Fancy Farm review: Beshear's mind still in the Middle East while others thunder

08/06/2011 06:27 PM

FANCY FARM, KY — Democratic Governor Steve Beshear didn’t give a typical thunderous, attacking, biting Fancy Farm speech. One could even argue he didn’t even give a political speech at all. Beshear never once mentioned his opponent in the governor’s race, Republican Senate President David Williams.

All Beshear wanted to talk about were Kentucky soldiers in the Middle East.

Beshear gave the first speech among the three gubernatorial candidates. Fresh off his trip to the Middle East — in fact just arriving back in the United States Friday night — Beshear told the split political crowd that his trip to see Kentucky soldiers in Afghanistan was all he could think about. He said partisan politics weren’t even on his mind. And not a single partisan word came from his lips.

Beshear called it the best trip of his lifetime while at the same time not saying anything negative about anyone on the Fancy Farm stage.

But it drew immediate and sharp criticism from independent candidate for governor, Gatewood Galbraith. Galbraith looked at Beshear from the podium and said, “That was the worst speech I’ve ever heard.”

Galbraith spent nearly the first minute of his speech blasting Beshear for wrapping “yourself in false patriotism.”

Williams thunders

Senate President David Williams, the GOP nominee for governor, gave an aggressive speech more traditional of Fancy Farm, but one sounding like a challenger trailing the incumbent.

Williams took Beshear to task for not being willing to take on tax reform, high unemployment numbers, loss of jobs—especially to Tennessee—lack of leadership and agenda, submitting a budget plan that relied on money for gambling and not going to Fort Campbell to meet with soldiers who participated in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Williams said the governor did the right thing this time, by going to the Middle East, but only after he did the wrong thing by not going to Fort Campbell to meet with Kentucky soldiers who were part of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. President Barack Obama came to Fort Campbell to honor those Navy SEALS involved in the raid.

Williams also took Beshear to task for not signing onto a bill that would have exempted Kentucky soldier from income tax until the third time it passed.

A man with a megaphone chanting “End the war on labor” interrupted Williams’ speech.

Officials made their way through the crowd to the man, Williams returned to the mic and said, “Leave him alone. I remember what it was like when I had my first beer.”

Silence, then jabs

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell was the first major speaker of the afternoon event. He started by asking for a moment of silence from the crowd gathered on the campus of the St. Jerome Catholic Church in the middle of Fancy Farm.

McConnell announced to the bipartisan crowd that 30 troops died when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. And for about 20 seconds, everyone assembled — Republicans and Democrats alike — didn’t make a sound.

But as soon as McConnell resumed the political portion of his speech, the Democratic part of the crowd began booing.

McConnell reminded Beshear of the beating he gave him in the 1996 U.S. Senate race. McConnell said the race was over so fast that he declared victory and still had time for an afternoon movie. He also referenced the allegations that one of his administration officials might have strong-armed non-merit employees for campaign cash.

“Steve likes his state workers like his martinis — shaken down, not heard,” McConnell said.

Two merit employees have alleged Beshear has asked their non-merit colleagues for campaign contributions. That’s illegal under Kentucky law, unless the employees were targeted as part of a larger pool of voters. One non-merit employee said he sent a check to the campaign for $500, half of what was requested of him. The check was sent back when he refused to provide personal information about himself.

Whitfield falls flat
And while Beshear’s speech was more of a curiosity, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield’s speech was widely panned.

Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield tried to tell a story when he was supposed to be giving a political speech. That may have been his first mistake. The story, about a family going to a Catholic church like St. Jerome’s, where the Fancy Farm picnic is held, fell flat. It meandered and never quite got to the point. Plus, it was about former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long — not even a Kentuckian.

It prompted chants of “Boring” from the crowd. One long-time political pundit who shall remain nameless called the speech “awful.”


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