By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

This column frequently criticized Republican Matt Bevin’s campaign for governor. It is therefore only fair to give Bevin credit where it is due.

His transition period has been impressive. From his pitch perfect Election Night remarks through his transition team and first appointments, the governor-elect has gotten everything right.

Some feared a Frankfort takeover by rabid, religiously conservative Tea Party ideologues. Instead, Bevin has tapped experienced, smart, solid conservatives of considerable talent and admirable temperament. 

Naming widely respected former state representative Scott Brinkman of Louisville as secretary of the executive cabinet is Bevin’s most recent good move. Here’s hoping the new governor stays on his hiring roll.

Meanwhile, Governor Steve Beshear is bidding us goodbye. He claims Kentucky is better off now than it was when he took office.

The fact remains that Beshear failed on the one big thing he promised as a candidate:  expanded gambling. He told voters that he had the leadership skill to get it done, but he obviously did not.

Other than appointing a task force and ignoring its work, Beshear did absolutely nothing to reform Kentucky’s tax system.  Aside from a modest and insufficient pension reform bill, Beshear let that gigantic issue get worse on his watch. 

The unemployment rate is down, but employment, job, and workforce numbers remain anemic. There has been some good economic news in manufacturing and some highly hyped events to talk about Eastern Kentucky’s depression, but Beshear’s legacy will not be dynamism or growth. 

It is Obamacare. If you seek his monument it is expanded Medicaid and the state exchange.

Beshear also bequeathed Kentucky his son, Andy, as the next attorney general. There is no way the younger Beshear would have survived the Republican onslaught without his father’s fundraising muscle.

Upon Beshear’s departure the state’s Democratic Party becomes leaderless and lacking a popular, powerful statewide figure. It will be interesting to see who emerges from the rubble as Bevin and state Senate president Robert Stivers offer voters the alternative approaches so clearly demanded in the recent balloting.

Meanwhile, Kentuckians in Washington are now in a new, post-Paris environment. Or at least they should be.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rightly says “more of the same” will not suffice against the Islamic State that vows to destroy us.  While criticism of President Obama’s lack of leadership and strategy is warranted, what is the Congress actually doing?

America should be on a war footing, and fast. Our representatives are not providing leadership commensurate with the threat. 

The Islamic State has declared war on America. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says we are at war with the Islamic State. 

If Carter’s boss, President Obama, is not willing to lead that war, McConnell should assume the Churchillian role of making speech after speech on the Senate floor to rouse the nation into needed action. Yet this life or death crisis calls for much more than mere oratory.

Congress should declare war or expressly authorize the use of military force (as Obama and some congressional Democrats long ago requested), and appropriate funds to finance the rapid and total destruction of those Islamic nihilists who will detonate a nuclear device in Times Square as soon as they can. They are coming for us, and indeed are probably already here.  

Beshear is among Democrats who have succumbed to the tired trope that the terrorists somehow win if we dare protect ourselves from the very real threat of Islamic State infiltration via Syrian refugee resettlement. The terrorists really do win if they blow us all up.

H.R. 4038, which passed the House 289-137, is a good start. It requires that, “A covered alien may not be admitted as a refugee until the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation certifies to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence that each covered alien has received a background investigation that is sufficient to determine whether the covered alien is a threat to the security of the United States.”

Kentucky Senator and struggling Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is encountering resistance to his measures to block visas for many refugees and government benefits for others. He had more success in another area, but it weakened America’s defenses.

Paul was prominent and occasionally misleading, in passing legislation that will soon and unwisely end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of certain phone data. Senators more serious about national security, like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, want to reconsider that change.

Cotton would also make permanent other portions of the expiring Patriot Act, like targeting of “lone wolves” and roving surveillance of multiple phones of a single suspect. America needs these security measures more than ever now.

Someone should run against Paul for the Senate next year by taking positions to his right on national defense. That person could come from either party, but the last Republican presidential debate proved that there is plenty of room for challenging Paul on how best to keep America safe.  

Kentucky’s Senate race should reprise Paul’s illuminating debate exchange with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. How best to balance defense, civil liberties, and federal spending is a discussion worth having. 

So, as to our new leadership in Frankfort, there is reason for optimism. Sadly, it is otherwise in Washington.

(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for His e-mail is Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)

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