Sunday, September 19, 2004

Lucas gives emotional, blunt review


Around Northern Kentucky

Click here to e-mail Patrick Crowley
Ken Lucas is a good but hardly great speaker. The three-term incumbent Democratic congressman from Boone County will never be confused with Zell Miller when it comes to fiery oratory.

Lucas' speaking style is conversational and easy-going. He doesn't raise his voice, pound on tables, throw rhetorical bombs or move people to tears, cheers or jeers. He basically just talks to his audience, which is actually refreshing in the sound bite world of 24-hour news cycles.

But just about a week ago Lucas gave the speech of his career to a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce gathering.

The subject was tantalizing but hardly new. Late last year, after Lucas announced he would not seek a fourth term, he gave me an interview in which he criticized President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and the administration's prescription drug benefit.

Lucas revisited those and other issues during his chamber speech. It wasn't so much what he said but how he said it.

"I got to reflecting," Lucas said at the outset of his talk, "and that's dangerous."

Lucas got a case of the sniffles when he talked about the opportunity to serve in Congress.

"It's special," he said, fighting back tears. "I appreciate the privilege to serve."

He nearly broke down again when talking about his support for the invasion of Iraq. It was the vote, Lucas said, that he most regrets.

"I supported my commander in chief as president because there were supposed to be weapons of mass destruction and we were in imminent danger," he said. "But I feel like I was misled. I feel very badly about that.

"We're nearing 1,000 young men and women who have died (actually it's 1,020 as of Friday) and thousands who have lost body parts," Lucas said, stopping briefly to control his emotions. "I don't feel good about that."

Lucas admitted that it is easier to criticize since he is not facing re-election in a district that gave Bush a 16-point margin over Al Gore four years ago.

"What have I got to lose," he said.

Lucas was somewhat disingenuous, however, in attacking Bush for pushing tax cuts when the federal budget is running a deficit of around $422 billion. Though during his speech Lucas described himself as a "fiscal conservative," he backed the Bush tax cuts and often touted his support when on the stump.

But he was also brutally honest on how moneyed special interests, political grandstanding and bitter partisan politics are strangling the opportunity for true leadership in this country.

"My favorite saying up there," Lucas noted, is: 'Everything has been said, but everybody hasn't said it, yet.' "

Well said.

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E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com. Crowley interviews Kevin Sell, local coordinator for the Associated Builders and Contractors, this week on ICN6's "On The Record", which is broadcast on Insight Communications Channel 6.




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