Louisville Magazine

OCT 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/388156

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Page 168 of 172

150 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 afected by heart disease, which accounts for a quarter of all Kentucky deaths each year. Tere's just no defned voting bloc of heart disease victims or asthma suferers. Nor does the surprising resurgence of black lung disease in the very miners everyone wants to defend evoke much campaign rhetoric. As he has at most stops, McConnell raises the issue of global warming and then waves it away. "We don't have to get into that argument," he says in Hindman. Tis is starting to bother me. Just what is it that the senator believes? Should I assume, because his policies don't take atmo- spheric carbon into account, that he does not fnd any of the evidence for global climate change convincing? Should I assume that he views rising sea levels, a steady increase in atmospheric temperature, melting glaciers and the disappearance of polar ice to be natural phenomena? I want to ask him. I mention this to a campaign worker, the same guy stuck to McConnell at the Bell County rally, the one who shooed him away while the senator was still speaking. "You already heard him talk about that." "No, I haven't." "Yes, you have. Besides, you already talked to the senator." "Come on!" "We don't have time." I talk to a couple of hairdressers instead, one a registered Democrat who always votes for McConnell. "Are there things that the senator has done that have convinced you, specifc things?" "He stands up and says what's best for us," she answers. "He stands for the truth. He don't care to go up against other powerful people. And he has helped with everything with coal. He is all for the people." And he's good with the Churchill quotes. Don't forget that. For once, I'm early. It's dreary and raining, but the signs welcome Mitch McConnell, Hall Rogers, and announce customer-appreciation day. Inside the Peterbilt truck dealership in Pikeville, I fnd Jimmy Rose, the composer and singer of "Coal Keeps the Light On," the prettiest song ever devoted to coal mining. If your touch point for coal-mining music is "Sixteen Tons," you are living in the wrong era. Rose, with close-cropped hair and a wispy gelled fringe touching his forehead, performed yesterday during McConnell's stop in Middlesboro. People got a little more misty with every verse he sang. Rose's sweet delivery could send shivers up the spine of a Sierra Club ofcer. McConnell has been employing the singer like a crooning political ad. A week ago Rose spoke to the EPA. "I've been tellin' everyone I sort of felt like George Strait in a Snoop Dog concert," Rose says. He even performed his song in the Capitol. Rose, a native of Pineville in Bell County, gained a measure of fame when he came in third place on America's Got Talent last fall. "I wrote that song about a year and a half before I auditioned for the show. I had no idea it would be auditioned on national television," he says. He spent almost two years underground himself before enlisting in the Marine Corps. He got out in 2005 after serving his last year in Iraq. When the rally begins in the truck showroom, Rose climbs onto the hood of a big red Peterbilt cab. By the time he's reached the refrain, the crowd is in his palm, barely aware of the feedback singing through the sound system. "Coal keeps the lights on," he sings, and the crowd whoops. My hometown keeps the food on the spoon in my young'un's mouth, Tires on the truck, and a sundress on my baby girl. Coal keeps the bills paid. Te clothes on the backs and the shoes on the feet in the high school halls of the Mountain Lions And the Bell County Bobcats on the hill. It misses the nuance of the whole coal issue, but nuance is not what a campaign is about, and besides, nuance makes for awful lyrics. I ask the campaign press guy if I can ask the senator a question and he says he doesn't know. So I go outside and stand with the reporters who are allowed to speak to him — something I've been doing without any success at other stops. As the questioning ends, I manage to shoehorn in my question. "Senator, do you fnd any of the evidence about global warming compelling?" McConnell clearly hears me. And for one brief moment, there are no handlers around to protect him. He looks into my eyes, his lips sealed shut, like he's keeping a bird trapped in there. Finally, a campaign worker realizes the senator is in danger and steps in front of me to escort him to the Mitchmobile. Close call for the incumbent, that one. I miss the next campaign stop when I'm led to another abandoned house, this one with a few old cars in the front yard. I'm beginning to suspect that it's not Obama responsible for these crap directions, but the McConnell campaign itself. I give up and head to Paintsville in Johnson County, the last stop of the War on the War on Coal Tour. I can't decide if it's ironic or convenient when the power fails during the Paintsville stop, but it comes back on during the introduction speeches, so McConnell is at full volume. "Tere's nobody that Barack Obama wants to beat worse than the guy you're lookin' at," McConnell tells the crowd. "I'm proud of my enemies. Come on in. We're going to take them to the cleaners in November." Republic State Sen. Brandon Smith is one of the speakers at this stop. He's 47 and looks younger. He's so tall that I have to hold my recorder above my head to catch his conversation. Smith admires McConnell, saying the senator's long tenure has given Eastern Kentucky the stability to develop new programs, test their efcacy and watch them bear fruit. "Tat's really allowed us to pull together," he says. "We always felt like we're not even a part of Kentucky. His credibility, by coming here, has made us feel like we're not only a part of Kentucky, but we matter. We contribute." But talk to Smith about coal, mention global warming to him, and you get a graduate course on developing technologies that can keep coal in the game. "Check out Doctor Fan at Ohio State," he tells me. Liang-Shih Fan, director of Ohio State University's Clean Coal Research Laboratory, has a process that chemically combusts coal in a sealed chamber, extracting the energy without releasing dangerous gasses. Te U.S. Department of Energy was creating a pilot plant to further investi- gate the technology. "For me, this is pretty cut-and-dry," Smith says. "We've got a won- derful opportunity in this country. Energy has never been more popular than it is right now. Why are we sitting on the bench?" Bolstered by Smith's animated tutorial, I head over to where anointed reporters are permitted to ask McConnell questions. I listen to a woman from a local paper. "I guess I want to ask you, well, frst of all, good job at Fancy Farm. Your speech was really good. I know your wife is helping you out in the campaign. She was at your side at Fancy Farm. What is her role? Is she going to be a big proponent for women's issues?" she asks. After this searching question, I try again to get an answer on global climate change. I'm even less successful than last time. He's gone before I can fnish my question. I walk out to my car, have a brief tantrum, and head for home. A few hours later, as I approach Hurstbourne Parkway, my mind a million miles away from Mitch McConnell, coal, the campaign, McConnell's wife Elaine Chao's stand on women's issues, I snap back attention like someone has walked over my grave. Tere, on the Hurstbourne overpass on I-65, is the Mitchmobile, lumbering of into the sunset. I think I see McConnell in the window, lips pursed tight, still holding that bird imprisoned. Continued From page 45

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