Capitol View Commentary: Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Wednesday, July 3, 2013

CREATED Jul 3, 2013

CAPITOL VIEW

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

July 3, 2013

ON THE AIR; MOVING A TRAIN WRECK; MORE FAMILY PROBLEMS; A CENTURY AND A HALF AGO; POLITICAL JINGLES ON INSIDE POLITICS; MY SUMMER

ON THE AIR

He doesn't have a major announced opponent in either party.

He has millions in the bank for his campaign re-election war chest (and is poised to raise even more).

Yet Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is putting up what can only be called early (and therefore perhaps unprecedented) TV re-election ads beginning next Monday, July 8.

The ad buy is for two weeks with the elections (August primary and November general) still 13 and 15 months away respectively.

Why?

The Senator and his campaign haven't said. But he has been taking a lot of flak from the conservative right wing of his party and Tea Party elements over his recent votes concerning immigration, internet taxation and other issues. Maybe he just wants some positive things been said about him on the air. And there is already a third party group running TV spots  here in Nashville urging viewers to call the Senator and "thank" him for his leadership on energy issues in Washington.

Regardless an early TV buy like this is sure to raise political eyebrows wondering if the Senator has seen something in his own polling that gives him pause or makes him willing to spend money now before a problem might manifest itself. After all, there have been Senators such as Indiana's Richard Lugar in the past election (2012) who may not have appreciated the political problems they faced until it was too late to fix it.

Lamar Alexander is a Tennessee political legend, a two-term governor and senator. He's never been afraid to act boldly in his races (walking across the state to become governor or jumping in quickly when Fred Thompson suddenly decided to retire from the Senate). Is this a preemptive move or a sign of trouble ahead? 

Of course, usually such election problems get manifested when a major, potentially well-funded opponent enters the field or there are hints someone is looking at entering.

There's been a lot of brave talk about that among those who'd like to defeat Senator Alexander, but so far, it's been just that, only talk.

Will it soon become something else? The political calendar and these early TV ads for the Senator say it probably very soon will be now or never for this race.

MOVING A TRAIN WRECK

I guess we should have seen this coming.

It was just a week or so ago that the General Accounting Office of the federal government reported that the implementation of the new national health law was running behind schedule. More specifically, the GAO was referring to the exchanges being set up by October 1 of this year to provide health insurance options for those presently uninsured.

Now another delay has been announced. The administration of President Barack Obama says it will wait another year (from 2014 to 2015) before enforcing the new law's mandate of imposing fines on businesses (of more than 50 employees) who fail to provide health insurance. The administration says it needs more time to explain and simplify the rules surrounding the mandate, an issue that's been debated and criticized since the law was first approved by Congress a few years ago.

Of course, longtime critics of the health law were quick to jump in. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says these developments are the train wreck "predicted that was coming" even by those who wrote the legislation. Of course, the mandate delay also moves implementation of this part of the law beyond the 2014 mid-term elections. Is that a coincidence? I doubt it.

I suspect it's a combination of confusion and politics that continues to bedeviled the Affordable Care Act. But why are businesses being given a year's delay and a reprieve from fines while the mandate for self-employed individuals to have insurance is still set for next year? In fairness, should that be the next delay in implementing Obamacare?

MORE FAMILY PROBLEMS

Another prominent East Tennessee political family is experiencing difficult times.

Knox County Trustee John Duncan, III, the son and grandson of long-time Knoxville U.S. Congressmen, has pleaded guilty to official misconduct charges and has resigned his post. According to THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL (July 2) Duncan has "received a one-year probation and may apply for diversion" from the court. He must also "cooperate" with "this" and "any other probes" concerning his office. The charges surrounding Duncan involve the now former Trustee and others in his office applying for and receiving salary bonuses for "completing a training program that, none of them had, in fact, completed."

Following the court hearing where the younger Duncan entered his plea, his father, Congressman Jimmy Duncan said: "We can rely on our faith to get on with our future."  He declined any further comment.

And so the Duncans join the Haslam family, also from Knoxville, as prominent Tennessee political clans having a difficult time this summer.  The federal probe continues of the Pilot J Flying Company owned by the family of Governor Bill Haslam, his father and his brother Jimmy Haslam (CEO of Pilot Flying J and owner of the NFL Cleveland Browns). The investigation revolves around alleged fuel rebate fraud with five company executives already entering guilty pleas and agreeing to cooperate with authorities as the probe continues.  Some 15 trucking companies have also filed lawsuits against Pilot Flying J over the matter.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (June 26) gave the investigation front-page attention with an extensive article that also included a brief interview with the Governor. While Governor Haslam has not been involved in the operations of his family business for several years the WSJ says "it is difficult (for him) to concentrate." The story then added this, directly quoting the Governor. "It's my father, my brother. I have a job to do, but that doesn't mean that inside you aren't hurting." 

A CENTURY AND A HALF AGO

2013 marks the 237th time we've celebrated our nation's independence. But 150 years ago, when we only had 87 candles on our American birthday cake, there were many who wondered if the country would still be around to mark another one the following year.

We were over two years into a bloody Civil War that divided us North versus South, free versus slave. But in that 4th of July week in 1863, twin Union victories at both Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and Vicksburg in Mississippi tipped the balance to a Federal victory. It would take almost another two years of blood, sweat and tears before peace came. But after July 4, 1863 it was the North who was always on the offensive and the Confederates trying to hold on.

I mention this because at least in my lifetime I have never seen our nation so politically divided as we are today. Fortunately our disagreements remain verbal and political, not violent and warlike. As a child (and as a student of history) I was fascinated by the centennial anniversary of the Civil War and the lasting impact the conflict has had on our nation. Fifty years and a few more generations later, I am not sure that is quite as true. But I hope we never forget just how terrible it was when we briefly lost our American genius for compromise and democracy and literally divided ourselves brother against brother, family against family in a conflagration hopefully we will never see or experience again.

Happy Birthday, America! May we always celebrate on this day what brings us together…and remember the terrible consequences of what can happen when we are too divided.

POLITICAL JINGLES ON INSIDE POLITICS

There's nothing more American on the 4th of July than politics and music. Who can't wait to hear the Nashville Symphony or the Boston Pops play "The Stars and Stripes Forever". Indeed music has played a deep role in our politics and election campaigns since our earliest days.

The Albert Gore Center and Middle Tennessee State University has been exploring that idea and have posted on-line a very interesting display of political music, especially campaign jingles:

http://gorecenter.mtsu.edu/education/Political_Jingles/A_Brief_Definition_and_History_of_Political_Jingles.shtml

The on-line display includes not only national politics but a look back at the local "golden era" of political jingles in Tennessee back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

This week on INSIDE POLITICS, Professor Kent Syler from MTSU joins us on INSIDE POLITICS to play and discuss further the history and impact of campaign songs and jingles.   INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. Our air times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday 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., Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel. For those outside Nashville or who don't have cable access, portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

MY SUMMER

I didn't get much of a summer last year.

But I am really enjoying this one so far.

In 2012, it was just one week past the summer solstice when I suffered my stroke.

It was 106 degrees that day and it stayed over the century mark for another week. Not that it mattered to me. I was in the hospital completely inside away from the outdoors for three full weeks before I came home. The rest of the summer was rehab with my outdoor periods being pretty short and limited in duration.

This summer the weather has been almost resort like.  High temperatures in just the low to mid 80s in early July is pretty rare for Nashville and I really like it.   I am also looking forward to celebrating the 4th of July this summer. I don't remember doing anything special last year except seeing my family. This year we are headed off to the annual extended Nolan Clan 4th of July gathering in Smyrna. It will be great to see everyone I missed a year ago even though I know I will be tempted to eat too much and will do poorly again in the family's annual golf "closest pitch shot to the hole" contest.

Later this summer I plan to go to South Florida to see my father-in-law and take in a Marlins game in their new stadium. We planned to go last year but obviously couldn't. I am also looking forward to going back to the mountains in North Carolina for a week in August. The last time I was there in 2012 I spent 3 days in the hospital dealing with my diverticulitis. I am not kidding when I say my goal this summer (and 2013) is no more hospitalizations. I am happy to report….so far, so good.

Happy 4th, everyone!