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 45 of 172

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 43 McConnell (with wife Elaine Chao) at a Kentucky Farm Bureau "Mea- sure the Candidates" forum on Aug. 20 in Louisvillle. Te Team Mitch van lumbers ahead of me with police cars in front and behind. Tis time, I cannot get lost. As the motorcade crawls along, I study the landscape: Some young women sell used household goods from a blanket on the roadside, not far from a big pawn shop. I mistake a discount cigarette hut for an ice cream stand when I frst see it in the distance, and not long after I think I am driving up on a fried chicken emporium, only to fnd another discount smoke shop, this one with a giant rooster out front — obviously not the rooster's frst job. Out back of the fowl cigarette store, a train of full coal cars sits idle, waiting for the kudzu. Some 28 miles later, "Friends of Coal" signs tell me my destination — the Combs Group, which provides equipment to the mining industry — is on the left. Out back, there's a gathering crowd and a pair of men sweating over a hot grill. Amplifed country-western music makes it nearly impossible to eavesdrop on anyone, but I do my best. A man in a blue shirt leaves the food line and strides over to Bell County Sherif Bruce Bennett. "I just want you to know I appreciate everything you do for us," he says, shaking the sherif's hand. Google Sherif Bennett's name and you can see what he's been up to: drug arrests, one after another. While Bell County may be better known for the pastor who died of a snake bite during a church service in Febru- ary, drugs is the real serpent here. "We're doing what we have to to fght the drug epidemic," Bennett says. "My number-one goal is the children, and stopping anything that hurts the children." Bennett has a redhead's pink complexion, and I immediately feel guilty for dragging him into the sun. "In my term as sherif, we've made over 1,000 drug-trafcking arrests. Tat's never been heard of before. In the past, we were lucky to have 20." Tere's a YouTube video of the sherif talking about a moonshining operation he broke up a few years ago. He'd asked for a search warrant based on what he felt certain was the smell of mash used in booze-mak- ing. But he noted that the mash aroma was masked by the distinct perfume of hog manure. Sure enough, he found a still and some hogs and arrested the still operators, whose lawyer promptly challenged the warrant in court. Eventually, the judge upheld the warrant, ruling that the sherif was an expert in both the smell of mash and the smell of hog manure. It's probably a useful skill at a political gathering, Democrat or Repub- lican. While we talk, the chanters are in full throttle. Eventually U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, steps up to introduce McConnell, as he does at each stop today. Rogers has a television announcer's clear enunciation and a stage performer's projection, and in a succinct summary he warms up the crowd for the main attraction. Rogers is in his 17th term in the House, where he chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee. On his resume is a commission he established on prescription-drug abuse. He is also a member of the Congressional Coal Caucus. His district, he says, has already lost more than 8,000 coal jobs due to the Obama adminis- tration's War on Coal. If McConnell is re-elected, Rogers predicts, the Senate minority leader will become Senate majority leader, and then, boy, will things get done. (Neither Rogers nor McConnell ever mentions that the election outcomes in several other states could block the sena- tor's ascension into heaven.) "You get a choice this year, and this will mean something," Rogers says. "We're shooting real bullets in this election. If we can just survive through the Obama presidency and live, we'll be lucky. So we need the strongest, most powerful voice…." For three years running, Rogers explains, the Republican-led House has cut the EPA's budget by more than 20 percent, and each time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — second only to Obama on the Evil-O-Meter — "drops it in the waste basket, with Nancy Pelosi cheering all the way," Rogers says. "I can't wait to be able to send that bill back over there with that 20-percent cut … of the EPA and its personnel, send it to Mitch McConnell and he passes it through the Senate. It's gonna be sweet." Cheers. Young women yelling. Nirvana. McConnell takes the microphone and tells the crowd how Obama is "trying to turn us into a Western European country." "Tey want to make us look like France," he says. Would this be all bad? Paris with the Cumberland River instead of the Seine? Drape a little kudzu on an Eifel Tower, and it might just ignite the tourism industry here. OK, tourist jobs don't pay as well as coal mining, but who doesn't like a sidewalk cafe? Charles E. Hayes, a retired master sergeant, and his buddy Jef Caudill are at every McConnell campaign stop today. You can't miss them. Tey both wear overseas caps (those foldable fabric military hats) and both have beards (Caudill's is long and white, like Santa's) and both have siz- able bellies. Hayes is a shameless firt with green eyes, and he's a self-pub- lished poet and novelist. He tells me that if McConnell doesn't win, "We will continue to slide toward socialism. I've lived in socialist countries. I did eight years in Western Europe and four years in England with the United States Air Force. I saw what Britain's health care did, and Germa- ny, Belgium and France. All their socialist programs are hurting them," he says. "Te only reason Germany was able to last so long was because, until about 1992, the United States was responsible for giving them, at minimum, about 25 percent of their GDP." I look everywhere for confr- mation of this fact. I fnally call a library and the librarians there throw up their hands, a little frustrated with me, I think, for sending them on this goose chase. Even the post-war Marshall Plan didn't come close to supplying 25 percent of the German gross domestic product. Hayes says he's been mad about the rise in U.S. entitlement programs since President Lyndon Johnson came to Inez, Kentucky, in 1963 and

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