Off The Record: Kentucky's 'hayseed' governor almost upstages 'The Gipper'

June 14, 2004|HERB BROCK

The national anthem was played often last week in Washington, D.C., during the lengthy patriotic send-off for the late Ronald Reagan. But little did organizers know that bombs might really have been bursting in air.

No, it wasn't some surprise pyrotechnic show that was possibly in the offiing. It was a plane that, for a few tense moments, appeared as if it were heading toward the Capitol.

A 9-11 redux certainly was on the minds of a jittery D.C. security force, and the plane certainly made them nervous enough to order the evacuation of the Capitol - and also created in the minds of everyone in D.C. with a burning Pentagon in the back of their minds the horrifying image of fighter jets and artillery units on the ground firing away at another plane that had been turned into a missile.

Within minutes, though, officials discovered that the plane was not a missile but was on a friendly mission - to deliver passengers to the very ceremonies that were almost disrupted. Because of an equipment problem, the plane had gone off course.


So the good news is that the incident involving the off-course plane was just a scare. The bad news is that one of the passengers the plane was carrying was the governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher. The former Republican congressman was on his way to attend the Capitol funeral of the Republican icon.

With of all our well-documented image problems, all we Kentuckians need is for our top elected official to be at least indirectly responsible for a commotion that led to the evacuation of not just any office building but one of our nation's shrines.

Great. Our governor almost upstages ceremonies for a man being called one of the greatest presidents of the 20th Century. Word to Ernie: Instead of going to the Reagan farewell, you should have gotten in a time machine and gone back to the funeral of Millard Fillmore. No one would have cared if you had landed in the middle of the service because it's likely no one was there anyway.

Let's put it this way: We Kentuckians can't count on the hundreds of people who had to leave their offices and scurry to safety to ever have warm and fuzzy thoughts about us, and the governor's can't count on any of them to vote for him if he ever were to aspire to reside at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

To put it another way: Unless the governor sucks up big-time to Nancy, he should not look for any invitations to events at the Reagan library in California - unless he promises to take a bus.

To put it yet another way: To the occupants of the Capitol, the thousands who were getting in line to watch the funeral parade and the scores of people entering the Capitol Rotunda for the funeral, the incident proved yet again that yahoos are us.

To a man and a woman, everyone of my friends and coworkers said the first thing they thought of when they heard it was Fletcher's plane that had caused a reel of "Independence Day" to roll in their heads was how the incident only underscored the image of Kentuckians as bumbling bumpkins not worthy of being invited to a rowdy pig roast at a trailer park, much less a dignified funeral service for an ex-president.

At least luggage was in the luggage compartment. We had fears that when the airport personnel unloaded the cargo bay, out would pour bales of hay. At least a pilot was in the cockpit. We had concerns that a Jethro Klampett look-alike - complete with no teeth, no shoes and no brain - was going to be the pilot.

What's so ironic about this reaffirmation of Kentuckians as rubes, boobs and bohunks is that our gov is the one who is leading an effort to clean up our image, at least that of state employees. A second word to our hayseed governor in pinstripes and wingtips: Just because you have short hair, no facial hair and no tattoos doesn't mean you aren't a yahoo; conversely, just because you have all those things doesn't mean you are. You can wear a three-piece suit rather than bib overalls and still act like a hillbilly - excuse me, hillwilliam in your case.

So governor, the next time you plan to represent the state at a funeral for a former president, take a horse and carriage. That way, you wouldn't pose a security risk, cause a scene and embarrass the state. Better yet, you likely wouldn't get to the event on time.

And, by the way, if that funeral happens to be for one of the two living Democratic ex-presidents, we expect you to declare a day of state mourning and give state employees the day off like you did for your Republican idol.

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