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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 10, 2011

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 10, 2011

CREATED Jun 10, 2011


By Pat Nolan, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

June 10, 2011



We are so pleased to have Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam as our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week. While we had him as a guest on three occasions when he was a candidate last year, this is the first time he has joined us as our state's chief executive.

With the recent end of this year's session of the General Assembly, we have so many things to discuss with him I hope I can get most of it in.

You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes Sunday morning at 5:00 a.m. on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5. You can also watch us on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, which airs on Comcast & Charter Cable channels 250 as well as Channel 5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

Our air times on THE PLUS are 7:00 p.m. Friday night, 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

You can also see excerpts of this and other previous INSIDE POLITICS shows here on www.newschannel5.com


This must have been the week to do polling about how President Barack Obama is doing.

And the consensus answer….not so good, at least compared to a few weeks ago.

All the recent national polling surveys I've seen (CNN/Opinion Research, Washington Post/ABC, CBS, Reuters/Ipsos) indicate that whatever positive bounce President Barack Obama received from the killing of Osama Bin Laden, it is now completely gone.

While the exact percentages vary, the President's job approval ratings are back down below 50% (in the high 40s) with his support numbers on how he's handling the economy and other related issues (the deficit, unemployment, high gas prices) even worse. In fact, in some polls, the worst he's ever had since he took office in early 2009.

To make matters even more difficult for the President, there is a report from CBS News (June 5) that chronic unemployment (those out of work for 6 months or more) now touches 6.2 million people or 45.1% of all unemployed workers in the nation. That's a higher percentage than during the Great Depression of the 1930s!

More misery according to the CBS report is that "more than 1 million of those long-term unemployed have run out of unemployment benefits, leaving them without the money to get new training, buy new clothes or even get to job interviews." No wonder at least one poll (CNN) shows a record 48% of those responding believe another Great Depression is likely to occur within the next year. If that opinion persists, we may (as we've done in the past) just convince ourselves into another major downturn.

Since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, no President has been re-elected with overall unemployment numbers as high as they are now (9.1%) and the numbers for unemployment among teens for summer jobs and among blacks is much, much higher.

So how do the polls say the President is stacking up against his potential Republican field?

The results are mixed. The ABC poll (June 7) shows the President beating all of his rivals except Mitt Romney who leads the incumbent by 3 points (but still within the poll's margin of error). Meantime, as perhaps another sign that Romney may be becoming the GOP frontrunner, a new Rasmussen poll "shows 49% of likely…voters think Romney is qualified to be president…that's well above how voters view Romney's chief competitors in the race." That includes, according to the Rasmussen survey, Tim Pawlenty & Ron Paul (27%), Newt Gingrich (26%), Sarah Palin (she of Paul Revere fame), 23%, Michelle Bachman and John Huntsman (20%), and Herman Cain (18%). Some of these "qualified for President" numbers are better for these GOP challengers when asking among Republican voters alone, but Romney's number also improves to 66%.

Given some late-in-the-week developments that almost all of Newt Gingrich's campaign staff is quitting, he may not be long for the race, even though the former House Speaker vows to stay in. Will Texas Governor Rick Perry get in? And what would that do in terms of determining who will be the GOP frontrunner for President?

Right now it's pretty clear it's Romney who's in front. That's not only from polling, but the fact that he's the one being shot at politically in the media and by his opponents.

Take this article from the DAILY CALLER web site (June 10) that quotes Matt Kibbe of the Freedom Works group as saying "Tea Party activists may not show up at all to vote in the general election (November, 2012)…if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination for President." Citing Romney's flip-flop status on the issue of national health care, a key Tea Party issue, Kibbe is also quoted as saying; "I believe in redemption, but at some point you sort of give up. And we've given up on Mitt Romney."

Meantime the WALL STREET JOURNAL reports (June 10) that Romney plans to skip a major straw vote event coming up in Iowa, likely because he is concerned he can't win enough votes from the social conservatives in that key early caucus state (because he is Mormon?)

And, finally, there's another late-breaking story (gawker.com, Jim Newell, June 9) about Romney's recent comments that "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe humans have contributed to that." He didn't say he now believes in global warming but could that comment have the candidate explaining himself to GOP conservatives….again?

Getting back to the new national polls, there's a mixed message from the Reuters/Ipsos survey (June 8). It shows President Obama, despite his lower poll numbers, still "leads all potential Republican challengers by double-digits"…even Mitt Romney (51% to 38%), while he beats Palin by 23 points and Pawlenty by 19.

Even more confusing is another Reuters survey that shows Sarah Palin edging Romney among Republicans for the nomination, while another Quinnipiac poll shows Romney winning easily over the former Alaska governor. There are even some polls (CBS) that show large pluralities of Republicans don't even want Palin to run.

So how do you to figure all this out? Well, it's still early and surveying the public mood can be very tricky as the electorate may be tuned in at varying levels right now. Also some of these polls are among both registered voters and the general public (Reuters) while others are among likely voters, and that can clearly make a difference in the outcome. So can the mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents being surveyed. One final hint, since only registered voters have the final say by actually casting their ballots, you should pay more attention to those surveys and a little less to the others in terms of predicting 2012.


So are we at war with Libya or what?

The new Defense Secretary-designate, Leon Panetta has used that word during his confirmation hearings.

So then why has the Obama administration ignored the War Powers Act and failed to go to Congress to explain and get authorization for its actions to conduct a bombing campaign (along with NATO) in that North African country in support of those trying to unseat long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi?

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker wants some answers and he is sponsoring a bi-partisan joint resolution with Senator Jim Webb of Virginia to require "the administration to provide detailed justification of U.S. operations". The resolution also prohibits the use of any U.S. ground forces in Libya and "calls on the President to request authorization for the continuation of U.S. involvement…and…that Congress should fully debate such a request expediently."

The administration says it will be coming to Congress soon but there's nothing filed as of now.

The public opinion surveys I mentioned earlier show the Libya matter is at the bottom of the public's concerns these days. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are different. We've lost lots of troops there and we've been there for many years. So the public wants us out of those countries as soon as possible.

No Americans are dying in Libya and it's only been a few months since we started the bombing. So there seems to be no outrage among the public. Besides, Americans haven't liked Gadhafi for years.

But regardless of the polls, the engagement of our military forces is very important. The President and the Congress need to follow the law. Soon.


The economy is in flux, the country is deep in debt, our troops are fighting 3 or 4 different wars in the Middle East as the Arab world is in deep turmoil. But nothing gets the media (and cyberspace) going into overdrive like some good sex scandals.

Sure there's the John Edwards' "love child" case where the former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate faces possible prison time for using his campaign funds to hide the truth. But what is really making the Internet hum these days involves New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandal.

It is said that to err is human, but it usually takes a computer to really screw things up. Let me update that old saying as far as political sex scandals go. Now it takes some ridiculously juvenile use of social media to create a big mess.

Congressman Weiner first lied about his actions, saying his on line account had been hacked or that he had no idea whether what was shown in these messages (his private parts) actually belonged to him. Then when other instances and other women began to come forward, he finally fessed up and apologized, including to his wife (who is now expecting their first child).

But Weiner has refused to resign his post saying while what he did was inappropriate it was not illegal and has not impacted his ability to serve. I guess that must mean lying is now part of the job description inside the Beltway and elsewhere in politics. So far, many national Democrats are urging Weiner to go, but his New York constituents seem to support him, which may be another sign, as Jay Leno says that we get the government we deserve.

But Congressman Weiner is far from alone. There are a number of members of Congress, Governors, even a President (Bill Clinton), politicians from across the country and from both parties, who have been caught doing inappropriate things of a sexual nature in recent years. Some of the names include (Governors) Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, (Congressmen) Mark Foley, Eric Massa, (Senators) Larry Craig and David Vitter. When their exploits came to light, there was a lot of controversy and calls for resignation. Some left, but several toughed it out, and continued to serve, at least for a while. Senator Vitter is still serving and has even been re-elected I believe.

So despite what you've heard from both parties, neither side has a monopoly on sin or sainthood. But if you're looking for love and companionship (outside your spouse) in Washington and elsewhere in politics, former President Harry Truman had it right many years ago when he said you are better off getting a dog.


When I spoke with Governor Haslam this week on INSIDE POLITICS, he was bragging about how his first operating budget got unanimous approval from members of the General Assembly.

From all indications Metro's operating budget is heading for similar approval next week from the Metro Council (although maybe not unanimous). This is not a new thing for Mayor Karl Dean. His last few budgets have been approved early and with little controversy or money-moving.

I am told the biggest remaining obstacles for the city reaching a final budget is finding a couple of million dollars for Metro schools to cover the local costs of the pay raise for teachers approved by the state. There also could be some push back by some council members in approving the annual tourism-related funding for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. That comes from some council members still unhappy with the strong role the Chamber played in urging the city to build the new Music City Centre now well under construction downtown. Chances are efforts to block or significantly cut the Chamber's funding won't be successful.


After three years of tough times due to the flagging economy and the uncertainty following the floods of May 2010, Music City is reclaiming its rightful title this weekend as the Music Capital of the nation, if not the world. Both the CMA Music Festival and Bonnaroo are attracting tens of thousands of tourists to the Nashville (and Manchester) area.

With the roads jammed with cars and hotel rooms at a premium, let's hope (despite the heat) our visitors have a great time and spend lots of money to help the local economy (we sure can use it)!

Maybe it will help boost the growth of tourism jobs. THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL (June 8) reports that we've "fared poorly in the growth of tourism jobs over the last three years" having lost "3,100 leisure and hospitality jobs since April, 2008" according to a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. The study says we've haven't lost as many jobs in this area as "Chicago (15,900), Detroit (15,100), Los Angeles (13,000) and Las Vegas (12,200)." But we did lose ground to other competitors who added jobs including "Boston (up 9,700 jobs), Houston (up 7,000), New Orleans (up 6,700), Orlando (up 5,900) and Austin (up 5,100)."

While it is not related to tourism, there is some employment news to celebrate that a high-tech, smart phone company is bringing up to 900 new jobs to downtown Nashville over the next 5 years. IQT, Inc. is a Canadian firm which has chosen Nashville to be its American headquarters along with its first U.S. customer relationship and technical services center. It is bringing some high-paying, high tech jobs, which they will begin filling almost immediately assuming Metro and state officials follow through with the incentive packages being offered.

This appears to be the largest single commitment of new jobs to the Central Business District since Bell South consolidated here and built the Batman building the back in the early 1990s. What makes these jobs even better is they will be working 24/7 in the downtown area, hopefully increasing our downtown population and the ongoing bustle and vitality of the area.

And how precious are creating or attracting new jobs these days? As a part of his ongoing reorganization of the state's department of Economic & Community Development (which we discuss with him on INSIDE POLITICS), Governor Haslam has named new regional directors that (according to an ECD news release) "will serve as the primary point-of-contact for in-state companies seeking government assistance with expansion or with accessing state service."

Eight of the nine new regional directors were announced, only the one from Southeast Tennessee (the Chattanooga area) was not. That led to a headline in the Chattanooga newspaper's on-line story by Andy Sher (June 9) that read "Southeast Tennessee shunned so far on economic development picks."Ouch!

State officials are quick to react telling Sher in his story that "Southeast Tennesseans…are not being forgotten" as they working to settle "…on a candidate (who) is the right fit for the position."

The Governor told me the real challenge in Tennessee is attracting jobs to rural areas, not cities like Chattanooga (remember VW). But many rural officials are already unhappy with the Governor's ECD re-organization because it is eliminating many ECD staffers who provided planning services for them which they cannot duplicate locally. The Governor says he understands their concern but perhaps it is time for them to do like many other counties and find a way to provide planning services at their own expense rather than have state taxpayers handle it.

Moving back to Nashville, music lovers may be concerned as they see and hear recent news stories that The Musicians Hall of Fame may not relocating and staying here. The Hall was uprooted by construction of the Music City Centre and its future looked bleak for a while. But then there was an apparent deal between Metro and Hall of Fame officials to locate such a facility in the exhibition space in the lower level of the old Municipal Auditorium.

Now that move has hit a snag over lease details, including a reported offer by Metro (now apparently withdrawn) to provide the space for just $10 a year!

$10 bucks a year would be quite a deal. Maybe it's too good a deal given the financial struggles of the Auditorium over the years. Plus there would be the need to find a new place for some of the other local shows that use the downstairs part of the Auditorium for their shows and exhibitions each year (shades of the Fairgrounds?).

It appears the city's Auditorium Commission is now getting directly involved in the negotiations (wonder why they weren't in the first place?) Hopefully something can be worked out. Losing this potential amenity, a Musicians Hall of Fame (of all things) to another city like Austin, TX (who is rumored to be interested) would be a real shame and something of a blemish on our reputation as Music city.

But the city shouldn't give things away either. Maybe a more transparent and coordinated negotiation strategy might help.


Metro government is losing two of its best leaders with the announced retirements of Metro Library Director Donna Nicely and Metro Clerk Marilyn Swing. Both will be difficult to replace.

As I mentioned in last week's column, Donna Nicely has taken this city's libraries to a world-class level over the past decade, including gaining national honors for the system last year and being recognized at the White House. Replacing her in normal times would be a test, but coming on board during these uncertain times for government spending and the future of libraries will be a true challenge for someone.

Marilyn Swing has been the soul of stability and competence since she succeeded her mentor Ruth Judd as Metro Clerk some years ago. The Clerk's office keeps a number of important city records, including acting as the recorder of votes and other actions by the Metro Council. In working with her as a reporter, and occasionally as a lobbyist and public relations professional, she and her staff have always been so easy to work with in quickly providing information and documents.

Frankly, I have always been in awe of how she has kept such a calm demeanor (and a straight face) so many nights sitting in front of the Council during its meetings (and on live TV no less). They don't call those sessions, both affectionately and accurately, "Tuesday Night Live" for nothing. It can get pretty wild and sometimes hilarious. But Marilyn has always acted in a most professional manner. I will miss that, and miss both her and Donna


Remember when the Metro Council ordered a master plan be created to outline the future of the controversial State Fairgrounds?

Well that effort may have hit a temporary roadblock. A top Metro official has told me the city received NO responses for proposals from planning groups to create such a plan. I guess the whole Fairgrounds may be just too hot politically for even professional planning groups to fool with, especially to conduct the necessary public meetings to gather input and then outline the final recommendations of a master plan.

And then there's the Metro charter amendment, now on the August 4th ballot, to keep the Fairgrounds just like it is, without a 2/3 vote of the Metro Council. So far, no law suit has been filed to stop a vote. But George Barrett, the lawyer who represents Neighbors for Progress, a neighborhood group near the Fairgrounds which supports Mayor Dean's efforts to redevelop the land, has filed a complaint with Nashville District Attorney Torry Johnson. Barrett is alleging "illegal conduct," including possible felonies and misdemeanors in how the public petitions to call for the race were gathered. Barrett wants an investigation by the D.A. and for the charter amendment to be removed from the ballot, at least in the interim.

The Metro Election Commission looked into this matter, and while throwing some of the petitions out, still ruled there were more than enough legitimate names submitted to call for the referendum. Outgoing Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin, who represents the Save Our Fairgrounds group that organized this petition drive, told THE CITY PAPER (June 6) the complaints filed by Barrett and Neighbors for Progress are nothing "more than a last-ditch effort by the governing to keep the governing from being heard on August 4. If their position had any merit they'd file a lawsuit…instead they choose to engage in insidious attacks."

So that leaves the matter up to D.A. Johnson. It is the second Metro political hot potato (Metro Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence's activities) dropped in his lap recently. He has launched a full investigation into the Torrence matter. As for the Fairgrounds, whatever he does, he will have to act quickly, as early voting begins in just over a month (July 15).