The notion of giving fanciful but pointed presents to public figures at Christmastime is an old one, established in Kentucky in 1981-82 by the late Ed Ryan when he was chief of The Courier-Journal’s Frankfort Bureau and institutionalized by his successors, Bob Garrett and Tom Loftus. I also inherited the enterprise, and at a time when many traditions of journalism and politics are being upended, I’m sticking with it.
Gov. Andy Beshear: A repeating reel of Tyler Childers singing “Universal Sound” at Beshear’s second inauguration, where we learned it’s one of the governor’s favorite songs. That wasn’t surprising; Childers says we’re all part of “the chorus of the universal sound” and Beshear’s current theme is “Forward Together” when his fellow Democrats are badly outnumbered by Republicans in the legislature. They might scoff that Beshear wants them all to sing “Kumbaya,” but he seems to be looking beyond them. At the inaugural, he said the state has the chance to be “an economic and moral leader” of the nation; in his budget address Monday night, he changed that to “THE economic and moral leader of the country.” Sounds like the first page of a playbook for president in 2028.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman: First, our wishes for a full recovery from her current health issue. Then, a gift of a comedy writer to put some snap into her speeches, which Coleman will need if she’s going to speak as long as she did at the inauguration, getting more into policy than Beshear. A free helper: her father, former state Rep. Jack Coleman, who cracked after being introduced by Beshear Senior Adviser Rocky Adkins (another likely candidate for governor in 2027), “I’m just through the most stressful part of this day, wondering what Rocky’s gonna say.”
Attorney General-elect Russell Coleman, no relation to the above: To the newest Republican gubernatorial possibility, a photo collage of Kentucky’s six Republican attorneys general, only one of whom became governor: William S. Taylor, whom the Democratic legislature replaced with the assassinated William Goebel in 1900. A better model is the first one: John M. Harlan, who became a highly regarded Supreme Court justice.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: A big Ukraine flag, because he is the linchpin keeping that courageous country from being re-absorbed by Russia. To get the votes of other Republicans to keep weapons and ammunition flowing, he has had to insist that the package include border-security improvements, but he puts it in global terms, as he did Monday: “An imperialist thug is trying to redraw the map of Europe. A repressive authoritarian state is preparing to put more of the Indo-Pacific under its control. And the world’s largest state sponsor of terror [Iran] is showing us it’s as determined as ever to kill American service-members and disrupt global commerce. There is simply no room for falling short, here. We cannot afford to get this wrong.” Right.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul: He gets a Ukraine flag too, to remind him of the importance of that country and its people, for whom he seems to have little if any sympathy. He says we don’t have the money. We do, and it’s mostly spent here.
U.S. Rep James Comer, R-Frankfort: A two-headed coin, since he first said Hunter Biden could have his choice of testifying privately or in public. After Biden chose the latter, Comer said he would first have to testify privately – as other witnesses have, but in a setting that allows their testimony to be manipulated.
U.S. Rep. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville: A small medal, like those given to all in a meritorious military unit after a campaign, to signify the “shadow majority” he and fellow Democrats had in providing most of the votes for the four major bills that passed the House this year (the most unproductive session in modern times) while the Republican majority was mired in performance politics, the tyranny of a small minority, and political enslavement to Donald Trump.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington: For his Monday endorsement of Trump, a lump of coal for his Christmas stocking. (They both like coal.)
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg: Floodlights around his home to remind him and his wife that a public office is a public trust, which requires transparency and openness to maintain the trust of the public. He’s a Democrat, but on this point behaves more like legislative Republicans, who need to restore openness and proper deliberation to legislative procedure.
To all Kentuckians (if we only could): A subscription to your local newspaper, which needs it to pay for journalism and to fight for open government at all levels. And finally, our thanks for reading these columns and keeping an interest in the state’s politics. Ultimately, the recipients of these gifts are accountable to you. May you and they remember that.