Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 20, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 20, 2013

CREATED Sep 20, 2013


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

September 20, 2013



If you can sense shifts in the mood of the country by monitoring social media and by the comments and reactions of your friends, associates and co-workers (and I admit that's a debatable proposition), I found what I saw, heard and read about the most recent, senseless mass murder spree at the historic Navy Ship Yard in Washington, D.C., to be both interesting and disturbing.

Unlike the children's massacre in Connecticut and the bombings in Boston, my Facebook page did not explode as soon as the news broke. Sure there were lots of news updates (with the predictable, but wrong information, this time about multiple shooters being involved). But there was very little venting and heart-rendering angst from FB friends or shared postings about the incident leaving people depressed or angry…and only a few calls for renewed efforts to change our gun laws or provide more mental health assistance to those in obvious need.

Now, I am not saying that didn't happen, just that it seemed less in numbers and intensity this time both in my social media world ( I don't do Twitter) and in the conversations and reactions among people I was with that day or the following day.

So does it mean that politically we are moving on and the latest gun control debate is already over? And the same for more mental health funding or assistance for those who need help (if that debate ever really got started)? I think it does, at least for now.

Now I am not saying those are the answers. But if they aren't, what are the answers to stop the carnage? What is the debate or debates that we need to have? Or are random mass murders like these now just an expected part of everyday life? Really? As an old man, it makes me shudder for my children, and for my grandchildren. Surely we can find some way to deal with this growing problem.


Tennessee's "education wars" became a letter writing contest this past week. Coming soon the schools' conflict may forge what some would say is an unlikely (if not to some and unholy and unthinkable) alliance between Tea Party Republicans and left-wing Democratic lawmakers. Really!

But first, the letters…

In response to a missive signed by about 60 (close to half) of the state's school superintendents asking that controversial State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman be removed, Governor Bill Haslam put out his own letter saying he is "disappointed" in such a petition effort adding: "the bottom line is we are at a critical point in the implementation of key reforms…and this work is simply too important to be sidetracked." He asked the school leaders to take "a fresh approach …and work together as partners as we seek to build on the momentum that's been generated."

What seems to particularly concern the Governor is what he recently called "the real battle" brewing over Common Core standards. You can see the outlines of the coming fight in the testimony given during recent hearings held on Capitol Hill this week. After being approved almost without dissent three years ago in 2010, Tea Party Republicans now hate Common Core because they see it as another big government takeover plot by the administration of President Barack Obama. Democrats hate how the Common Core standards are being tied to teacher evaluations and pay.

So with the Republican super majority likely split (the Haslam administration remains strongly in favor of Common Core), could the Tea Party folks and Democrats combine to make a "majority", cutting a deal to repeal Common Core and reinstating teacher pay and evaluations based more on years of experience and not on student evaluations and test scores?

Would that be weird politically? For sure! Could it happen? Let's watch and see.

The schools war in Nashville this week is about an audit. For the first time in over a decade (2001) many members of the Metro Council and Mayor Karl Dean want a "top to bottom" performance audit of all schools programs. The idea is to make sure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their bucks (who could argue with that?).

But will this audit (which could take several months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct) get involved as well in the recent controversy stirred up by claims from school officials that having to fund all these new charter schools is leading to a budget squeeze that could cause reductions in other school programs and even to school closings?

Bet on it.


Governor Haslam also trying to make it clear that all the unease and uncertainty across the medical and health care industries in Tennessee ( especially here in Nashville with the massive layoffs coming at Vanderbilt Medical Center) is not his fault because he hasn't expanded TennCare under the new National Health Care Act.

He points out federal sequestration cuts and changes in how Washington provides Medicare payments are also playing a big role in the problems facing the health care industry. Governor Haslam adds (NASHVILLE POST, September 18) he is still negotiating a deal between the Obama Administration and state lawmakers to expand health coverage to low income people but without expanding TennCare. Such deal might create the cash flow to keep many hospitals and health care facilities going in Tennessee. But increasingly, it seems such a deal, even with the patience of Job and the Wisdom of Solomon, cannot be achieved, maybe even by the Good Lord himself.

Indeed the continued gridlock in Congress over several issues: the debt ceiling, the ongoing funding of the government, massive food stamp cuts, and the future of healthcare (to defund or delay Obamacare) are all enough to make the country sense we are in for another very difficult legislative session. And it's all thanks to lawmakers that just can't seem to work together to solve any of the major issues facing them. And next year most of them will get re-elected.


This weekend on INSIDE POLITICS, we have an encore presentation of my conversation with Chris Clark. The retired NEWSCHANNEL5 anchorman is still going strong teaching the TV news business at Middle Tennessee State University (it sounds like he conducts a challenging class).

We also reflect back on his career including one of his crowning achievements, getting TV news cameras into Tennessee courtrooms. We look back as well at his role in covering live (the only TV station to do so) the early ouster of Governor Ray Blanton and early swearing in of Lamar Alexander back in 1979. I've always enjoyed working with Chris and it's great to have him back on the show (which he used to host under the name, THIS WEEK WITH CHRIS CLARK.

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. Portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

And don't forget you can now watch INSIDE POLITICS in real time with live streaming video on NewsChannel5.com. That means if you have a computer and internet access, you can see INSIDE POLITICS anytime its airs on the PLUS. It no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live. So watch us!


I had a very good annual checkup with my sleep doctor this week. Getting serious about using a sleep apnea machine every night is one of most significant lifestyle changes I've made in recovering from my June, 2012 stroke.

And I do use it every night for over 7 hours (just wish I could find an extra hour or two more of sleep every evening). My daily current usage of the sleep machine is an hour longer than my last checkup which happened about this time last year when I was just starting back to work. That seems a little odd to me since I wasn't nearly as busy then as I am now. But I'm just happy I am getting more rest.

The doctor says my apnea (which is between slight to moderate) is now under control, meaning it's OK as long as I keep using the sleep machine every night. I plan to do that. In fact I have gotten so used to it, I usually have to check (touch) my face each morning when I wake up just to make sure it's there.

The sleep machine also seems to give me more energy during the day and I feel more rested. It also keeps my blood pressure low especially in the mornings when most days it's in the low 100s (or below) over 65 or 66 on the bottom side usually. The doctor is also pleased I have joined the Y and work out twice a week. Bottom line: like most of my lifestyle changes, it hasn't been a cure and I will probably have to use the sleep machine, take blood pressure and other pills and in general, watch myself and especially my diet for the rest of my life. But by doing so, I think it means I have a much better chance of having a longer "rest of my life."