There are certain radio talk shows that I really should know better than to tune into. In fact, I don't even like to listen to shows that I like. If I don't get the opportunity to actually respond, I just get aggravated, and turn to another station.
That's the chief reason I don't listen to it much. In fact, I think I am on more radio shows now that I actually listen to.
But there I was, driving along yesterday morning, and, flipping around the AM dial, I landed at "The Francene Show" on WHAS Radio in Louisville. I had no more than hit the button than I started regretting my carelessness.
The particular morning I stumbled on the show was the morning after the defeat of the video slots bill. David Edmunds and I were two of the three opposing speakers in the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee the previous evening, and we sat there at the table watching the bill go down in flames on a 10-5-1 vote. And Francene was miffed.
No. Not miffed. Outraged.
Now you have to understand that outrage is the customary pose of a radio talk show host these days. The measure a talk show host uses for his success is the number of calls he gets. And the number of calls he gets is directly proportional to the amount of anger and outrage he can elicit in his listeners. And the amount of outrage in his listeners is directly proportional to the amount of outrage he can generate in himself and broadcast on the show. So this particular morning, Francene had worked herself into quite a lather.
"I just don't understand," she wailed. That is, indeed, an understatement.
She began by criticizing the Senate committee's action because they voted "as a block" against the bill. A clear sign, she concluded, of a plot. Of course, there a lots of votes on lots of issues that are party line votes, and no one thinks of them as the result of some kind of conspiracy. One wonders, for example, if "voting as a block" is some sort of political sin, why she didn't go after the Democrats on the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee, which had earlier approved the bill by "voting as a block."
She also apparently forgot to take into account the fact that the senators on the A & R Committee did not, in fact, vote "as a block," since one of their members, Tom Buford (R-Nicholasville) voted in favor of the bill. And if that wasn't enough to highlight the silliness of her criticism, it was actually the Democrats who voted as a block (that is, if you don't count R. J. Palmer, who would have voted for it if it weren't for the fact that he couldn't because of a conflict of interest).
But these inconvenient facts are hard to see when you are experiencing an outrage-induced temper tantrum.
Senate leaders put the bill in A & R in order, she claimed, "to kill it." Ooookay. There are two committees that traditionally deal with this kind of legislation: Licensing and Occupations and Appropriations and Revenue. In the House, the bill first went to Licensing and Occupations, and then to Appropriations and Revenue, where it was approved. It is customary for the receiving chamber to put the bill in the same committee it went through in the originating chamber. Not only is this not unusual, it is the norm.
Would Francene and her allies on the slots bill have preferred it go to Senate Licensing and Occupations? The chairman in that committee, Sen. Gary Tapp, had pledged to kill it if it went there. If anything, sending it instead to A&R was an act of mercy on the part of Senate leadership. Had Francene actually had an intelligent discussion that included guests from the other side of the issue, she would have known this.
In fact, "The Francene Show" had opportunities to include guests from the other side, but refused, saying, "There's only one side to this issue."
So then, the woman who proclaims that "there's only one side to this issue" criticized the opposition to the slots bill because they are "people who only hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see." Hmmm. Do they have mirrors over there at WHAS? Maybe we'll send her one, so she can take a gander at someone who really hears only what she wants to hear and sees only what she wants to see.
No sense in bothering her pretty little head with the fact that the Senate Committee she was criticizing for not giving the bill a "full and fair vote" did exactly what she has refused to do on her show for months now.
And speaking of less-than-truthful proponents of the bill, Ron Geary, the owner of Ellis Park, a man who not only owns a private jet, but owns a private jet company, made his appearance to lament that he did not receive the bailout he would have gotten under the legislation. Geary, playing as fast and loose with the facts as the host who was interviewing him, said that, had the bill gotten to the floor, his side had 20-22 votes.
Nobody close to the situation could honestly say that. In fact, I publicly called on the slots proponents the day before to produce the list of names of the twenty senators who were going to vote for the bill. They still haven't produced the names. In fact, one of their votes, R. J. Palmer, was going to have to recuse himself from the vote, as he did with both his vote on the Williams proposal and as he did in the committee because his employer (as was the case with Rep. Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville) in the House) owns Thunder Ridge.
Francene apparently doesn't realize it (and we can just add that to the long and growing list of such things), but if they really had that many votes, they could have gotten the bill out. How? With a discharge petition. If they had had twenty votes, all they needed to do is put a discharge petition out on the floor signed by the 20-22 votes they say they have and they would have been off and running.
In fact, Churchill Downs tried to do just that. They were calling senators trying to get them to sign on. But their effort never got of the ground. Why?
Because THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE VOTES.
Anyone close to the situation knows this, but Francene doesn't because she doesn't have a clue what she is talking about and the only guests she has on her show are guests who are willing to lie to her with impunity knowing that she either doesn't care or doesn't know any better.
Then there are her charges that the Senate engaged in "deception, maneuvering, and sleazy politics." One would think that charges like these, serious as they are, would be supported by some kind of actual arguments, and, possibly, by some kind of facts. We realize these are words that, were she confronted with them, Francene would probably have to look up in the dictionary. But why do that when you can simply emote in the intellectual vacuum her show provides?
Had she applied a little critical thought to the situation (I know, it's a far-fetched idea), it might have occurred to her that virtually all her criticisms for which she has no evidence apply to the Senate, could be much more easily applied, in fact, to the supporters of her bill in the House.
Let's talk about deception.
Had she wanted to talk seriously about this, she could have brought up the fact that the supporters of the slots bill have repeatedly claimed that there are 100,000 horse jobs, when, in fact there are, at best, half that many. And when Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves devoted a whole story to the issue, showing that the source of the number, Deloitte, a consulting firm, actually had found only 51,000 horse jobs, slots advocates scratched their heads, reviewed their figures, consulted their consciences, and ... kept using the same figure.
The only prominent slots advocate who acknowledged that the figure was not accurate was Nick Nicholson of Keeneland, who throughout this debate has consistently acted with honesty and integrity. Would that many of his allies have done the same. It was also revealed (by yours truly at the House Licencing and Occupations Committee meeting) that the number given by the Kentucky Horse Authority’s 2004-2005 biennial report for the number of horse jobs was 31,800.But that hasn't stopped the Governor from continuing to use the now thoroughly discredited number as recently as yesterday. What did the Senate do that was comparable to this?
Let's talk about maneuvering and sleazy politics.
Let's talk about sleazy politics. Did Louisville's one-woman disinformation campaign pay any attention to vote buying that went on in the House? House leadership unabashedly used school building funds to reward those who voted for the slots bill and punish those who didn't.
Democratic House leaders liberally reclassified Class 4 schools as Class 5 schools for any House members that voted their way. As Democratic House member Johnny Bell put it to the Glasgow Daily News after a Democratic caucus meeting in which members were given an ulitmatum, "I found out today we change the rules in midstream, and if a person is not able to vote for the gambling issue, then their school won’t be built,” he said.
Maybe Francene or any of the other apologists for the dirty politics that went on in the House could point to what the Senate did that was in any way comparable to this.
In fact, the very campaign that is now in progress to accuse the Senate of doing something unethical is itself sleazy. If you listen carefully to the diatribes by the Francenites, you quickly discern two things: first, that they don't even try to apply the same standard to the House that they apply to the Senate; and, second, they don't actually cite any Senate actions that are deceptive or sleazy. They just repeat the words, as if just saying them makes them true. And every time Francene does these things, she hurts her credibility.
If she had any in the first place.