John Kennedy at Press Club 070119

U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, addressed the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, July 1, 2019.

You’ve never had it so good, from the GOP perspective, and John N. Kennedy, lifelong politician and officeholder, probably makes as sound a pitch for Trumpism as can be made.

Of course, he starts with an implicit apology: Get “beyond” politics and personalities, “just focus on the facts,” Kennedy told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.

A translation: Ignore the disgraceful demeanor of the Tweeter-in-Chief. Look at the stock market.

What are the results, as the state’s junior senator since 2017 asked? The Congress and administration have cut taxes and increased wages, helping to create 6 million new jobs, Kennedy said. He exulted in the economic data, the unemployment rate “the lowest since Woodstock,” (1969, for you millennials) and “we have deregulated the economy.”

“Perhaps most important of all we have seen an increase in productivity — that is what drives wage growth,” Kennedy said. Unmentioned is the bloated federal debt, which should be reduced in times of prosperity, a halcyon idea of pre-Trump conservatives.

The old saying is that the best political speech is one that does not lose you any votes. And Kennedy, better-educated and smoother than the president, carefully qualified some of his remarks, particularly when using eye-popping numbers.

Businesses and their customers pay $1 trillion a year to comply with rules and regulations, he said, adding that maybe not all of them are unnecessary. “I am saying that many of them are,” he declared more forcefully.

There were many such remarks in his talk like that — bold declarations amid considerable qualifications. The astute Kennedy is no stranger to government, in the way that Donald Trump was before taking office.

Kennedy said that he never expected to see oil drilling authorized in a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, calling ANWR a long-term source of energy even as most attention has been on fracking wells in the lower 48.

He praised the elimination of the Affordable Care Act mandate to buy insurance. Kennedy touted new efforts to “nibble around the edges” of the system, as Democratic opposition precludes complete repeal of the Obama administration law.

However, he was cautious about the potential consequences of a lawsuit aimed at total repeal of the ACA, undertaken by GOP political ally and Attorney General Jeff Landry. “I don’t think the ACA will be resolved at the state level,” Kennedy said. “It will require congressional action.”

Asked about the potential for insurers to deny coverage based on preexisting medical conditions, Kennedy touted the largely discredited “high risk pools” that failed to help so many pre-ACA.

And he volunteered not a word about the potential for some 460,000 low-paid Medicaid recipients to lose their insurance cards. That omission indicated the distance of comprehension between his policy discourse and the day-to-day lives of people who aren’t in Kennedy’s demographic.

Kennedy added that he would block-grant to the states all the programs to help those “less fortunate than ourselves,” another radical notion that can very much lose votes, and one that he saw in action during five terms as treasurer in the State Capitol. Then-Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature raided federal anti-poverty funds for use in other parts of the budget, freeing up money for tax cuts and breaks for favored industries.

However skillful the Trumpism pitch, that was a striking indication that Kennedy is quite prepared to ignore the real-world consequences of the GOP party line, even based on the evidence of his own eyes.

But maybe that’s a political qualification these days.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.


Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.