Sunday, August 8, 2004

Clooney's old newspaper columns back to haunt him


Around Northern Kentucky

Click here to e-mail Patrick Crowley
If you're out on the Northern Kentucky campaign trail this fall and something rushes past you like a speeding Maserati Spyder, it may be Nick Clooney fleeing from his past.

Not all of his past, mind you. Clooney has a credible shot at winning a U.S. House seat this fall because of his deep Kentucky roots, his long and successful media career, and a last name that is a legend in many corners of the vast 24-county 4th Congressional District.

Republicans try to paint Clooney as an outsider, when the guy couldn't be more Kentucky if he were former Gov. Ned Breathitt's grandson. It's GOP candidate Geoff Davis, who moved to Kentucky in 1992, who has "roots" issues. Clooney was born and raised in the Bluegrass State, and he makes his home in Augusta.

But it's his darn newspaper columns that are going to haunt Clooney this fall.

For the last 15 years, Clooney penned a very popular column in the Cincinnati Post. It was a general-interest column that was never overtly political. But there were times when Clooney the writer tackled touchy political topics.

It is those columns now hounding Clooney the candidate.

Last week - after Davis was endorsed by the National Rifle Association - Clooney, through an emissary, professed "vehement support" for the Second Amendment.

The Davis camp swiftly e-mailed out passages from Clooney's columns, some as far back as 1993, on the topic of guns.

"What is the fascination with guns?" he wrote in 1995. "It is not the Second Amendment. It is not the question of outdoor sports. It is not government vs. private citizen. It is power. Personal power over life and death."

"Guns do not protect us from our government," Clooney wrote in 1998, taking on an argument often used by gun advocates. "They kill our children."

Bob Doyle, a Washington Democratic strategist advising Clooney, said the columns are actually an asset. There is a little spin in that comment, but Doyle does make a very good point.

"Over the years, people have gotten to know Nick as a straight shooter who takes an intelligent look at policy with interesting observations based in his Kentucky roots," Doyle said.

Clooney "trusts" the voters to determine that "the Davis camp has taken a couple of selective quotes ... and be able to tell the difference between words written 10 or 12 years ago and where we are now with respect to national politics," Doyle said.

Clooney himself may have said it best last year.

"It is by his or her words," he wrote in August 2003, just months before getting in the race, "that a public servant will, in the end, be judged."

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E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com. Crowley interviews Campbell Family Court Judge Michael "Mickey" Foellger this week on INC6's "On The Record," which is broadcast daily on Insight Communications Channel 6.




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