Fletcher critics in the state Republican Party establishment launched a counterattack last week against accusations that the Party was shooting its wounded in attacking rather than defending a sitting Governor of their own party. Ted Jackson's remarks in Thursday's Lexington Herald-Leader ("Fletcher's GOP Critics not Disloyal") initially included an incorrect assertion that Richard Nixon was president in 1976, but the mistake turned out to be an editorial error by the Herald.
The Nixon gaffe was the Herald's, but the rest of the article's shortcomings (unless the Herald editors really did the piece up) are entirely Jackson's.
Jackson, who had defended Jack Richardson's fragging of Fletcher in the Courier-Journal a couple of weeks ago, was obviously stung by criticisms that shooting at your own troops was disloyal.
Jackson made clear that the Disloyalists are very uncomfortable with the characterization that they are, in fact, disloyal. It's perfectly fine, he argues, to fire on your own troops--and to abandon them on the field when they are fired upon by the enemy. And it is unfair for anyone to call this practice disloyal. In fact, argues Jackson, to undermine your own leaders is perfectly consistent with the principles of the Republican Party.
"There is nothing," he says, "wrong with Republicans questioning whether Gov. Ernie Fletcher represents our best chance for winning again in 2007."
Furthermore, he argues, it is inappropriate for the Governor's defenders to call upon fellow Republicans to be loyal. And not only that, but to point out that undermining members of your own party by joining their enemies from the Other Party and shooting at them too is bad because it makes the Disloyalists feel guilty about themselves.
"It is dead wrong for Fletcher and his apologists to attempt to use guilt to insulate his administration."
This is the defense of the Disloyalists.
First, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that firing on your troops is disloyal. It just is. You can characterize it however you want, but when your own officials--whom you have helped to put in the places they are--have bullet holes in their back from bullits you fired, then, guess what? You're disloyal.
Secondly, when you abandon these same officials in the face of a political onslaught by the likes of Greg Stumbo, and stand there in silence and watch it happen without lifting a finger, and then criticize him for not handling a situation that was made worse by your own inaction, then you're disloyal.
Finally, when you turn around and find yourself being criticized by other Republicans for being disloyal, and tell them that they're acting inappropriately, then, well, you have obviously lost your grip on reality.
Jackson apparently thinks it's completely acceptable to be disloyal, but it is wrong to encourage other people to be loyal. Furthermore, it's not fair to make he and his fellow Disloyalists feel bad about this.
Be concerned Republicans. Be very concerned.
But the most curious of Jackson's arguments is this one: What Kentucky Republican leaders are doing right now in regard to Fletcher is no different that what Ronald Reagan did when he challenged Gerald Ford for the 1976 Presidential nomination.
"In 1976," says Jackson, "a Republican from California challenged a sitting Republican president for their party's nomination. That man from California had concerns about the direction his fellow Republican was taking the party and the nation. No one could challenge his GOP credentials. Ronald Wilson Reagan had the right to ask the question, to spur the debate. That same debate must take place in Kentucky right now."
Arguing against the 11th Commandment by invoking the name of its author? Bad choice, Ted.
Let's get a few things straight here. First of all, Reagan was challenging Ford on the basis of political principles: Ford was a moderate; Reagan was a conservative. Secondly, Reagan was using the commonly acknowledged processes of the Party to do it: he challenged him in an election.
But that's not what's going on here. No one has announced a challenge of Fletcher. There's no primary going on. All that's going on is sniping.
As to the first point, what aspect of Fletcher's political principles are people like Jackson and Richardson challenging? Do they disagree with Fletcher's political principles and policies? If so, which ones? His stand on abortion? His stand on fiscal restraint? His stand on seat belts? Which one?
As to the second point, it is an entirely different thing to challange an incumbent in your own party in a fair election than it is to criticize him openly when there is no election going on and no candidates of his own party running against him--and an opposition party out there just asking to be beat because it has no candidate and little money.
No one thinks that running against an incumbent is disloyal. It may not be good for the Party in certain circumstances, and it may be unwise for the challenger. But when comments are made in a primary challenge, there's no issue of disloyalty when candidates make criticisms. But Jackson is not a candidate, nor is Richardson.
These two points ought to take care of any comparison between the author of the 11th Commandment and current state Party leaders who are ignoring it.
Then, there is the more general matter of trying to draft Reagan into the Disloyalists' cause.
Oh, but the political memory of the Disloyalist is so short. Jackson's attempt to invoke the name of Reagan is even more absurd when you consider what the argument against Reagan was in 1976 (and in 1980).
The argument against Reagan's candidacy was this: that he was unelectable. He was too conservative. Remember?
Jackson and the Disloyalists apparently forgot this--or chose not to remember it. And what is the argument they are using against Fletcher now? That he is unelectable. In other words, the same argument is being used against Fletcher now that was used--not against Ford, but against Reagan--and somehow Jackson thinks he sees an analogy between Fletcher and ... Ford!
As I mentioned in a previous column ("The Loyalty Gap"--see below), the Democrats would never let this happen in their own party. They know the value of loyalty. If Republicans don't learn this lesson, their political days are numbered.
The new Kentucky Republican political ethos appears to be this: every man for himself.
I like the 11th Commandment much better.