This afternoon, The Daily Beast ran an edited version of the following piece on its home page. Here’s the unedited version, with plenty of Kentucky political color.
I used to be Jack Conway.
Well, to be more precise, Kentucky’s incumbent Attorney General and I used to occupy the same crowded political space: two young, big-city, over-educated, well-connected, center-left, aspiring pols, each trying to elbow out the other for the chance to grasp the political brass ring that was the opportunity to be anointed the next great hope for Bluegrass State Democrats.
Our journeys finally came into direct conflict when, in 2007, all of our political mentors withdrew their names from the gubernatorial hat, compelling Jack and I to engage in a hyper-awkward, Elaine Benes-ian dance to explore teaming up as a ticket…which ended, of course, when both of us insisted on leading. I ultimately plunged into the seven-person governor-wannabe scrum from which I never emerged, while Conway found open daylight running and easily winning the state’s top law enforcement position.
In the intervening years, as I have found a permanent seat on the sidelines as a recovering politician, I’ve watched Jack’s career with consistently wistful cognizance that “but for the grace of God go I.” During his 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate — a race that had our paths been reversed, I undoubtedly would have run…and lost — I saw Jack pilloried in much the same way I had been skewered for my own policy-wonkish, retail-politics-averse approach to campaigning. And when his ultimate undoing came at his own hands — the ill-advised decision to run the now infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that challenged Rand Paul’s faith, I could see myself succumbing to the same pressures, within the oxygen- and rationality-deprived political bubble, to employ a desperate, risky strategy in order to stop an “dangerous” opponent with a diametrically-opposite ideological worldview.
When Conway later admitted his mistake — arguing that the ad was “the only time in my political career I’ve gone against my gut,” I recalled my greatest gut-check regret. In the 2007 race for Governor, I was questioned by a newspaper’s editorial board about how I voted in the 2004 statewide referendum over what I felt was a pernicious constitutional amendment that would not only ban gay marriage, but anything that looked like it, such as civil unions. Privately, I’d supported marriage equality — strongly — ever since Andrew Sullivan introduced much of the country to the possibility in his historic 1989 essay in The New Republic. But while I had openly supported anti-discrimination laws, and was especially proud to have been the first gubernatorial candidate ever to pursue, secure and embrace the endorsement of gay rights organizations, marriage equality was a third rail that I was still too timid to touch — the amendment, after all, had passed statewide overwhelmingly just three years earlier, with 74% support.
So I did what I had done my entire political career on the issue: I lied to the editorial board. And I didn’t come out of the political closet until I had formally renounced politics a few years later.
Today, my former political doppelgänger faced a similar challenge on this very same issue. When federal District Judge John Hayburn’s recently ruled that the Commonwealth must recognize lawful same-sex marriages from other states, Conway was confronted with the decision on whether to appeal the decision — on behalf of the voters who had so overwhelmingly voted for the ban a decade ago.
For some of Conway’s Attorney General colleagues in blue states who encountered similar circumstances, this may have not been a difficult decision. But here, in an inner notch of the Bible Belt, marriage equality is still quite an unpopular position. A few brave Democrats had stepped out months earlier — including, most prominently, Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, and State Auditor Adam Edelen – but general election voters, who Conway will likely appeal to in a 2015 gubernatorial run, still oppose the practice by a 55 to 35 percent margin in a recent independent poll. (And today, a GOP candidate who had donated. $20,000 to support the constitutional anti-gay effort in 2004 just announced his entry into the 2015 governor’s race as the standard bearer for social conservatives.)
Worse yet for Conway, his client, the popular Democratic Governor Steve Beshear — who won statewide liberal plaudits for vetoing an Arizona-like anti-gay, “religious freedom” bill in 2013, and national progressive celebration for successfully implementing Obamacare in the state — wanted to pursue the appeal.
So Conway chose the route he had abandoned in his U.S. Senate race: He went with his gut. In announcing his decision to refuse to pursue an appeal, the Attorney General stated that ”in the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it’s about placing people above politics…I can only say that I am doing what I think is right…I had to make a decision that I could be proud of – for me now, and my daughters’ judgment in the future.”
Conway’s decision will not have a significant practical effect: Governor Beshear announced a few minutes after Conway’s press conference that he would hire outside counsel to pursue the appeal. But for a populace desperately seeking politicians who are authentic, who lead from their heart, even at great political risk, Conway’s choice may instill a small ray of hope that even in this most cynical of times, conviction can sometimes trump politics.
And for this recovering politician, who has forsaken the arena for many of the same reasons that so many Americans hate politics — as well as for the chance, finally, to live a life when I can always be true to my most passionate beliefs — it’s great comfort to see my former political frenemy take the kind of brave, selfless action that I would have loved to put on my political resume.
As I wrote today in this The Daily Beast cover piece, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway took a very courageous stance today by refusing to appeal federal District Judge John Heyburn’s decision that requires Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Here’s an excerpt:
For a populace desperately seeking politicians who are authentic—who lead from their heart, even at great political risk—Conway’s choice may instill a small ray of hope that even in this most cynical of times, conviction can sometimes trump politics.
And for this recovering politician, who has forsaken the arena for many of the same reasons that so many Americans hate politics—as well as for the chance, finally, to live a life when I can always be true to my most passionate beliefs—it’s great comfort to see my former political frenemy take the kind of brave, selfless action that I would have loved to put on my leadership resume.
Click here to read the full piece.
Do you, like me, agree with Conway’s decision?
If so, please join me in saying thanks. Sign the petition below to let Attorney General Jack Conway know that you are with him as he stands for equality and fairness:
Thank You, Attorney General Conway for Supporting Marriage Equality
Read the petition
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|428||Randall Eades||Danville, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|427||tana wright||louisville, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|426||Debbie Tucker||Tampa, Florida||Mar 08, 2014|
|425||Richard Naas||Hopkinsville, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|424||Michaela Stanley||Lexington, KY||Mar 08, 2014|
|423||April Bowman||Pikeville, KY||Mar 08, 2014|
|422||Anita Whelan||Mar 08, 2014|
|421||Victoria Harbin||Whitehouse, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|420||patricia case||louisville, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|419||Sheila Collins||Canada, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|418||Brandy Smith||Elizabethtown, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|417||Richard LeMaster||Ashland, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|416||Beth Thorpe||Louisville , Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|415||chrystabelle lambert||somerset, Kentucky||Mar 08, 2014|
|414||Nicole Lally||Lexington, Kentucky||Mar 07, 2014|
|413||leigh pridemore||louisville, KY||Mar 07, 2014|
|412||Tina Morris||Ky||Mar 07, 2014|
|411||Gina Phillips||Ky||Mar 07, 2014|
|410||Anna Lee Adams||Louisville, Ky||Mar 07, 2014|
|409||Sherry Zilinsky||Covington, KY||Mar 07, 2014|
|408||Linda Leeser||Louisville, KY||Mar 07, 2014|
|407||Korey Houska||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Mar 07, 2014|
|406||Sandra Rippetoe||Mar 06, 2014|
|405||Alyssa McAlister||Phoenix, AZ||Mar 06, 2014|
|404||Frank Schwartz||Louisville, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|403||Elizabeth Tremayne||Prospect, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|402||L.A. Watson||frankfort, ky||Mar 06, 2014|
|401||Tara Gilland||Lexington, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|400||Susan Nash||Louisville, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|399||Isaac Carter||Mar 06, 2014|
|398||Brandy Reeves||Lexington, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|397||Joanne Brown||Lexington, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|396||Emily Duncan||Lexington, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|395||Suzanna Stammer||Lexington, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|394||Diana Ratliff||Midway, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|393||Angela Henson||Lexington, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|392||Gayle Stockdale||Lexinton, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|391||Cheri Mullins||Covington, KY||Mar 06, 2014|
|390||Jewell Livers||Tubac, Az||Mar 06, 2014|
|389||Walt Barlow||Lexington, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|388||J.D. Craddock||Munfordville, Ky||Mar 06, 2014|
|387||Mary Walden||Boston, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|386||Phil Berger||Nicholasville, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|385||C Thomale, Jr||Somerset, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|384||greg thompson||louisville, ky||Mar 06, 2014|
|383||David Underwood||Louisville, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|382||susan harkins||lexington, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|381||Joe Lybrook||Lexington, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|380||Victor Ferrill||Bardstown, Kentucky||Mar 06, 2014|
|379||Dave Morrison||New York, New York||Mar 06, 2014|
You know you are 50 when….
Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” pops up to play on your iPod and instead of proudly displaying the album image and secretly believing it is your way of warning others that you, deep down, have a ferrel and dangerous side that they should be wary of—you instead flip quickly to the next song because you know, deep down, that others have nothing to be wary about in your presence.
And others know that, too.
And when the next song that pops up us Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel you proudly display the album image for others to see and secretly believe it is your way of saying, “I may not be wild today but back in the 70′s I had a very sensitive side and loved Simon and Garfunkel’s melodic Scarborough Fair no matter what other people thought.
And that’s how I still roll today.”
This article appeared originally in The Hill.
When California Congressman Ami Bera met New York Rep. Christopher Gibson at a dinner last April, they began a conversation about how the two of them — a physician and a retired Army colonel, a Democrat and a Republican — might work together in Congress to advance the country’s interests.
It didn’t take them long to come up with an idea.
While the two men held different career perspectives, they shared a deep concern about health care for our military’s men and women. They knew that there were serious problems, particularly with the muddled and inefficient health-records system in which active duty service members received care through the Department of Defense and veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The doctor and retired officer understood that with little coordination between the two mammoth agencies, service members often encountered frustrating bureaucratic delays in accessing benefits and health care as they returned to civilian life. And they agonized that this was a terrible way to repay those who’ve served our country.
Both Rep. Bera and Rep. Gibson are members of No Labels, a fast-growing movement of citizens and political leaders who are dedicated to the politics of problem solving and consensus building. As members of No Labels’ Congressional Problem Solvers, a group of nearly 100 lawmakers from both parties and both houses, they were committed to working together to find a better way to take care of our service men and women and returning vets. And they did.
Out of their conversation that night came the 21st Century Health Care for Heroes Act, a bill to construct a streamlined and easily accessible electronic health-records system for military service members and veterans.
The bill became part of a legislative package, Make Government Work!, that the No Labels Problem Solvers unveiled last summer with sponsors on both sides of the aisle.
So clearly beneficial was the No Labels bipartisan, common-sense bill that key language from it was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December. The language set out standards for the creation of an authoritative health-data system that will, for the first time, merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs—thereby, as Rep. Bera stated, “saving money, making the transition to civilian life easier for vets, and helping address the VA backlog.”
If all goes according to plan, patients will be able to download their own medical records and, in time, share them via a secure, remote storage system with their healthcare providers.
As Rep. Bera noted after the original bill was introduced, “Creating an efficient and responsive health care program for service members and veterans isn’t just a Democratic or Republican priority, it’s important to all members of Congress regardless of party, and it’s something we can achieve if we just listen to one another and work together.”
The adoption of this measure is proof that listening to one another and working together really can make a difference and lead to results. This is just one example of what No Labels and the Problem Solvers group can do and continue to strive towards.
The group has just embarked on a three-year campaign to develop a national strategic agenda, a shared vision for this country built around goals and concrete actions that reasonable people of differing political persuasions can agree upon and rally around.
The group is working with members of Congress — people like Congressmen Bera and Gibson and more than 75 others who’ve said they support the concept of a national strategic agenda — as well as other political leaders and some of the nation’s leading voices in business and economics to develop a set of objectives and policy options. No Labels hopes its national strategic agenda — a new sort of governing process based on shared goals — will emerge as a major part of the political discussion in the next presidential campaign.
The process won’t be easy—nobody ever said democracy would be. But the continued progress of our nation and the well-being of citizens depend on our earnest efforts and more constructive, good-faith conversations between Democrats and Republicans.
Rest in Peace, Zichro Livracha, Harold Ramis
h/t Brad Gendell
One of my greatest strengths is that I understand my weaknesses.
And if there is anything that I do more poorly than dance, I have yet to experience it.
That’s why I am thrilled — and scared to death — to be a “celebrity” contestant in this season’s “Dancing with the Stars”
OK, to be clear this is not the ABC national version. I am not a washed up football player, little-known Disney Channel actor, or a Kardashian, Rather, this is the Rotary Club of Lexington’s “Dancing with the Lexington Stars” — a fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Lexington’s Rotary Endowment Fund, which supports “Surgery on Sunday” for needy Lexington families; Cardinal Hill Hospital, a nationally acclaimed rehabilitation center; and other worthy organizations.
I hope you will be able to join me at this important event, if only to laugh at me as I trip over my poor wife, Lisa.
For now, please save the date — Saturday, May 10, 2014, from 6:30 PM- Midnight. I guarantee a lot of fun, a good cause, and plenty of opportunities to laugh at my expense.
Last year at this time, I enjoyed the full glory of my looming empty nest by binging on the first season of House of Cards in one setting. My wife at a conference, my teenage daughters occupied with teenage occupations, I laid down in bed with my trusty mutt, Apple, to catch the first six hours of the 12 episode program. I started at 6 PM, with the hope that this early bird could make it to midnight.
By the time the new day arrived, I turned off the TV to catch some shuteye before finishing the show in the morning. But I couldn’t fall asleep Not even close. The show had so mesmerized and enchanted me that I had to turn on a few more episodes to get the show out of my system. Again, after episode nine, I tried to sleep. No luck — I endured the true House of Cards all-nighter, finally coming up for air around 7 AM.
The show was terrific. Not Breaking Bad or The Sopranos terrific, but it certainly made my second-tier of all-time favorite shows — on a par with The West Wing and Homeland and Mad Men. Certainly, it wasn’t perfect — as someone who’s been immersed in the political life for decades, I found several elements implausible — and my fellow RP Jeff Smith did a brilliant job here outlining what was true and what rang false about Season One.
But it was less the politics that was hypnotizing, and more the brilliant, albeit over-cynical view of interpersonal dynamics. I loved the business partnership marriage of the lead characters, the Underwoods (played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn), particularly how the program showed a deep love and respect underneath their highly unusual hyper-ambitious pairing.
But the most powerful dynamic of Season One came from the extraordinarily tense and exhilarating relationship between Spacey’s Francis Underwood and the reporter Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara. Their interactions were at times creepy and deeply disturbing, and other times filled with passionate, revelatory moments of shedding masks and dripping true emotion. Their interaction literally kept me up all night.
So when my dog and I reached the end of the first episode of Season Two, and — HUGE SPOILER ALERT, I REALLY MEAN IT — Francis pushes Zoe to her death in front of a speeding subway car, I was disturbed — but in a bad way this time.
The murder was completely implausible — it was unnecessary to protect Francis’ reputation, and it was way, way too risky for such a careful politician. His murder of Congressman Russo in Season One was carefully managed, meticulously avoiding any fingerprints. It was a complete fluke that this time he didn’t get caught — for such a rash, impulsive action.
Worse, it killed off the best narrative element and the most watchable character. I’ve suffered through 4 episodes so far, and frankly I’m bored. The politics are still there (a lot less interesting, I’m afraid), but without the Zoe/Francis interplay, the sexy tension that was so vital in Season One has completely disappeared.
Unless Zoe’s demise was necessary for practical, contractual reasons — Was Kata Mara too busy on another project? Was she asking for too much money? — I think this was a very unwise decision on the part of House of Cards producers. It certainly was shocking — but shock for shock value is emotionally empty. Unlike the well-reviewed killing off of major characters in say Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, Zoe’s death serves no purpose other than its shock. And at least through four episodes, it’s left a narrative gap that has not be adequately filled.
Last week, The Recovering Politician was proud to break the news that University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto each joined the growing list of college and university leaders (192 and counting) who have denounced the American Studies Association’s pernicious academic boycott of Israel. (Read about it here.)
Here’s Ramsey’s statement; and here’s Capilouto’s statement.
Today, we are proud to share a letter written by Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell — to a proud WKU graduate studying in Israel — joining the anti-boycott chorus.
Thank you President Ransdell!
Congratulations on your move to Israel and your acceptance to Tel Aviv University’s MBA program. What an outstanding achievement for you! You are a wonderful example of why it is so important that WKU students have a global context to their education and why we strive to ensure that our graduates have the confidence to travel, live and work in other nations and cultures. I appreciate your thoughtful message regarding the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli universities. Your note prompted me to look deeper into this issue. As a University President I cannot condone or support a boycott of Israel or any nation’s higher education enterprise. Academic freedom is a core value of higher education and must be sustained. At WKU we have opened our doors to all nationalities and continually work to encourage our students and faculty to study in other nations. Such a boycott is counterproductive and impedes the very thing that must occur to create peace among nations – conversation, understanding and respect. So indeed, I will join the nearly 200 college and university presidents who have rejected the idea of this boycott. Thank you for your note. I’m so glad to know that your WKU experience was a great one and prepared you well. I wish you much success. Continue to spread that WKU Spirit wherever you go! Go Big Red! Gary