And now, ladies and gentlemen, Mitch and the Three Stooges. The unique brand of Kentucky politics was blown onto the national scene last week with the online publication of a secret recording made Feb. 2 of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his campaign staff working on a strategy for dealing with potential rivals in the 2014 election.
Two of the Stooges hid just outside the door with giddy eagerness and a smart phone.
They may have had visions of Watergate dancing in their collective brain, but they were acting out what could be the first act of Mitch McConnell’s re-election. Once their haul was released to the world, their Super PAC, Progress Kentucky, would surely be able to raise more than $1,000 it had on hand.
They recorded 12 minutes of audio as the Senate minority leader and his staff planned the destruction of actress Ashley Judd, the undeclared Democratic frontrunner of the moment, and any other who might pop up to oppose him, even his potential GOP brethren, in the 2014 primary. It’s called the “Whack-A-Mole” strategy. In typical Stooges spy fashion, Larry and Moe couldn’t wait to tell Curley, who couldn’t wait to tell the world after the world already heard about it. So, now the world knows what kind of politics are played in Kentucky. It’s the land of rank amateurs comically falling over each other as the big dog leisurely swats at an annoying fly.
This comedy of errors has taken the edge off almost everything that is serious about this election cycle.
It glosses over the attempts of leaders in the Democratic party to politely deflect Judd from a race that could have hurt their less liberal legislative candidates also seeking reelection. But some did encourage her. And, why not? They didn’t have the guts to run, so why not send a political amateur into the crossfire with a couple of bucks and a Cheshire Cat smile? That’s called the “Polite Cannon Fodder” strategy.
It took away the “snicker factor” when McConnell stood before the national press Wednesday and declared the not-so-secret recording a “Nixonian” tactic, even as the content of the recording revealed a true Nixon-style planning of destroying political enemies — now revealed as the “Gestapo” strategy.
For a couple of days we lost sight of nearly every other hot-bed issue facing us: The Sen. Rand Paul Black History Month Lecture Series (missed it by only two months or 50 years—depending on your black history), the gun control debate (arm everyone, what could go wrong?), and the possible destruction of the entire United States by North Korea’s Newest, Dearest, Sweetest Leader Kim Jong-un (aka the Nuclear Stooge).
McConnell, thought to be vulnerable, has turned the blockbuster sausage-making story—Nixon style— into a tale of woeful and tearful victimization perpetuated by the left wing of the Kentucky Democratic Party, which doesn’t even have much of a left wing these days outside of Jefferson County. Now, he can turn his eye on tea party challengers and fight the one-front battle within his own party.
So, nation, this is how election politics are played in Kentucky and this is only the beginning. The Three Stooges made more than 220 films and we have 18 months until the election and the Democrats will probably just bury their heads ever deeper in the sand.
To be sure, there are other stooges out there ready to take up the slack now that these three are finished and are busy pointing fingers at each other.
For now, the Democrats have unwittingly handed McConnell a first-round win, even though they didn’t know three of their own were driving the bus that hit them.
Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!
JOHN FLAVELL is a member of MSU’s Convergent Media faculty and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.