Political class, ass and backlash

To clarify any confusion, let me affirm my commitment to non-violence via the Kentucky Constitution: “I, being a citizen of the state, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within the State or nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as a second in carrying a challenge nor aided or assisted any person thus offending.”

If I sound like a candidate, let me paraphrase LBJ: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for” any office — nor shall I enter any horse race,  either as a jockey or, despite my uncanny resemblance, a stallion.

If I sound like a non-candidate, let me hasten to add that I reserve the right to change my mind pending an unforeseeable event such as a psychotic break.

I jealously guard what little privacy I have because I need time to lead an examined life, which Socrates believed is the only life worth living. Quiet time alone enhances clarity amid chaos, information-gathering, awareness and gratitude. Though I feel compelled to thank winners and losers, this isn’t an acceptance speech. It’s a denial that any learning experience or keen observation is wasted.

Kudos to Louisville and to all its champions. The late, great Metro Council President Jim King envisioned and enabled its arrival in earnest before his untimely departure. May the designers of a downtown Omni hotel, residential and retail behemoth collaborate with local stakeholders to optimize compatibility, sustainability and pedestrian engagement. Taxpayers would eviscerate any semblance of an invasive spaceship.

Muchos kudos to Victor Espinoza for jockeying American Pharoah to the 12th Triple Crown victory at Saturday’s Belmont Stakes — and for donating all of his winnings to City of Hope, a cancer research center in California. His generosity paralleled that of Kentuckiana during last weekend’s 62nd annual WHAS Crusade for Children, which raised $5,674,721 for special-needs kids. Congratulations also to Ahmed Zayat, 52, the charismatic Egyptian-American owner and his Orthodox Jewish family for enduring a rocky road to this pot of gold — and for revitalizing a beloved Kentucky industry with the first Triple Crown win since 1978.

As the host of its first leg, the Kentucky Derby, Louisville strives to be a welcoming safe haven for immigrants. Churchill Downs, among the most diverse places on Earth, is an international destination. Our multi-cultural restaurant scene is superior to that of larger cities.

We delight in the strength of different flavors, yet we struggle to evolve our branding much beyond bourbon, our signature beverage. Compassion is one of our hallmarks, but that’s a bit of a tough sell while our urban core remains a notorious heat island that deep-fries trees and where vehicles pummel pedestrians and historic landmarks somehow succumb to no-fault neglect.

Our emerging infrastructure mega-project consists of an eastern bridge we want and need coupled with a luxury tunnel under a pseudo-historical estate, a downtown fuster-cluck junction of three interstates expanded by tons of concrete and a new downtown span that’s unnecessary, unaffordable and will probably define a lack of imagination by memorializing another dead president. If bourbon were our blood type, I’d suggest Foster Brooks and call it a day. Instead, I would argue that bourbon is a subset of our larger reputation for hospitality.

But that brand is damaged by a recent surge of racial slurs. A Jefferson County prosecutor earned a suspension for calling an Asian family “greedy foreigners.” And a Democratic campaign consultant soiled his nasty pants when, attempting to collect an alleged debt, he told state treasurer candidate Daniel Grossman, “You are why people don’t like Jews.” In Grossman’s recording of the rant, consultant Jacob Conway threatened, “I will go to war with you, and I will do worse to you than I did to Shawn Reilly and Curt Morrison,” two activists Conway implicated in the secret recording of a 2013 meeting among U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and potential saboteurs of an Ashley Judd candidacy.

At the time, Conway said his disclosure was meant to exonerate the Democratic Party. He betrayed no punitive intent against the two until intimidating Grossman became a priority. Months after the leak, Morrison contemplated worst-case scenarios. On June 28, 2013, he wrote from Irvine, California: “Jacob and I are still FB friends. If faced with house arrest, he’s promised me I can serve it out at his place as the bracelet reaches the pool. (As it did when he wore it when we were dating.)”