Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 28, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 28, 2012

CREATED Sep 28, 2012

Capitol View Commentary

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

September 28, 2012

IT'S ALL ABOUT OHIO; NICE, BUT IT'S NOT ENOUGH; GOVERNOR HASLAM ON INSIDE POLITICS; THE STROKE AND MY RECOVERY, PART lll  

IT'S ALL ABOUT OHIO

Based on how both major presidential candidates have spent their time and money this past week, you'd think the entire election comes down to Ohio.

It's likely more complicated than that. But maybe it isn't.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying the Buckeye State, but there are other paths to the White House (270 electoral votes) for Mitt Romney, believe it or not. The trouble is, given the current status of the battleground states polls, he'd almost have to run the table and win all the rest of the battleground states and that would be really tough.

As I told you in the last column, it would this week before we could begin to assess the full impact on national and state polls of the now famous (or infamous, depending on your point-of-view), secretly-taped Romney 47% video tape. Those surveys are now coming in, and, as I suspected, they are quite bad for Romney stretching President Obama's lead in several cases (including Ohio) to close to double digits and to or at a 50% overall majority.

It's so good for the President, I have seen, for the first time this election cycle, one national media  group (Huffington Post) projecting Mr. Obama to win overwhelmingly 332-191 with only North Carolina left undecided on its electoral map.  The Huffington Post survey has the President with enough solid support to win (271) even without the states just leaning towards the Democratic ticket.

But it is still just the end of September/beginning of October. There is still a lot of campaign time left. The biggest challenge for Team Obama may be not to let overconfidence set in, or have their voters become complacent (polls margins aren't votes). Oh, and don't screw up the Debates that start on Wednesday (October 3).  These three face-to-face, nationally televised sessions are the first time the President and his challenger will be on the same stage together at the same time. Can Romney be seen and heard as presidential? Can Obama win the "expectations" game with Romney (who should do best?) or vice versa? Can both candidates avoid their alarming tendencies this campaign year to make verbal gaffes (Romney offering Rick Perry a $10,000 bet; saying corporations are people/Obama saying "you didn't build that and implying recent foreign policy missteps, including the murder of our ambassador to Libya,  are "bumps in the road)."

The first debate is always crucial but this time maybe more so since it focuses on topics such as the economy which the Republican candidate must prevail on to win that night and on November 6. It is all but do-or-die time, a last best chance for Romney to begin to turn things around, much as John Kennedy did through his 1960 debates with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan did over Jimmy Carter in 1980.

But in winning those debates, both Kennedy and Reagan proved, not just to win on policy points, but to also be more likeable and trustworthy than expected (Kennedy as a Catholic, Reagan as not a crazy right wing warrior). A positive warm image is something which Romney has struggled with since the beginning of his campaign.  He needs to do better Wednesday night.   

With all the public polls showing their candidate continuing to fall behind, the Romney campaign says it only pays attention to its own internal surveys which show a much closer race they claim, one still within the margin for error. Maybe so, but I am now hearing doubts from some of my GOP friends. That includes one Facebook friend who never misses a chance to post a negative remark or news article about Mr. Obama. But now he posts: "As much as I don't want to think about him (President Obama) being around for another four years, unless something happens that really causes the Romney/Ryan campaign to turn around, Mr. Obama is going to be re-elected. For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country."

Ashamed or not, if that attitude begins to infect Romney supporters and donors, the game is over. The GOP may decide to focus more on taking over the U.S. Senate or protecting their majority in the House. So this first debate could be a real test of the famous saying of that great American (and Hall of Fame baseball player) Yogi Berra, who once opined: "It could get late early this year."

We will find out a lot more Wednesday night.

NICE, BUT IT'S NOT ENOUGH

Kudos to Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper who continues to build support for his bill to cut off congressional pay if lawmakers don't pass a federal budget and the necessary appropriation bills each year by October 1 (the beginning of the federal fiscal year). Congress hasn't come close to doing that for the past several years now, and with the beginning of October coming up on Monday, this year will be more of the same.  

But while support is growing for this seemingly sensible idea of Representative Cooper, most of the support I am reading about is coming from his fellow Tennesseans in Congress (on a bi-partisan basis), including Senator Lamar Alexander. That's great, but this is not something just Tennessee must decide. There needs to be a whole lot more support from congressional delegations all across the country.

But something bigger is looming in Washington after the election….the fiscal cliff.

If a lame duck, rump session of this Congress (a phrase that ought to scare everyone) doesn't act to change things, a series of automatic tax increases and deep budget cuts (ones that no one really likes or wants) will take effect January 1.  Congress and the President approved these proposals last year to force a compromise on the never-ending budget, tax and deficit impasse in Washington…or else. But so far, or else is winning.

While Congress may yet pull out another kick the can down the road maneuver to resolve (but not solve) the crisis, this time markets are already reacting negatively. The latest government economic reports show businesses are cutting back on buying equipment and other items to keep the economy growing.  And if Congress somehow fails to act by the end of the year, there are increasingly grim predictions of another national, even worldwide recession with the U.S. credit rating going completely in the tank.

This is becoming a much bigger issue than just politicians losing their paychecks. Maybe, they ought to be impeached for dereliction of duty and removed from office. But wait, doesn't Congress (House & Senate) have the impeachment/expulsion power over their own members….oh well…..never mind, I guess.

GOVERNOR HASLAM ON INSIDE POLITICS

I am so honored to have Governor Bill Haslam as my first guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend as I return as host of the program. I really appreciate him coming on, as well the get-well card he sent me when I was in the hospital recovering from my stroke.  

We have lots to discuss about the November elections, education issues, the next General Assembly and on and on.  So tune in.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5. We are also on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7:00 p.m., Friday; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday; and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. THE PLUS is seen on Comcast Cable Channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and on NEWSCHANNEL5'S now more-powerful over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

Excerpts of this and past INSIDE POLITICS shows can also be seen here on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.  

 THE STROKE AND MY RECOVERY, PART III

As I began to recover in the hospital (St. Thomas), I slowly came to realize I had forgotten something.

I had forgotten to eat!

One side effect of having a stroke is some victims just lose all interest in food. I didn't feel bad or dislike the smell or taste of food. I just didn't want to anything to eat. I wasn't hungry.

So, after the first day or so (when I did eat) I just quit ordering meals or snacks or anything. It got to the point where the dietician at Vanderbilt's Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital, where I transferred my second week, came to see me. "Honey, do you just not like my cooking," she asked? No, I said, I just was not interested in food (truly a strange situation for anyone who's ever known me).  But, while my lack of eating had not really occurred me as a problem (I lost 10 pounds!), obviously things had to change. I was now starting a more vigorous rehab program at Stallworth. I had to eat something. So, slowly I did, although it was long after I got out of the hospital that food began to taste right again…my taste buds were shot. I guess another, thankfully, only a short- term stroke side effect for me.

My work at Stallworth was vigorous, 5  or 6, hour-long sessions every week day of physical, occupational and speech therapies. The day began for me at 5:00 a.m. being awaken to take a lot of pills and other medicine, plus take my blood pressure. Then I got to go back to sleep a bit or I dozed watching NEWSCHANNEL5 THIS MORNING with Steve, Amy and Lelan. Too bad I didn't have a ratings monitor. Breakfast came around 8 followed by therapy the rest of morning, and, after lunch at noon, more therapy until 3. Dinner came at 5 (watching NEWSCHANNEL5 at 4 and 5 &6) .Visiting hours ended at 8 so it was off to bed pretty early each night (sometimes before it really even got dark outside). But it was for some much needed rest (sorry, though, I couldn't watch NEWSCHANNEL5 at 10).

Since my slurred speech vanished within a day or two of my stroke, several folks have asked me about why I really needed speech therapy.

At first I wondered too. But, after some tests, it was clear I did need some help and I continued some sessions even as an outpatient at Vanderbilt's Pi Beta Phi Bill Wilkerson Center until just a few weeks ago. Why? It's because the therapists wanted to test my memory and reading comprehension, as well as any left side weaknesses I had in my sight, etc.    "Left-side weakness", I heard it lots of times, every day while I was at Stallworth.  

Speech therapy was good for me because I didn't want to read at first…not even the daily newspaper. I have always read the paper since I was little boy. But when I tried to do it right after the stroke, I began to realize, after a couple of paragraphs, I wasn't reading on. I quit and wasn't finishing the articles, even short ones. It got better pretty quickly. But the reading tests they gave me really helped me in improving my retention and comprehension levels again. Thank goodness, or I couldn't do any of my jobs.

I found all my therapists to be hard working, energetic people who keep and try to give their patients a positive attitude about the challenges they face.  It was always sobering for me to encounter the patients who had much more severe limitations to deal with from their strokes than I did, and see so many of them overcoming, with their therapists help and encouragement, some of same challenges I did to walk correctly or solve a puzzle I had worked on a few days earlier.

There were disappointments, such as the day I tried to take puzzle pieces and put them in another box where all of them were supposed to fit. But my brain and my left hand told me repeatedly, they didn't fit anywhere. Taking a few days off, I tried again…and now I could see and place the pieces where the belonged. Your brain and how it can heal is nothing short of amazing. Sometimes I cried when I made  made things finally work. I sometimes still cry easily as a lingering side effect of the stroke.  I get emotional over the slightest things, which is why I was so proud and surprised I could talk about my stroke on INSIDE POLITICS last week.

I also spoke once to a psychologist at Stallworth about dealing with the emotional and other non-physical issues of recovering from a stroke. I found it very helpful. It inspired me to try and write about my experiences as a way of giving back to help people better understand the experiences of coping with a stroke for themselves and their loved ones.

For the most part, I really enjoyed my two weeks at Stallworth, where everyone: doctors, nurses, staff and especially my therapists, helped me begin to take back my life. I became particularly fond of my occupational therapists, Allison Koch and her student, Kasey Porter. They both had such a great attitudes and they made my "work" fun.  I loved to tease them, especially about always having to use my left hand for every task. That was necessary, of course, (left-side weakness again)  but harder for me to remember since I am so right-handed (and sometimes I'd like to cheat). I started calling them "my left-handed ladies", teasing them about what new left-handed tests and exercises they had for me every day, or what old ones they'd want me to do again. They always had a new one or several tests or exercises waiting for me.

Thank you, Left-Handed Ladies. You helped me a lot, at a time I really needed it, and you did more for me than you'll ever know. God bless you and all the people who touched my life at Vanderbilt's Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital.

NEXT WEEK: GOING HOME AS THE RECOVERY IS STILL JUST BEGINNING.