Sunday, September 21, 2003

Broadsides continue over sub


Democrat Lucas questions statesmanship of Republican Bunning

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The Newport submarine sounds like the daily special at a Monmouth Street sandwich shop. But in two years or so, we can expect to see the USS Narwhal, a decommissioned nuclear submarine, right along Riverboat Row, not far from Hooters and in the same neighborhood as the Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, the Hofbrauhaus, the Purple People Bridge and the Great Wall of China.

OK, that last one is a joke. But if somebody said it's coming to Newport, you'd probably believe them. Newport is on a roll that shows no sign of ebbing.

So why aren't our federal lawmakers in a better mood? Sen. Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican, and Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat, can both take a measure of credit for making strides toward landing the sub. Yet they continue to torpedo each other anytime the subject comes up.

Bunning started it back in July, after Lucas put in a bill that would defer the plan of scrapping the sub to preserve it as a possible tourist attraction. Bunning said Lucas' bill would kill any chance of getting the sub since the legislation alerted other lawmakers that the vessel was available.

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Bunning made it sound as if all 535 members of Congress were going to go after the sub like it was the newest Harry Potter book. Well, if another member of Congress wanted it, we sure didn't hear about it. Bunning's claim that Lucas sank the sub didn't hold water.

Then Bunning scores a coup for the region when he announces Thursday that he was able to insert language transferring the sub to the local group trying to bring it here - the National Submarine Science Discovery Center - in a Senate spending bill.

Rather than simply taking credit for a job well done, Bunning takes a shot at Lucas during a Thursday afternoon press conference, saying Lucas made it especially hard to get the deal done.

Already steamed at Bunning's original jab, Lucas fired back Friday, accusing Bunning of arrogance.

"Not only does (Bunning) want credit for the submarine project, but in his own self-promotion, he goes out of his way to claim to save the project in spite of me," Lucas said. "This is another prime example of putting partisanship ahead of statesmanship."

Lucas said back on Aug. 18 he was told by the Navy that the scrapping of demolition of the Narwhal, scheduled for October, was delayed because of his efforts. He produced a letter to prove it.

"Without this, there would have been no submarine, as it would have been in a scrap heap," Lucas said. "In light of the circumstances, we gave no notice to the press. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that great things can be accomplished if you don't care who gets the credit."

Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard said Lucas needs to calm down and remember: "What we should all be happy about is that the sub is coming to Northern Kentucky."

Reynard also pointed out that several Democratic elected officials attended Bunning's press conference.

"This has always been a bipartisan effort, on both the federal and local level," Reynard said. "For (Lucas) to say this was partisan when the Senator is standing there with several Democrats is kind of a stretch."

I wouldn't want to be stuck with those two on the same sub for very long.

Email pcrowley@enquirer.com.

Tourism officials excited by sub

Crowley interviews Campbell County Family Court Judge Michael "Mickey" Foellger this week on ICN6's "On The Record," which is broadcast daily on Insight Communications Channel 6.




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