Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ernie Fletcher: Not your typical politician with an ego that needs inflating

Mainstream media reporters and rabid left-wing bloggers in Kentucky have been obsessing over the fact that outgoing Gov. Ernie Fletcher hasn't been giving a lot of "exit interviews" as he prepares to leave office. They claim that Fletcher is throwing away his chance to establish his legacy by spurning those who would write said legacy.

This is a specious argument, for a couple of reasons. First is that no one in their right mind could expect the press in this state to do justice to Gov. Fletcher. The largest print outlets in the state opposed his election and endorsed his Democrat opponent. Most even endorsed one of his opponents in the primary. Even before he took office, the papers were slamming his choices for transition team members because (GASP!) there were lobbyists on it.

(No one seems concerned, however, that Steve Beshear's transition team for the Education cabinet contains a school administrator against whom credible evidence of possession of child pornography and inappropriate conduct with a student has been presented.)

Things got worse after Fletcher was inaugurated. The coverage of the hiring scandal was especially one-sided. Although Fletcher and his staff repeatedly pointed out that the whistleblower had actually been a part of the improper activity he alleged and had in fact approved the personnel decisions, that was never reported. Even when the Fletcher camp's statements were proven true prior to the election via court depositions, the press never picked up on it.

Fletcher has been criticized for passing up an interview with KET's Jim Goodman. Those critical of the decision have cited Goodman's impartiality and reputation for not being a partisan. But they forget that Goodman works for a network that regularly has a party of liberals and hostile journalists, occasionally inviting a token conservative, every Friday night at 8 p.m. where Fletcher-bashing was often the order of the day. Why should Fletcher give a special interview to a representative of the same network that gave Al Smith and other "Comment on Kentucky" a taxpayer-funded venue to rip into him on a weekly basis?

The guess here is that Fletcher will end up writing a book about his term as governor. His memoirs should be especially interesting since they will tell the truth that the mainstream press and far too many supposed Republican or conservative bloggers would not report.

But the biggest reason that Fletcher may appear unconcerned about his legacy as governor is that he really is unconcerned about it. You see, Fletcher is not the typical politician. In fact, you might want to call him "The Accidental Governor" because unlike many others who held the office before and will hold office afterwards, he is not a career politician who always lusted for the power and prestige of being governor.

Fletcher got into politics for the most honorable of reasons. As a physician and a Christian, he became concerned about a few issues that were of interest to him, and he ran for office and won a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives. During his first and only term in the General Assembly, the legislature redistricted and he was placed in the same district as his fellow conservative Republican Stan Cave. Rather than run against Cave, he opted instead to run for Congress to challenge U.s. Rep. Scotty Baesler. He lost, but the margin was encouragingly close enough to prompt him to run for Congress again when Baesler vacated the seat to run for Wendell Ford's open seat.

Fletcher's entire political career only spans about 15 years, and he didn't get into the political arena until he was in his 40s. That's not exactly representative of your typical politician.

The outgoing governor's life has been all about service. He's been a fighter pilot, a doctor and a ministers. It's obvious that Fletcher's heart is in the business of helping and serving others, no matter the venue. His ego doesn't require constant massaging, the likes of which most politicians crave on a daily basis. He doesn't crave the heady rush of holding public office. He and his wife Glenna can live a happy and uncomplicated life outside the public eye, taking pride in the accomplishments of their adult children and enjoying the company of their grandkids.

Short-term, of course, the personnel probe will dominate the discussion of Fletcher's four years in office. That's sad, really, given the illegitimate nature of that whole affair and the evidence that is already popping up that the incoming administration plans to return to the days of yore when Democrat patronage was the rule of the day and virtual "No Republicans Need Apply" signs were hung on the gates at the state's highway garages.

But take away that issue and the Democrats had nothing to run on against Fletcher. Nothing. His administration has been an unqualified success when all the things that really matter are examined. Fletcher is probably right when he says the true improvements for this state are long-term things, not short-term quick fixes. And that's assuming that all the good his administration did isn't reversed in the next four years and the inevitable slide back into Democrat medocrity.

The governor himself frequently admitted that he had trouble thinking politically. He was usually more focused on policy than politics. That probably was not helpful to him in his effort to stay in office, but it certainly was beneficial to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ernie Fletcher's not your typical politician. That's why he was such a refreshing change from what we've had in Frankfort in the past and what we're reverting back to beginning next Tuesday.

Typical politicians need ego-stroking and legacy-building. Not Ernie Fletcher. As long as he moved this state forward -- and make no mistake, he did -- he's not worried about his legacy.

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