Governor's non-Fancy Farm speech stirred talk at Fancy Farm

08/06/2011 06:35 PM

FANCY FARM — Gov. Steve Beshear warned the Fancy Farm crowd that the speech he was giving wasn’t what he planned to say a week ago.

And it clearly wasn’t what many people in the normally raucous crowd expected to hear.

Beshear’s seven-minute description of his trip to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit Kentucky troops was unlike any speech given at a recent Fancy Farm. It was apolitical at a political speaking event.

As a result, it left the Democratic crowd somewhat uncertain how to react, and the Republican portion of the crowd clearly unsure how to heckle him. It prompted sharp criticism from his opponents — but only after they gave respectful nods to the troops.

And it left pundits and observers wondering how to measure and describe the governor’s approach. Did he punt? Was he still overwhelmed by the fresh experience of the visit with the troops?

Complicating matters, Beshear gave the speech on a day in which 30 U.S. troops were killed when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the first major speaker, somberly announced that to the crowd to start his remarks, then called for a moment of silence. The thunderdome-like atmosphere immediately became as quiet as a monastery.

But McConnell deftly pivoted back to Fancy Farm mode, dropping one-liner after one-liner, many directed squarely at Beshear, his 1996 Senate opponent.

Beshear, however, never attempted that shift to talk politics.

While Republican candidate David Williams didn’t react to Beshear’s speech as part of his Fancy Farm remarks, independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith led off his speech with a stinging rebuke of Beshear. Take a look:

After leaving the stage, Galbraith went further.

“If that speech didn’t cost Steve Beshear the election then nobody was listening,” he said.

Williams was more critical of Beshear’s speech after the Fancy Farm event.

“I think Gatewood Galbraith expressed what everyone else in the crowd felt,” Williams said.

Beshear told Pure Politics that what he experienced after meeting Kentucky troops abroad was more important than politics.

Democratic state Auditor Crit Luallen called Galbraith’s reaction to Beshear’s speech “entirely inappropriate” and said the governor had “a very important message to deliver.”

But Beshear didn’t attempt to defend his record as governor — a point Williams made.

And it was Democratic Treasurer Todd Hollenbach who said in his Fancy Farm speech: “When you’re talking to a candidate who holds public office, let them tell you what they’ve done. And if they don’t, either they haven’t done anything or they don’t want to talk about it.”

- Ryan Alessi with video by Holly Thompson, Kenny Colston and Chris Bratton


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