Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Clinton, in Lexington and Hazard, tries to put distance between Grimes and Obama

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Courier-Journal photo by Jonathan Palmer
Former President Bill Clinton subtly tried to put some distance between President Obama and Alison Lundergan Grimes as he campaigned with her in a region where she probably needs to do better to defeat Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Clinton reminded an overflow crowd of more than 800 in Hazard that the Nov. 4 election is for a six-year term, but McConnell "wants you to make it a protest on a two-year term. That doesn't make any sense, does it? If I was hiring somebody for a six-year job, I believe I would think about what was best for me over the next six years." He made the same point earlier, at a Grimes fund-raiser in Lexington, saying "That man must think Kentucky has stopped teaching arithmetic."

Later in his Hazard speech, Clinton declared, "We have not done anything meaningful for rural America since the New Markets Tax Credit" in 1999, when he last visited Hazard. He said likewise in Lexington. President Obama would likely disagree; last month the White House announced creation of a $10 billion investment fund for rural development, and the administration has recently taken steps to make parts of Eastern Kentucky more eligible for federal aid.

Clinton emphasized jobs and economic inequality in Hazard, a key town in a region hit hard by decline of the Central Appalachian coal industry.

"One candidate believes it's is about jobs and incomes," he said of the race. "The other believes a senator has no business trying to create jobs." That is based on a comment McConnell made in April to the editor of the Beattyville Enterprise, whose question he said he misunderstood.

Clinton said "all the benefits" of current economic growth "are going to people at the top of the ladder. That's the big issue in America, that's the big issue in Kentucky."

Polls have shown a majority of Kentuckians rank jobs as their top concern, but in Eastern Kentucky the huge loss of coal jobs has made Obama's anti-coal policies the focus of McConnell's campaign.

Clinton urged the crowd to stop and think about "well-produced" TV ads that he said are designed to make viewers "vote in anger instead of in love." Then he said he had handled black-lung claims for miners in Arkansas, and "It was one of the things in my long life I'm most proud of," because he won a change in administrative law from two federal judges appointed by each party.

In Lexington, he said the judges "saw those coal miners as people. They looked at the facts of the law. They didn't turn their brains off in order to prove how pure they were, to somebody, ideologically."

In his most direct attack on the incumbent, Clinton said in Lexington, "If Senator McConnell had really, really wanted to get an infrastructure bank, which would help Eastern Kentucky enormously, opening it up physically with better roads, opening it up virtually with better download speeds, he could have gotten it. We could have gotten a lot of things. But if your goal is just to make the other side look bad, you don't get anything done. Cooperation works, and constant conflict is a dead-bang loser."

At Hazard, United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts gave a fiery speech introducing Grimes, who said "I am the only pro-coal candidate in this race," despite McConnell's fights against environmental regulations imposed on the industry. Applying another label, she also said, "I am a Clinton Democrat."

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