Friday, September 23, 2005

Time To Act On Merit Hiring Scandal

If you are not sick of hearing about the Merit Hiring Scandal, you haven't been paying attention.

The developments in this episode have reached a critical mass; news stories are writing themselves nearly every day and political opponents get to look smart by saying nothing.

And while the best legal defense strategy may well be underway, denying that there are serious problems with the political strategy is getting to be a little tough.

I know that the public hasn't been fully engrossed in this debacle yet, but the Governor's own people have already written the Democrats' fundraising letters, speeches, and campaign commercials for them. Under normal circumstances, I'm all for waiting for the pendulum to reverse course, but this isn't your garden variety failure to communicate.

Lots of people are whispering about what might happen next. Here's a likely scenario: the 2006 legislative session is going to include several bills on merit hiring. Public discussion of each will dredge back up the whole thing. The environment for the 2006 elections can be saved, but not at the rate and in the direction we are going now. The scene in 2007 could be even worse.

The governor's race for 2007 has indeed started. The '06 House and Senate races will be impacted by all this too. Actually, it has already happened. GOP candidate recruitment is way down from this time in the last cycle, when first-time candidates were jumping up to get involved in the conservative revolution in Kentucky.

Making a clean break from recent events is looking more imperative every day.

I worked hard to help get Governor Fletcher elected. I would do it again. In fact, if he is the nominee in 2007, I will support him again. But I would be hoping for a very weak Democrat nominee. Governor Fletcher was very brave to attempt a fumigation of Frankfort. Smoking out the insurgents left over from previous administrations and set on destroying his was a battle he could have won, perhaps, but didn't.

Clumsiness and overeagerness may have been the primary culprits in this scandal. Maybe it was worse than that. I don't know. But it really doesn't matter much anymore, does it? The damage has been done and repairing it must begin immediately.

Maybe Governor Fletcher thrives on the chaos. Maybe he can cobble together enough of a list of accomplishments to garner support and win re-election. Maybe.

The Kentucky GOP Executive Committee did the right thing in refusing to throw Darrell Brock overboard when Governor Fletcher asked them to. It didn't take a great deal of insight to see that coming. Too many active Republicans are too disgusted over this whole mess to play along when given the opportunity to express discontent. Not that Darrell has cause to rest easy. But this isn't about him yet.

Kentucky Republicans' greatest strength right now is that Democrats have no coherent vision and no ideas. That may help Republicans win an election or two more, but it doesn't help us regain the moral authority to govern. Only Ernie Fletcher's resignation can do that.

Louie Nunn couldn't run for re-election, but the aftermath of his term was thirty two years of Democrat domination. The current situation is much more applicable to Richard Nixon. He resigned before his troubles destroyed his party. Ernie Fletcher should do the same.

Or... quit fighting Greg Stumbo and start fighting for Kentuckians. The widespread perception that this isn't happening is the real reason for the depth of the current mess. The Governor may have one last chance, but the window is closing very quickly.