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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 12, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 12, 2012

CREATED Oct 12, 2012


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

October 12, 2012



Remember when the Mitt Romney presidential campaign said it didn't pay any attention to the public media polls? The campaign claimed all it cared about was its own internally-generated surveys. I wonder what the campaign thinks now? I bet Team Romney likes those public polls a whole lot better!

In wake of his winning performance at the first debate, the latest surveys show significant gains and new momentum for Romney (and in some cases even the lead), both nationally and in the battleground states, erasing most of the losses the GOP ticket experienced during September which resulted from a poor national convention bounce and Romney's now seemingly forgotten "47%" comments.

The abrupt change in political fortunes was also aided by a poor debate performance by President Barack Obama and left him trying to regain his political balance. While many Democrats have been puzzled, disappointed and more than a little angry about how all this happened, they should try and keep things in perspective. Republicans too should temper their glee.

The race has clearly tightened, but it is still too early to say it has turned. The President still remains ahead (or in a dead heat)in most surveys, and that includes the all-important state of Ohio, where the latest WALL STREET JOURNAL/NBC/MARIST COLLEGE poll (October 11) gives Mr. Obama a six-point advantage and perhaps more importantly, a whopping 63%-37% lead among the 20% of voters who say they have already voted early.

But has the Romney bounce subsided? Or will it grow still further and/or endure? It will take more time and polls to figure that out. Most electoral vote projections show the Democratic ticket still ahead (but dropping). For example, the Five-Thirty-Eight website of THE NEW YORK TIMES (as of October 11) has the President at 289.9 electoral votes (about 20 more than needed to win, but 31 less than projected on October 4). His overall chances to win re- election the website now projects at 66.1%, which is down over 20% since the October 4 debate.


It remains debate time in our national political cycle.

So this week on INSIDE POLITICS we will have Rhori Johnston of NEWSCHANNEL5 join us to share his insights and thoughts from covering the vice-presidential debate in nearby Centre College and Danville, KY.

Then Vanderbilt Communications Studies Professor Vanessa Beasley and Lipscomb's Linda Peek Schacht of the Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership come on our set to provide their VP debate reflections as well as a look ahead to the no crucial second presidential debate coming up on Tuesday (October 16).

Who won the VP debate? Did Joe Biden rally the Democrats? Did Paul Ryan hold the GOP momentum and how did he fare in his first appearance on a national stage like this? Looking ahead, will President Obama rebound? Will Romney win again? What difference will the town-hall format make? And why do debates matter so much and should they? We'll talk about all that and more.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV. 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., Sunday. THE PLUS airs on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable Channel 150 and on NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.


It's been well over a decade since Dr. Scott DesJarlais went through a very messy divorce. But the allegations and court records from that case continue to haunt him. Two years ago, they were fodder for political attack ads to scuttle his run for Congress. They didn't work and he was elected over a multi-term incumbent.

Now, while seeking re-election, new and potentially even more serious allegations from the divorce filings have surfaced in the media (that the pro-life doctor now Congressman during a recorded telephone call urged a patient who he was having an affair with to have an abortion). DesJarlais' campaign at first called the charges just more dirty politics and later told reporters that there was no abortion at all because the woman involved was not pregnant.

While State GOP Party leaders seem to be standing behind the Congressman, the national Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, may not be, reportedly removing an endorsement article from his web site. There could also be professional issues for Dr. DesJarlais as state medical regulations contain clear prohibitions against doctors having affairs with patients.

All this being in the news (and if it remains there for several days), it could certainly benefit Democrat Eric Stewart who is opposing DesJarlais. But while his has been a spirited effort, the Stewart campaign is underfunded so he may not be able to take advantage in the few remaining days before the election to build his support to upset DesJarlais.


The next Metro mayor's race (if you preclude the fictional one that just started this week on the new NASHVILLE network TV show) is not slated to occur until August, 2015. But already one potential major candidate to succeed Karl Dean at the Courthouse seems to be saying thanks, but no thanks.

Sheriff Daron Hall told THE TENNESSEAN (October 5)he will likely prefer to run for re-election again in 2014 and not mount another countywide race less than a year later to be Nashville's top official. While it is still way too early to think a lot about this race which is still about 3 years away, Hall's apparent decision not to run would seem to open the door and thin out the competition for some others reportedly eyeing a run such as At-Large Councilmembers Megan Barry and Jerry Maynard along with Charter School advocate (Lead Academy) Jeremy Kane and former mayor Bill Purcell. It will be an open field with no incumbent so who knows who else might jump in? Maybe even Sherriff Hall might change his mind?

But I'll bet the fictional mayoral race on the new NASHVILLE soap opera will be a lot juicier. Makes you wonder what might happen if country music superstar Tim McGraw ever acted on his confessed interest to run for office but did it for mayor of Nashville instead of governor or senator? Given his marriage to Faith Hill, another country music superstar, and the unfolding storyline for the NASHVILLE network TV mayor's race, would that be art imitating life or life imitating art? While I don't watch much regular network TV, I enjoyed what I saw of the first NASHVILLE episode this week especially trying to figure where all the scenes were shot locally. I don't know if this will be a big hit program, but the Nashville brand in general has never been hotter, so the weekly national publicity can only be another plus.

Back in the real world, there are always problems and challenges even in the best of times. The Medical Mart proposal is not going to happen at the old convention center site. The market wasn't there to attract needed tenants. I guess that means we lost out to Cleveland which is moving ahead on a similar facility. So what happens now? It appears the old center might be a new hotel (sure are a whole lot of them being planned or built here these days) or the adjoining Renaissance Hotel might keep some of the old convention center for meeting and exhibition space (I think Metro is obligated to provide some space to the hotel for a few years yet). And who knows what else might be proposed going forward. Unlike when the convention center was built in the mid-1980s, Nashville's a hot city these days, especially downtown. You can even see it every week on network TV.


It's hard for me to believe that it's been nearly three months since I got out of the hospital and began my work as an out-patient at the Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute of the Bill Wilkerson Center at Vanderbilt. And when I reflect back I can see how far I have come because of the wonderful care I have received there. It's something that surely happened day by day even though I could only really tell its results on more of a week by week basis.

Actually when I first started therapy I was pretty sure it would just last a few weeks. When I got my list of weekly speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions stretching until nearly the end of October, I thought surely that wouldn't happen or be necessary. But at least for physical therapy it has been. And even my speech and occupational sessions went for more weeks than I thought they would. It's a good thing too. I really needed it.

These are the folks I owe my eternal gratitude to for helping restore my life. These are my primary therapists:

Kelly McMahan (speech)

Valery Hanks (occupational)

Lisa Haack (physical)

Colin Bonfiglio (occupational/driving)

I will never be able to thank these people enough. They've each taken me so far.

In speech therapy, I was fortunate that my slurring of speech when I suffered the stroke passed quickly. But my reading comprehension and even my desire to want to read came back a little more slowly. It did come back, and with some continued tests both at Stallworth and with Kelly McMahan at Pi Phi, I am back up to speed.

As homework for our one of sessions early on, Kelly asked me to write a brief essay (something I found a little difficult to do at first, and quite emotional, since I decided to put down my thoughts and feelings about adjusting to the stroke so far).

She asked me as well to send her one of my old columns for comparison. I did that, although accidentally I sent her the column I had all but completed before the stroke but never sent to Channel 5 to be published on line (my secret column, I guess). Kelly said she found both writing samples were similar enough to not cause her any concerns about my writing ability which reassured me a lot.


Kelly also helped me to learn how to better cope with my emotions, including some breathing exercises to keep me composed when I was about to cry. The breathing exercises made me relax and keep my blood pressure down. It wound up helping me in particular when I attended my first Vanderbilt football game of the season (a very close contest versus South Carolina). After the game I learned I had not taken my blood pressure medicine that morning. Yikes! I started my deep breathing and when I got home I checked my BP, and to my great surprise and relief, it was nearly perfect about 120/80. Whew! Thanks, Kelly for that and so much more!

My occupational therapy was a combination of seemingly ever changing and never-ending activities to test and strengthen my fine motor skills, my hand strength and hand to eye coordination, among other things. There were all manner of puzzles, word and number scrambles (think about those HIGHLIGHTS magazines you read as a child), along with playing with therapy putty to find and pull out beans or coins or other objects embedded therein (always using only my weaker left hand and fingers if the therapist didn't catch me cheating with my right).

Valery Hanks was my occupational task master, timing me in pushing buttons on the light board (always tended to miss some lights to my left of course); bouncing and catching balls; and exercising and building my muscle endurance on the hand bike for at least 8 to 10 and eventually 12-15 minutes per session. She also helped me with exercises to regain my range of motion and strength in my left shoulder which I broke (collarbone) last year and which had retrogressed from the stroke.

Then there was (and still is for the next few weeks) my physical therapy sessions. I have never really liked exercising and I have not been in any kind of shape for years, so I knew this would be a challenge. It has been. In one of our early sessions, my physical therapist, Lisa Haack, asked me to guess her nickname. I really had no idea but I guessed "drill sergeant." Bingo! Correct! And with me, she's really lived up to that title, although she has also really helped me in many ways that I really need.

It was Lisa who made me realize that through the stroke my body had lost its "center." She once took a digital camera photo of me and I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, leaning so far left…. I had no idea I was doing that. My brain thought I was standing or sitting up OK. Wrong! My posture has never been great, but this was awful (it is much better now, as is my gait when I walk and swing my arms, something which I had to more or less relearn to do correctly). The only time I fall back into bad habits now is when I get fatigued and I start dragging or scuffing my left foot too.

I told you earlier when I started out-patient therapy I was a fall risk. It was so bad, I bombed my first balance test with Lisa so bad she ordered me to use my walker any time I was walking any distance. Fortunately, within a week or so, I improved, passed the balance test, and put the walker in the closet for good.

But it was still a big challenge for me using the NeuroCom machine (especially when I had to close my eyes and Lisa moved the floor or the walls to test my balance or as a part of a Wi-type exercise to see if I could move my hips and body correctly). Then there was being on the treadmill for the Life Gait body weight support training. I was so bad the first few times I did it that I felt like a big sack of potatoes, needing other therapists to help me move both my legs to walk properly on the treadmill while I was harnessed up tightly to keep from falling. I got much better but I was still somewhat embarrassed about how poorly I did.

My lowest point during therapy came when it was time to be recertified to drive a car. After being behind the wheel for over 40 years, I thought this would be a snap. Wrong again!

When I went out with Colin Bonfiglio, my occupational therapist and driving instructor, it was the first time I had been in the driver's seat in nearly 2 months. Trying not to make myself too nervous about that, I immediately started off badly in some early parking attempts in a Vanderbilt parking lot near the football stadium and when I drove along Natchez Trace and Woodlawn Blvd. Actually, I thought I was doing OK, but Colin sure didn't. He quickly told me I had no way to pass the driving class that day (including driving on the interstate) because I was driving way too close to the center line.

That's right. Once again my left side weakness from the stroke was something I would have to overcome. What my brain and lying eyes told me was OK to do to drive and steer my car was actually so potentially dangerous Colin had to grab my steering wheel a couple of times to make sure I stayed in my lane. I was aware that had happened once, but I was shocked when he told me it had happened several times.

There is a very high demand for Colin's services for driver recertification, so it took me a couple of weeks to get my second driving appointment with him. I was told not to do any practice driving in advance and I didn't, still I was very determined to pass the second time. I didn't! I was better, but still driving too close to the center and weaving back and forth.

Now I was getting really concerned. But Colin had an idea to try to see if it helped me. He took some duct tape and put two short strips on the inside of my front windshield. The tape on the left let me line up the car so I kept the tape inside and away from seemingly touching the yellow or center line. The right strip of tape let me see that I was OK on the right too.

The impact of this experiment was quick and darn near miraculous for me. Colin said after he put up the tape strips, I immediately corrected and stayed in the center of my driving lane. Success! But it wasn't all that easy behind the wheel. My brain now screamed at me that I was way too far right and at times, it was telling me I was about to go off on the shoulder of the road. I didn't, and after a third driving test, this time using the tape in my own car, I was certified to drive again. Throughout all my stroke recovery in the last three-plus months, nothing has made me feel more successful or liberated than having the freedom to drive again. By the way, the tape is still on my windshield and I use it every time I drive.

Those little markers, just like all the other help I have received in my rehab at Pi Beta Phi has given me back my life again. My grateful thanks!