Former Secretary of State John Y. Brown III took umbrage with my characterization of his blog of December 11, 2007, regarding the inauguration of Governor Steve Beshear.
In a piece entitled "Democrats Scratch Their Heads", I wrote: "Today's the day when Kentucky Democrats should have been cheering Governor Beshear's inauguration, but instead some of them were left wondering what exactly the new administration was elected to do in office." Brown responded in a comment to my piece by arguing that Beshear's inaugural speech on "Kentucky’s Next Frontier" had somehow filled the void of Democratic ideas acknowledged in Brown's refreshingly honest piece:
I give Governor Beshear kudos for crisply articulating what he envisions Kentucky becoming under his leadership. From yesterday’s inaugural speech, Governor Beshear describes what he calls Kentucky’s Next Frontier:
A frontier of imaginative solutions;
A frontier for new technology and new industries;
A frontier that protects the environment, while creating opportunities;
A frontier that attracts entrepreneurs, tourists, retirees;
A frontier that keeps our own graduates right here at home.
Beshear apparently was borrowing from the rhetoric of JFK's "New Frontier" speech from the early 1960s. With all due respect, the Democrats really should offer something newer and more concrete than almost 50-year-old platitudes.
In his blog Brown had bluntly posed the conundrum of Democrats who are plumb out of ideas:
Republicans, it’s said, can put their core beliefs on a bumper sticker. Smaller government. Lower taxes. Family values. We can spend all day listing the deviations from these values, but give them their due: Republicans have done a better job defining themselves than we have done defining ourselves.
Brown went on to urge Democrats to answer: "How would you define the core principles of the Kentucky Democratic Party as we approach a new era of Democratic leadership?"
Governor Beshear has had a month now to think of an answer to Brown's question, and judging by his State of the Commonwealth address delivered this evening, he needs to think some more.
As Jill Johnson Keeney (one of the good journalists at The Courier-Journal) writes:
Well, Gov. Steve Beshear just delivered a report on the state of the commonwealth, and the only bold statement he made is this: "Frankly, the state of this commonwealth is not acceptable."
He told us he would never hesitate to express what he believes; he told us that it's time for leadership and bold action; and he told us that re-engineering Kentucky's economy from within must be among our highest priorities. And he said, "Ideas are the foundation of any new economy."
But he didn't offer one idea; he offered no new initiatives. That is amazing: In the State of the Commonwealth address, governors generally overpromise what they're going to do. Gov. Beshear promised nothing but to work on ethics reform and to only raise taxes as a last resort.
Keeney notes that even the Democrats were underwhelmed by Beshear's speech. "Several called the speech 'a little bland' or 'not much there,'" she reports. They must still be scratching their heads.