Remembering Marlow Cook, A Bygone Kind Of Kentucky Republican Friday, Feb 5 2016 

Marlow W. Cook first flashed across the horizon of Louisville and Jefferson County a little more than a half-century ago, full of ideas, enthusiasm and youthful energy. He brought something that our city, then the nation’s 30th largest, needed badly: A vision for the future that would position metro Louisville for the 21st Century.

Cook, at the age of 36, was leader of a reform political ticket, along with William O. Cowger and E.P. “Tom” Sawyer, who (like John F. Kennedy on the national level) wanted to get Louisville “moving again.” That Cowger, Cook, Sawyer and others were Republicans and Kennedy was a Democrat didn’t make much difference. In those days, ideology wasn’t so important. Ideas were.

In the old City of Louisville, if you were a Democrat you were far more likely to be resistant to the wave of civil rights reform in the form of demonstrations and calls for changes in the Jim Crow laws that still gripped most of the South. In 1963, Louisville, under the Republican leadership of Cook, Cowger, Sawyer, former State Rep. Henry R. Heyburn and others, became the first big city south of the Mason-Dixon Line to pass a public accommodations law, providing an example to Congress (then struggling with similar federal legislation) and the rest of America that this could be done peacefully. (The offspring of some of those leaders have gone on to leadership in my generation, including Tom Sawyer’s daughter, the network news superstar Diane Sawyer; Henry Heyburn’s son John, who became a leading federal judge in the field of civil rights; and Bill Cowger’s daughter, Ceci, who stood with black veterans of the civil rights era when memorials honoring the movement were erected a few years ago.)

Marlow CookU.S. Congress

Marlow Cook

Not everything Marlow Cook, who died this week at 89, did was serious. He had a great sense of fun. For instance, there was the occasion when he heard that an old steamboat, the Avalon, was for sale. An adopted Louisvillian – he had moved here as a teenager from upstate New York – Cook shared a vision for the potential rebirth of the riverfront (at a time when Interstate 64 was being built right along the banks). With $34,000 in public money he bought the old boat, rechristened it the Belle of Louisville, and then raised the money to restore and improve the paddlewheel. For a time, it was derided as “Marlow’s Folly.” Today, it’s impossible to picture our city without the Belle, surely one of our iconic images.

The final, lasting achieve of the Cowger-Cook era was passage of a bond issue in 1965 that paved the way for a long list of future improvements to the community that included expansions at the University of Louisville, then still a semi-private municipal university, and the old General Hospital. It was in that period when Cook, following the lead of Courier-Journal publisher Barry Bingham, former Mayor Wilson Wyatt and others, decided that a vital step for the community’s future was to merge city and county governments. That would happen more than three decades later, with Cook – by then in retirement in Florida – as a key supporter.

Cook was a barrier-breaker, though few remember him for that. He sought to be the first Roman Catholic elected to statewide office in the spring of 1967, when he ran in the Republican primary for governor against Barren County Judge Louie B. Nunn. I was a teenager living in Lexington during that campaign and witnessed with horror the blatant bigotry being peddled out in the state against the “big city Catholic” from Louisville. Louie Nunn barely beat Cook and went on to become the state’s first Republican governor since the 1940s. A year later, Cook did make history by being elected statewide to the U.S. Senate to fill the seat held by another Republican, Thruston B. Morton, who was retiring.

In Washington, “Judge” Cook cast his lot with the progressive wing of the GOP, including Tennessee’s Howard Baker, Pennsylvania’s Hugh Scott, Massachusetts’ Edward Brooke (the first African-American senator elected since Reconstruction), and New York’s Jacob Javits. Cook was given a prestigious seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, responsible for screening federal judges, including Supreme Court justices.

If for no other reason, on April 8, 1970, Sen. Cook demonstrated a profile in courage by voting against G. Harrold Carswell, a Georgia judge nominated by President Nixon, for the Supreme Court. During the confirmation process, a long list of Carswell’s racist, misogynist past was paraded before the Senate. In the end, two Republicans – Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Cook – were deemed crucial in the narrow vote that defeated Carswell. For his distinction, Cook earned the scorn of Richard Nixon’s White House but the praise of others. The New York Times featured his photo on the front page April 9.

The early 1970s proved to be dangerous times for Republicans in Washington, especially with the paranoid, lawless Nixon administration in the White House and running the national GOP. Despite his sound record, Cook was considered vulnerable when he sought re-election in 1974, little more than two months after Nixon had been forced to resign. Indeed, Gov. Wendell Ford polled 72,000 votes more than Cook in November and went on to a long and distinguished Senate career.

Cook remained in Washington, where he became a successful attorney and spokesman for Kentucky interests. Over the years, he earned a role as a senior statesman, never again seeking public office. In time, he and his wife (whom he called “Miss Nancy”) moved to Florida. He kept up with old political friends such as U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, who as a young man had worked as an aide in Cook’s Senate office. He also enjoyed talking to old friends in journalism; I was always happy to hear from him.

Among the many young people he once encouraged, one came to earn his scorn: Mitch McConnell, who had worked in Cook’s Washington office from 1968 to 1970, and then with Cook’s blessing moved on to the attorney general’s office.

McConnell was twice elected to Cook’s former job – Jefferson County judge-executive – but when he tried to move on to Washington by opposing Democratic Sen. Walter D. Huddleston in 1984, Cook opposed McConnell. Increasingly, in the years that followed, Cook expressed concern about McConnell’s sharp ideological turn to the extreme right. The young aide who had helped him advance the Equal Rights Amendment became hostile to many of the principles embodied in that important piece of legislation. Cook was the Senate’s leading Republican advocate of the ERA.

Then when McConnell became a fiery foe of the Affordable Care Act, Cook let him have it again in an interview with Mother Jones magazine: “If he had any knowledge of the lack of health and medical facilities in the hills of Kentucky, he’d know it’s a problem we need to solve. For Mitch McConnell to decide the new health program is not good for Kentucky — it tells me he’s not looking out for his own constituency.”

Cook, who had not been a great ally of Bingham’s Courier-Journal, warmed up to the newspaper in my era as an editor, and he also made a point of calling in from time to time.

Perhaps my favorite moment in that era came in the early fall of 2004, when mainline Republicans of all sorts were distancing themselves from President George W. Bush, who was seeking re-election.

One morning, Cook called to chat about the race. As usual, he made inquiries about people he knew from Kentucky days, including my wife, who had grown up with his daughter. Then he got around to the point of the call. He was upset with the way Bush had conducted his first term, and he had decided that in 2004, he would vote for Democrat John Kerry. Not only did he intend to vote that way, but he wanted to share his dismay with the voters of Kentucky, hoping he might encourage a few other disenchanted Republicans to join him. The piece was published on the Forum page of The Courier-Journal:

“For me, as a Republican,” Cook wrote, “I feel that when my party gives me a dangerous leader who flouts the truth, takes the country into an undeclared war and then adds a war on terrorism to it without debate by the Congress, we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction.”

On Thursday, Yarmuth told me that his conversations with Cook continued until four or five months ago. He was “still sharp” at 89, Yarmuth recalled.

“After he left Washington, there’s no question that the Republican Party moved way too far to the right for him. I know he felt more comfortable with the policies that most would call liberal today,” said Yarmuth.

“Whenever I spoke to him in recent years, he was consistently supporting Democrats over Republicans, at least on the federal level.”

Local tributes to Marlow Cook never came his way during his lifetime. It’s long overdue for something of note to be named for this remarkable man, who bucked politics and party to do what he thought was right. That it was right, so often, is something we can admire – and wish that more politicians today would strive to emulate.

Keith Runyon is a longtime Louisville journalist and former editorial page editor of The Courier-Journal.

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Marlow Cook, Moderate Kentucky Republican Leader, Dies Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

Former U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook of Kentucky, a moderate Republican and the second member of congress to call for the resignation of President Nixon, has died at age 89.

Cook was part of a Republican resurgence in the 1960s, returning the GOP to the Jefferson County judge-executive office in 1961 and winning a Senate seat in 1968. He also influenced future Kentucky leaders; Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth interned for Cook in Jefferson County and served as an aide in his Senate office.

“It was like working for your father in a lot of ways. He was just a wonderful man,” Yarmuth told Kentucky Public Radio.

Cook was a fierce defender of Kentucky’s interests. But one of his signature stances would ultimately lead to his defeat in the Senate, when he called for Nixon to resign amid the Watergate scandal, Yarmuth said.

“What he did was basically seal his electoral fate by doing that because he made a lot of his base mad. And that’s why it was such an incredibly courageous thing to do,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth later switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Another of Cook’s notable hires was Mitch McConnell, who chaired Cook’s youth campaign in Kentucky when he ran for U.S. Senate in 1968 and then worked as Cook’s aide until 1970.

“I remained over the years extremely grateful for the opportunity he gave me to get started,” McConnell said in a speech to the Senate Floor on Wednesday.

McConnell would follow Cook’s steps, serving as judge-executive and then in the Senate, where he is the majority leader.

“Marlow Cook was someone who proved that Republican success was possible in a commonwealth at that time completely dominated by Democrats. And that was no easy task when he ran for office, but he succeeded anyway,” Mcconnell said.

McConnell has emerged as a national leader in the increasingly conservative Congress, but Cook late in life criticized the rightward trajectory of the party.

In 2014, he rebuked McConnell’s forceful push against the Affordable Care Act.

“If he had any knowledge of the lack of health and medical facilities in the hills of Kentucky. he’d know it’s a problem we need to solve,” Cook told Mother Jones.

“For Mitch McConnell to decide the new health program is not good for Kentucky — it tells me he’s not looking out for his own constituency.”

Cook refused to vote for Republican President George W. Bush in his 2004 race, casting a ballot for Democrat John Kerry instead.

“I have been, and will continue to be a Republican. But when we as a party send the wrong person to the White House, then it is our responsibility to send him home if our nation suffers as a result of his actions,” Marlow said in a Courier-Journal op-ed.

Cook served in the state House from 1957 until 1961. He was then elected as Jefferson County judge-executive, and is known for purchasing the decrepit steamboat which became the Belle of Louisville.

“Marlow Cook was a statesman who will be remembered for championing causes, like the Equal Rights Amendment, based not on politics, but what he believed was right,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement.

“As Jefferson County judge-executive, as a U.S. senator representing Kentucky and even in retirement, Cook did what he thought was best for his community and his nation. He leaves many legacies, including an old steamboat he purchased that we now cherish as the Belle of Louisville. Our city mourns Sen. Cook’s passing.”

Cook was the first Roman Catholic to be elected statewide in Kentucky. He lost his Senate re-election bid to Democrat Wendell Ford in 1974.

Barack Obama’s Family Receives $75 Million In Loans From China and Taiwan Thursday, Jan 14 2016 

Oops, did I say Barack Obama’s Family? Sorry about that. I meant to say Mitch McConnell’s family. I can’t help but wonder what Mitch McConnell would say If someone in Barack Obama’s family received a $37.5 million loan from China. … Continue reading →

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McConnell Recruiting State House Candidates for GOP Wednesday, Jan 6 2016 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “inevitable” Republicans would take control of the Kentucky House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South still controlled by Democrats.

McConnell spoke with reporters briefly following a private meeting with Gov. Matt Bevin at the state Capitol. Bevin is just the second Republican Kentucky governor in more than four decades.

Related Story

stumbo010516Political Tension Starts Early in the Kentucky State House

McConnell has the daunting task of trying to preserve the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate this fall. But he said he has been recruiting candidates for Kentucky’s state House elections for months.

Democrats have a 50-46 advantage in the House after four lawmakers resigned and two Democrats switched parties. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo told The Courier-Journal the state Democratic Party is considering suing lawmakers who switched parties.

Bevin called Stumbo’s comments “embarrassing” and said it shows Democrats are desperate.

Four House seats will be determined during a March 8 special election. All 100 House seats will be up for re-election in November.

The Mighty In Other News… 2015 Year in Review Friday, Jan 1 2016 

Whew, boy, 2015. You sure did have a lot going on, didn’t you? Favorite American Pharaoh won the 141st Kentucky Derby. Your big Forecastle Festival was a smashing success, despite 60 MPH winds and heavy rains forcing headliner Sam Smith to end his set early as the festival was evacuated. The eighth most costly snowstorm […]

Ward and Conway were solid public servants if maybe not so hot on the stump Wednesday, Dec 30 2015 

By BERRY CRAIG In his annual tongue-in-cheek Christmas “Gifts for Kentucky politicians” column, the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Al Cross suggested a special present for Attorney Gen. Jack Conway: “a portrait of Henry Ward, Conway’s predecessor as the worst Democratic candidate for Kentucky governor in … Continue reading →

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In Other News… Ali speaks, Forecastle, Jon Stewart, The Voice’s Jordan Smith, Grammy Nods, Lawrence Golden Globes Friday, Dec 11 2015 

Jordan SmithThe Greatest of All Time: Louisville legend Muhammad Ali added his voice to the conversation surrounding Muslims and immigration this week, says The Washington Post, USA Today, BBC, Mi9, Forbes, CBS News and ABC News. His statement is as follows: … Continue reading

Greg Stumbo and John Calipari like their teams Friday, Dec 11 2015 

By BERRY CRAIG House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, says he’s ready to prove the GOP wrong again. “I’m convinced the House Democrats will add to their numbers next year for several reasons,” he said. The GOP might scoff that the … Continue reading →

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Kentucky Political Operative Jesse Benton Acquitted of Lying To FBI Thursday, Oct 22 2015 

Updated 3:24 p.m.: A political operative with ties to U.S. Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell has been acquitted of charges of lying to the FBI.

A federal grand jury indicted Jesse Benton earlier this year on charges stemming from 2011 when he managed the presidential campaign of former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul. Benton and others were accused of paying off former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson in exchange for his endorsement for Paul’s campaign in advance of the Iowa Caucus.

An Iowa jury found Benton not guilty on charges that he lied to the FBI about the episode. Additional charges of conspiracy, causing false records and causing false campaign contribution reports were dismissed before the trial.

Another Ron Paul aid, Dimitri Kesari, was found guilty of filing false records that covered up payments to Sorenson.

Benton has deep ties to Kentucky’s Republican Party. He managed U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign last year, dropping out when the bribery scandal broke out in the summer of 2014.

Benton is also married to Rand Paul’s niece.

In a statement, Sen. Paul said “I am happy that justice has been served.”

Benton stepped down from managing the pro-Paul America’s Liberty PAC this summer after the revelation that he was under a federal indictment.

He also stepped down from managing the campaign of Danville Republican Rep. Mike Harmon, who’s running for state auditor.

Harmon said on Thursday that he is “happy for Jesse and his family.”

“Hopefully he can now get on with his life. I pray he has a joyous and abundant life,” Harmon said.

Prosecutors alleged the men knowingly hid $73,000 in payments to Sorenson, who endorsed Paul’s campaign before the Iowa caucuses.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

National Anti-Mitch McConnell ad campaign launches in Louisville Tuesday, Oct 13 2015 


WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pro-life group Personhood USA has launched a nationwide campaign centered in Louisville, Kentucky calling out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his role in funding abortion giant Planned Parenthood.

The new campaign ads include billboards that state “247,755 Taxpayer Funded Abortions Since Mitch Became Majority Leader” and “#ObamasWallet.” Along with this new campaign, Personhood USA is developing plans with their grassroots volunteers to keep the new Speaker of the House aware that Republicans and conservative voters do not want even one dollar of funding directed to Planned Parenthood.

Jennifer Mason, Personhood USA Spokesperson: “By funding Planned Parenthood, Senator McConnell has made every American taxpayer an unwilling accomplice to the largest abortion provider in the world. In bankrolling Planned Parenthood, we are funding all of their business practices – and it has to stop. It is time for do-nothing politicians, who have used our money to fund President Obama’s agenda, to step down.”  

McConnell ad

The advertising outreach of the campaign, which is rolling out now, is expected to reach hundreds of thousands in the state of Kentucky and millions more nationwide.

“Pro-life voters expect Republican officials to take action, and so far we’ve been deeply disappointed. No more excuses, no more delays, we need people in office who will get things done,” continued Mason.

Planned Parenthood’s annual report documents a devastating 327,653 abortions annually. The number 247,755 is a conservative estimate reached by calculating the number of abortions committed at Planned Parenthood since McConnell became the Majority Leader in the Senate on January 3 of this year.

Personhood USA is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in the country. Dedicated to protecting every innocent person by love and by law, Personhood USA strives to educate the nation with the truth about abortion.

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