Capitol View Commentary: Friday, November 18, 2011
By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising
November 18, 2011
POLL QUESTIONS; OCCUPY FALLOUT CONTINUES; AN EARLY THANKSGIVING TURKEY; THE SUPREMES FINALLY TAKE UP HEALTH CARE; INSIDE POLITICS LOOKS AT THE TOPSY TURVY PRESIDENTIAL RACE
I still don't know the results from the recent poll conducted in this area pitting incumbent Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper versus Nashville State Representative and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell.
But through a source I have obtained a copy of some of the very interesting questions that were asked in the survey by apparently one of the national party groups.
It not only asked respondents who'd they vote for in a Cooper-Harwell congressional race, it also asked follow- up questions seeking to see if they would be "more likely or less likely" to vote for their candidate if….
For Cooper, the questions were:
If you know that Cooper was the deciding vote for "Obamacare"?
If you knew that Cooper had opposed Nancy Pelosi and has a record as a fiscal conservative who supported a balanced budget?
For Harwell the follow-up questions were…
If you knew Harwell voted for the largest tax increase in Tennessee history?
If you knew that her family was in the toy business and manufactured toys in China when Tennesseans need those jobs?
The poll also contained lots of demographic and other questions about people's voter history, political affiliation and philosophy, as well as what they thought of other political figures in Tennessee and the nation including President Barack Obama, Congress in general, Governor Bill Haslam, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Congressman Marsha Blackburn and even would-be 4th District congressional candidate Monty Lankford, a health care business executive from Williamson County.
You'll note that Williamson County is not presently in the 4th District (the incumbent is Scott DesJarlais) which raises still more questions about who and what parts of Nashville and Middle Tennessee were surveyed and what this might have to do with the redistricting of all the state's political districts by the General Assembly set to happen in January.
In that regard, some challengers are not waiting for the new lines to be completely decided. Democratic State Senator Eric Stewart says he will challenge Congressman DesJarlais, who seems to be gathering a flock to opponents from both parties going after him next year.
Getting back to the Cooper-Harwell survey, there is a question in the poll that continues to have folks puzzled for why it was included. The question: Do you favor or oppose guns in parking lots?
As for the overall poll, I'd thought it most logical that a national GOP group would pay for a poll like this, but I must say given some of the questions asked (especially the follow-ups) it sure doesn't seem impossible that a Democratic group might have had it done. But I am not sure I have the entire poll and perhaps the seemingly tougher questions about Harwell were an attempt to see how these particular issues might play in areas outside her state house district.
One other thing Speaker Harwell and Republican legislative leaders need to think about as they decide how to draw the line, especially the Nashville congressional district. A recent statewide poll done by Vanderbilt shows that 72% of those surveyed believe it is important even very important to keep communities, towns and cities all together, where feasible in drawing these district lines. That's a very high number for a matter that is usually considered very "inside baseball" regarding politics.
OCCUPY FALLOUT CONTINUES
While members of the Occupy movement across the country are being arrested and their encampments ended, here in Tennessee it looks like our protestors at the State Capitol will be around long enough to start hanging up holiday decorations.
Under a new court order issued by federal judge Aleta Trauger (and agreed to by the Haslam administration) a temporary injunction will continue to stay in place keeping the Tennessee Occupy protestors from being arrested and removed from Legislative Plaza. That's pending the state going through what appears to be a rather long and cumbersome process of promulgating rules for how our freedom of speech and expression can be done on the Plaza. And of course there could be litigation after that as well, so who knows how long the Occupy folks will get to stay (maybe even after the snow flies later this winter.
Meantime previous comments by Governor Haslam (including some to me in an interview) that his office had received lots of public support after he authorized the arrest of over 50 Occupy protestors and a couple of journalists last month on the Plaza, might not be accurate. Several local news outlets say they requested and have reviewed the e-mails received by the Governor's office on this topic during that time. They found that out of nearly 400 e-mails received, only 11 supported what the Governor and the state did.
The Governor also took some flak in the media for not speaking out strongly against the comments of Republican State Representative Rick Womick. He told a local anti-Sharia law conference in Nashville that all Muslims (regardless of their military records or service) should be removed from our armed forces (and he said it on Veteran's Day no less). The Governor commented on the controversy only when asked by reporters saying: "I don't think I agree with Rick about that." Asked why he was not denouncing Womick's comments, the Governor added: "I don't know that that's my role." No other Republican leader in the state has commented much at all.
I wonder how the Governor's e-mails are running on this one?
AN EARLY THANKSGIVING TURKEY
Our early Thanksgiving turkey this year has to be Congress.
Trying to get out of its last tight spot earlier this year over the debt ceiling crisis, legislative leaders thought appointing a super committee to decide the matter with automatic cuts taking effect if no deal was cut was a great concept. Wrong!
In fact, why anyone thought appointing a special committee stuffed with folks who have never been known much for compromise was the way to solve our long term national debt (it went over $15 trillion a few days ago) and our spiraling budget deficit is beyond me. And setting a deadline to act right before Thanksgiving is truly a holiday recipe for disaster.
It doesn't appear at this moment that either a "small" plan (over the next decade cutting over a trillion dollars through cuts or increased revenues) or "going big" and lopping off over $4 billion in spending and debt over the ten years has much chance of happening.
Congress has been known to pull a lot of rabbits out its hat in the final moments. Maybe something like that can happen again if members can put country over politics and forget a bit about their no-tax pledges or their refusals to cut entitlement programs. Of course they might also play some accounting games or come up with a plan that only makes partial cuts to kick the can down the road again.
As mentioned earlier, if nothing happens automatic cuts occur (even though they don't begin until 2013). But will these "automatic reductions" be convincing enough to mollify the world markets and the financial powers-that-be? Or will the other bond rating services joined Standard & Poor's to downgrade our nation's credit worthiness, putting the United States closer to joining European countries like Greece and Italy in a widening worldwide financial mess. And won't that be great for your stock investments or your 401K? Are we headed for Great Recession II if Congress doesn't act or come up with an acceptable plan?
State officials in Tennessee remain uncertain about the future even as they try to put a budget together for next year. According to an article (November 15) by Andy Sher of THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS, State Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner told Governor Haslam federal cuts could be "devastating' to his agency adding: "The thing I am most worried about beyond this room? What's going on in Washington, D.C."
Indeed, besides what awaits in Washington, inside the room where state budget hearings are occurring the Governor was asking the Health Commissioner to identify cuts of up to 5% in state funding for his programs. Look for those was are poor or in need to take the brunt of those cutbacks.
So for now, the best financial news we've received in recent days was the announcement by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean that some $30.4 million in federal dollars is back on track to allow the city to proceed with home buyout packages that resulted from the May 2010 floods. For months these unfortunate homeowners have been left in limbo as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)froze the monies due to the financial issues in Congress. Finding out their home buyouts are a-go again is surely the best holiday present they'll get this season.
THE SUPREMES FINALLY TAKE UP HEALTH CARE
It's been coming for a couple of years now, ever since Congress passed our new national health care law. The constitutionality of the proposal will now be finally argued before the Supreme Court next March with a decision likely in late June.
It will clearly be the most closely watched and historic decision by the Court since the Bush v. Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election.
So far the lower courts have been split on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, although the Appeals Courts have gone 3 to 1 in favor of upholding the new law. That really doesn't matter. It will all come down to the 9 men and women on the current Supreme Court and already a fierce fight is breaking out over whether all of them should hear the case. Opponents of the law say Justice Elena Kagan should stay out of the case because of the work she did as Solicitor General in the Obama administration during the time the health care bill was crafted and passed through Congress.
Don't expect Kagan to quit any more than conservative Justice Clarence Thomas would quit over complaints about his wife's lobbying activities.
No, the final deciding vote on this very controversial health care law could well likely come down to, as so many cases have in the Supreme Court in recent years, what Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks is right.
Maybe we will get our first clues about that when the court's two-days of oral arguments on this matter begin in the spring.
INSIDE POLITICS LOOKS AT THE TOPSY TURVY PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The impact of the health care law and its ongoing controversy is one of many topics we will discuss on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend as we once again discuss our topsy-turvy presidential election cycle so far.
That now includes yet another Republican front-runner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who was all but given up for politically dead in the race just a few months ago. Now he is surging to take the lead in national polls as well as in Iowa, which is the first state to hold caucus voting in early January. There is even a late poll reported by the WALL STREET JOURNAL (November 18) that shows Gingrich in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, which would be a political upset of monumental proportions and would likely knock Romney out of the race.
Our INSIDE POLITICS guests are Democratic strategist Larry Woods, GOP analyst Chip Saltsman and Tea Party Nation Chair Judson Phillips. And, boy, do we have a lot to discuss.
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I am taking some time off over Thanksgiving week. It will help the broken bone in my left shoulder heal a bit. Typing this column more or less one-handed has not been easy these last two weeks.
Look for my next CAPITOL VIEW column on Friday, December 2.