Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Crossing the Rubicon on domestic partner benefits

According to some reports, Gov. Fletcher is saying he may or may not include the issue of domestic partner benefits on the call. But you have to assume that administration officials--and the Governor himself--understand that Robbie Rudolf's remarks during the KET debate Monday night constitute the political equivalent of a commitment. They have crossed the Rubicon on this issue--whether that was the original intention or not--and there is no going back.

If Fletcher decides not to put it on the call now, after word has gone out that they are, they will do themselves irreparable political damage. Obviously Fletcher will take heat for including this issue in the special session from the Tolerance Police at the Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal. That's just the price you pay in this state for doing the right thing. In Fletcher's case, since he did not taken a leadership position on the issue during the session, he has opened himself up to the charge of waffling. But already Fletcher's second guessing of Rudolf's remarks are getting him into more trouble than is necessary. "Gov. Fletcher, having waffled once, now is waffling again," says the Courier's lead editorial this morning.

If the Governor decides against putting it on the call, his political opponents--Anne Northup and Jeff Hoover chief among them, will move in for the kill, and seriously damage Fletcher's credibility among social conservatives who are still waiting for some leadership from the administration on this issue. Rudolf brought it up in the first place because Hoover had asked where the administration had been during the legislative session. For Hoover, it was easy pickin's. With so few weapons at his disposal, Rudolf grabbed the only thing at hand, which was that the administration was thinking about putting it on the call.

Fletcher needs to understand that his lack of willingness to lead on these issues puts his own friends and allies in a difficult position. There are people who committed to this administration because they thought it was going to be a conservative one. But this kind of support and commitment creates an obligation from the other end. When a political leader makes bad decisions--or refuses to exercise leadership on issues on which those who helped him into office have a right to expect him to lead--it don't just affect him: it affects everyone who supported him and everyone who have taken political hits for him in the past.

At this point, there is simply no political justification for not putting the issue on the call. The Governor's enemies will rejoice in a perceived double flip-flop, and his supporters will come away dispirited and disappointed. This is the last thing you want in the waning days of a campaign.

Things are so simple if you just do the right thing in the first place.

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