems so, at least in Kentucky.
During the gubernatorial campaign Republican Matt Bevin serially said or wrote things he would later deny or disclaim. Republicans were undisturbed by this, and Bevin rolled up a big win.
He is at it again. Bevin said he would make his tax returns public if elected, but at his first press conference as governor-elect he said he would not do so. He declined questions on the topic.
There is a very defensible argument against public officials producing their tax returns for public scrutiny. Bevin could have simply made that case during the campaign.
Instead, he went further and said he would make his returns public if elected. He did not have to say that, but he did.
So Kentuckians are left to wonder why their new leader said one thing during the campaign, but another thing now. That is, if they care, which they apparently do not.
What is the Republican reaction to the party's new hero going back on his pledge without offering any explanation for doing so? "Crickets," as they say.
Who can blame them? Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose campaign called Bevin a "pathological liar" last year, backed him this year.
In GOP eyes it is evidently inexcusable when Democrats deceive, but no big deal when Republicans do it. A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, as Emerson said, but honesty is still the best political policy.
Does Bevin's bait and switch on tax returns really matter? Yes, because his willingness to play fast and loose with his credibility on a minor issue undermines his trustworthiness on much bigger ones. If Bevin will do such a drastic about-face on a matter out in the open, just imagine what he will be capable of behind closed doors.
Bevin's naming of an impressive, well-qualified transition team overshadowed his backtracking on his tax returns. The transition team is comprised of experienced, smart, and successful people who will be assets to his administration, especially if they continue in his service after the inauguration.
Two of the most interesting members are men who spent many millions of dollars of their own money trying to become governor themselves. Billy Harper spent over $6 million before finishing third in the 2007 GOP primary, and Hal Heiner spent over $4 million to do the same this year.
Harper and Heiner are very public-spirited, but it cannot be much fun to help someone else assume the state's highest office under such circumstances. Harper and Heiner merit admiration for investing their own treasure to make Kentucky better, but taxpayers probably hope they are more frugal and productive with public funds than they were with their own.
Meanwhile, Democrats are determined to blame Kentuckians for voting "against their economic interests." Translation: Kentucky voters are too dumb to know their own good.
An amusing example of this condescending liberal claptrap came from Ernie Yanarella, professor and chair of political science at the University of Kentucky. In a Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed, the stereotypical leftist professor peered down from his ivory tower to denounce Kentuckians for failing to demand more drastic redistribution of wealth and Democrats for not being liberal enough.
What an edifying example of our tax dollars at work! A high-ranking public university professor cannot understand how Kentuckians quite rationally wanted change from decades of Democratic policies that put our state at the wrong end of so many lists and rankings.
Bevin may not have been the perfect messenger, but Kentuckians acted in their self-interest by seeking alternatives to the failed policies of the past. As campaigns for control of the state House of Representatives heat up, Republicans can only hope their political adversaries heed the professor’s advice and follow their national counterparts even further to the left.
Yanarella's partisan, populist screed may be helpful to Kentuckians, but not in the way he intended. They might decide to send their kids elsewhere to study political science if he is an indicator of the atmosphere and attitudes in that academic program at the state’s flagship university.
The one area in which conservatives should seriously consider Yanarella’s critique, however, involves Bevin's integrity. He calls Bevin a "snake-oil business person with an apparent penchant for lying."
If the new governor really has a fundamental character flaw, as his tax return flip-flop again suggests, it will eventually damage his administration. Not even the best personnel and policies can prevent that.
(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)
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