Such devious and deceitful tactics should make the Governor ashamed of himself, but it's obvious, by the way he continues to portray himself as the victim of a political "witch hunt" in the merit-system hiring scandal, that Fletcher and his aides are way beyond shame. Instead of ridding Frankfort of "waste, fraud, and abuse," as they promised during the 2003 campaign, they have only added to it. Indeed, what was Fletcher's call for a special session of the General Assembly if not a classic example of waste (the taxpayers' money), fraud (the reasons for calling the session), and abuse (of his gubernatorial powers)?
Yet you can bet that Fletcher will try to use the casino gambling issue to drive a wedge among Democrats and divert attention from the absysmal failures of his first term. That's what Republicans do. Rather than face up to their record, they invariably engage in diversionary tactics and/or attack the credibility of their critics. In the current election, it will be important for Beshear to keep the public focused on the main issue - Fletcher's failed administration - and not let the Republicans turn the campaign into a narrow referendum on the single issue of casino gambling.
At the same time, there's no reason for Beshear to shrink from discussing his support for casino gambling. Indeed, he should be proud of it because it squarely addresses the commonwealth's need for new revenue streams. He has the facts on his side, and the facts always should prevail over fear and ignorance, the two very human conditions that exist in Kentucky to an unacceptable degree - and that Fletcher and his supports will cynically try to exploit, again, in their quest to make sure that politics always trumps policy.
For openers, it's not true that casino gambling will create new gamblers. The gamblers already are there, in every county, playing the lottery. The gamblers already are there, mesmerized by the tumbling dice and the spinning wheels, except they're leaving Kentucky to do their wagering on the riverboats that are docked on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. Nobody knows how many Indiana schools have been helped by Kentucky dollars.
The casinos won't reveal, probably because they don't know, exactly how much of their revenue comes from Kentucky. But take a stroll through the parking lot at Caesar's or Bellterra and check how many Kentucky license plates you see. Heck, many of them probably are attached to cars that belong to Republicans. Rightly, Beshear sees casino gambling as a Band-Aid that will help staunch the hemorrhaging of Kentucky money to other states.
It's not true that Beshear sees casino gambling as a panacea that will solve Kentucky's economic problems. He only sees it as one way to generate new money for education, health-care, and other pressing needs. He must be clear about that during this fall's campaign. He also must be conservative in his estimates of how much new revenue the casinos will generate, and specific in how the revenue will be used.
It's not true that Beshear favors putting slot machines into every convenience store in the commonwealth. The lottery already owns that franchise. Beshear wants casino gambling limited to our existing pari-mutuel race tracks and to cities that want it to help promote tourism and economic development. He has stated that repeatedly, but the Republicans continue to willfully misrepresent his position.