Introducing state Senator Wheeler, the one representing Texas and Donald Trump’s campaign Skip to content

Introducing state Senator Wheeler, the one representing Texas and Donald Trump’s campaign

It seems Sen. Phillip Wheeler has forgotten both whom he represents, and what his job is in Frankfort.

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“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In June 2009, I was sitting in a classroom at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania with 19 colonels and an ethics professor, watching President Obama give a speech at Cairo University in Egypt.

The colonels — older students, most of whom had returned from several deployments — were learning how to explicate a political speech as a nonpartisan, and I watched as they marked up printed copies of the president’s speech and listened to their intense, thoughtful discussion.

Who was the president really talking to, they asked, and better yet, who was he not talking to? What topics did he shy away from and why? How many times did he say ‘Muslim’ or ‘the Koran’ and in what context? Did he talk about terrorism, torture, women’s rights? What words did he use and why?

I was reminded of this exercise as I listened to Sen. Phillip Wheeler’s lengthy speech on the senate floor on Feb. 6 as he spoke in favor of a resolution to support Gov. Abbott of Texas. You can watch the speech here.

While I do not normally dedicate an entire column to one speech or one legislator, Sen. Wheeler’s is an unfortunate lesson in its diversion from focusing on Kentucky — not Texans or Donald Trump’s campaign — and deserving of War College-level questioning.

“Like many of those in this chamber,” Sen. Wheeler began, “I have watched with utter dismay as we have seen the activities at the southern border with drugs, with human trafficking, with untold suffering being caused by the actions of the President of the United States and his homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.”

He continued, “You know, I look everyday and I think three things: Joe Biden is an accessory to human trafficking-in-chief, he’s the accessory to drug trafficking-in-chief, [and] one thing he doesn’t act like is a Commander in Chief protecting the border of the United States. The man has completely abrogated his responsibilities in the defense of our homeland such that hundreds of people on the terrorist watch list have been found coming over the southern border because Joe Biden really just doesn’t care.”

This is how Sen. Wheeler spent his first minute: Four pointed, derogatory comments on President Biden; accusing the president personally of drug trafficking and human trafficking; stating that the president is not defending the country he swore an oath to defend; insisting that the president does not care about terrorists.

Where is the senator’s proof for such egregious statements? What do his remarks have to do with his job as a Kentucky legislator?

I kept watching, hoping he would get to this.

“Within 48 hours of … being inaugurated president of the united states in 2021,” Sen. Wheeler continued, “Joe Biden went to work dismantling all security measures on the southern border of the United States.”

I find no reported proof of this, other than rightwing media talking points, and what my War College friends would have found laughable and dismissed outright.

The senator continued.

“Since that time we have had nearly six and a half million people flood into our country. These people have cost our social security system untold billions of dollars housing them as they have been bussed and flown in the middle of the night throughout the United States of America. Without any consent of the state legislatures or the citizenry as a whole. When polling is done on this subject, a full 80% of Americans disapprove of what’s occurring on the southern border, and yet our Commander in Chief, who has all the powers in the world, does absolutely nothing except to exacerbate the problem.”

The War College class would have used their in-class training to ask: Is the president doing “absolutely nothing?” Who is exacerbating the problem? Can we name them? Because it does not appear to be the president personally.

It has been widely reported, by the Associated Press and other outlets, that former president Donald Trump is primarily responsible for helping to block a bipartisan deal that had been negotiated for months between President Biden and Republican leaders.

Sen. Wheeler, whose legislative profile specifically indicates that he is a Christian, went on to say, “I am not without sympathy for those that want to come here and have a better life, but there is an orderly process that has been put in place. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants, but with every wave of immigration there has always been a pause to allow folks who have come in to this country legally to integrate and assimilate in the United States of America.”

“Under this president, the only thing we have had is an unremitting wave of misery that comes over our southern border. There are children starving, there are children being sex-trafficked, and yet all of this is occurring with the tacit approval of the President of the United States.”

I stop again to ask, other than what he has heard from TV pundits — the folks my War College friends recognized as purely “infotainment” even back in 2009 — where is the senator’s proof that the president has given “tacit approval” to starve and sex-traffic children?

I looked. I found none.

Rules of decorum dictate that those who rise to speak on the Kentucky senate floor must speak directly to the bill being discussed, yet Sen. Wheeler continued without interruption or direction from Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens, who was in charge of the chamber on Feb. 6.

“Mr. President,” the senator went on, referring to Givens, “the Governor of Texas has taken an heroic measure in the defense of his state from invasion by foreigners. These illegal aliens have crossed the border without any right or privilege, oftentimes with the intent of bringing harm and illegal substances into the United States of America. Sure, there are some good people in this group, but at the same time, for good people, there is an orderly process, and yet that process is being totally ignored.”

“I’m all for legal immigration. Legal immigration is a good thing, especially when they come to this country and add to the good things that are happening here. But what we have seen with unremitting wave of illegal alien immigration is them bringing their problems from around the world here to our shores, and it’s just not right.”

What does the senator mean by “bringing their problems.” To state the obvious, if people are relocating to another country, as refugees or immigrants, they are likely doing so with “problems.” Do we only accept perfect human beings with perfect lives and no “problems” here in the United States? Who among us could withstand such scrutiny?

According to Sen. Wheeler’s legislative profile he represents District 31, which includes the following counties: Elliott, Johnson, Lawrence, Martin, Pike. To this point of his speech, what do the senator’s remarks have to do with representing the citizens in his district?

The answer is nothing.

As much as I would like to end this analysis here, it seems fair to Sen. Wheeler to print the final words of his speech and consider them, as well.

“I have watched on the news as angel moms and angel fathers have told the stories of murders occurring and people that should just not be here, and MS-13, and of many gangs that have taken over the drug trading even in Louisville,” said the senator. “Most of the drugs coming into Louisville are as a result of fentanyl and other substances being brought over the southern border, right here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Fact check: There is no proof that numerous, individual immigrants are sneaking across the border on foot, carrying massive amounts of fentanyl or other lethal drugs on their person.

In fact, according to a report from border control dated Oct. 23, 2023, “data indicates most smuggling of illicit drug substances into the U.S. happens at ports of entry, not between. Hidden in compartments in vehicles and cargo, smuggling is often quicker and more expedient at POEs [points of entry] compared to traveling through rough terrain between ports. While it might appear easier to smuggle illicit fentanyl between POEs, there are tools that detect the movement of illicit drugs between ports that likely make it a more difficult option.”

In closing, Sen. Wheeler made a political comparison between the Texas governor and Kentucky’s governor.

“So no, this does not only affect Texas,” the senator said. “Texas is merely at the epicenter of the crisis that is going on. I call upon our governor, Governor Beshear, who claims he wants to protect all Kentuckians to send our guard, to send our troops, to send our help to the southern border, to allow Texas to stop this unremitting invasion of of its state. Texas Governor Abbott’s actions are well-within his authority under Article 10, Subsection 3 of the United States Constitution, which allows a state to protect itself from invasion. Which is exactly what’s going on.”

Just a few months ago, according to a Spectrum News report on Oct. 26, 2023, “Gov. Andy Beshear (D-Ky.) honored the soldiers in the seven Kentucky National Guard units that have been deployed to help protect America’s southern border … Since 2020, over 750 Kentucky Guardsmen have been assisting the Department of Homeland Security and Customers and Border Protection agents in Texas and other border states.”

Obvious question: How does a state senator appear unaware of this fact?

In closing, Sen. Wheeler, a Fulbright Scholar according to his legislative biography, made comparisons to the fall of Rome.

“You know, they often say that history may not repeat itself but it does rhyme, and I am a great student of history and I think back to ancient Rome, at which time the folks from Germania eventually started to come over and settle within the empire and, within 400 years, suddenly they didn’t have a country anymore, and that’s exactly what’s going on right here, right now.”

I did some (albeit time-restricted) reading about this and found this paragraph particularly interesting considering Sen. Wheeler’s remarks: “There is a great deal of debate concerning the cause of these migrations. Were these opportunistic tribal warbands intent on looting and pillaging Roman cities, or were they refugees fleeing from more powerful political entities further east, such as the Huns? The construction of the Great Wall of China has been suggested as a cause for the migrations, forcing tribes westward, creating a domino effect that led to Germanic tribes moving into the Western Roman Empire. Climate change, poor harvests, and population pressures have all been cited as reasons for these large-scale movements.”

So much for the self-professed “great student of history.”

Sen. Wheeler then made the following statement, and I share it here to denote — yet again — that the senator spent his time, time that we pay him for, speechifying on our senate floor about national, partisan gobbledygook.

“As has been previously said by certain people in the political arena, ‘Either you have a country, or you don’t.’ And right now, due to the actions of the President of the United States, we don’t even have a country that’s respected in the world. That’s why we have all these people invading, because they don’t respect him, because they know he’s weak, and they know he’s a pushover, and that’s exactly what’s occurring.”

And therein lies the rub. Sen. Wheeler’s speech, in its entirety, was not about Kentucky at all. He was campaigning for the former president on our dime. “Donald Trump’s core general election argument is that President Joe Biden is weak and incapable as events spin out of control at home and abroad. And he’s presenting himself as the strongman that America needs to save it.”

There are days that I watch, stunned at what is happening in Frankfort. Days when I listen to long, rambling, inappropriate speeches like Sen. Wheeler’s on Feb. 6, and think that if Jesus Christ himself — dark-skinned, unkempt long hair, tattered clothing, dirty feet — returned at our southern border, some of the very politicians who claim so vehemently and publicly to be Christians would deny him.

Add the blatant, show-pony, political posturing — most of it nationally focused — for the cameras, and I wonder what men like Sen. Wheeler think their job as a state senator is.

As Dr. King once said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Shame on Sen. Wheeler for wasting our tax dollars and our time. And shame on Sen. Givens — who should know better — for allowing this speech on our senate floor.

Kentuckians deserve so much better than this.

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Teri Carter

Teri Carter writes about rural Kentucky politics for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Washington Post, and The Daily Yonder. She lives in Anderson County.

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