Capitol View Commentary: Friday, November 1, 2013
By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising
November 1, 2013
STILL ON THE DEFENSIVE; SHE'S GOT TO GO; POLITICAL JINGLES ON INSIDE POLITICS; WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE MONEY; THE LEGISLATIVE BOOK CLUB; THE BEST YET
STILL ON THE DEFENSIVE
It was a story in THE WASHINGTON POST on line (October 28). A potential national platform for Tennessee Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr to show his stuff and start to prove to national conservative Super PACS that his underdog effort to upset long time Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander was worth investing millions of their money (much as at least former Senator Jim DeMint's group is now doing against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky).
But instead, state representative Carr is trying to explain himself after uttering what appeared to be a significant foreign policy/history gaffe. It was a part of the story and a comment somewhat buried in the article. It read:
"His (Carr's) biggest critique of the Bush White House's foreign policy was using military force against Iraq (which began in March 2003) before Afghanistan (which actually began in October, 2001). Uh oh.
Quoting Carr: "We went to Iraq first and then Afghanistan, if you remember. At least in a forceable way. I thought the order in which we dealt with the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Iraq was out of order. We should have done Afghanistan first." Uh, Representative Carr, the Bush administration did do it in that order. Not the way you said.
A spokesperson for the Carr campaign later said Carr comments were "taken out of context." The campaign says Carr knows his history and the order of events. What he meant to say is that we should have finished our focus in Afghanistan before moving to Iraq.
What the Washington Post article said about Carr: "He's not nearly as polished as Rubio and Cruz by the time they entered their respective primary bids, and his knowledge of foreign policy may leave some large donors unimpressed."
SHE'S GOT TO GO
For his campaign, Senator Lamar Alexander continues to try and position himself as of one of the leaders in the anti-Obamacare campaign.
He's pushing his legislation for a quick up or down vote on requiring a weekly report from the Obama Administration on the progress of lack thereof getting the national health insurance exchange web site up and functional. He's also pushing a possible supena to get recors and other documents from the administration about the health care outreach effort that so far have not been handed over. Finally, Senator Alexander has joined in the chorus of GOP leaders calling for the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to resign her post. In a news release, Senator Alexander points out "no private sector CEO would escape accountability after such performance" adding, "expecting this secretary to fix in a few weeks what she has not be able to fix during the last three and a half years is unrealistic. It is throwing good money after bad."
The Senator also raised questions about the wisdom of Secretary Sebelius visiting Memphis today (November 1) saying while she is "always welcome in Tennesee…her time might be better spent in Washington fixing the Obamacare website." He also urged her while in the Bluff City "to meet with the thousands of Tennesseans "who are informed they won't be able to keep the health insurance the president promised they'd be able to keep."
Indeed this past week the Obamacare crisis has now moved well beyond just a bad website to include also media reports that at least 2 million people will have to change insurance (whether they like it or not) because their current insurance no longer meets federal standards. That threatens to open a whole new can of political worms, especially combined with the expanding NSA spy scandal which now seems to involve eavesdropping on even our allies and their top leaders and not just our enemies.
And all this is taking a heavy toll on the President's job numbers down to a record 42% approval number in the latest WALL STREET JOURNAL/ NBC poll with a 51% disapproval mark. But it so far may not be helping Republicans much. Their numbers in the WSJ/NBC survey remain at record lows too.
Back in Tennessee, there is a new Democrat trying to enter the U.S. Senate race. He's Knoxville attorney Terry Adams who says he hopes to take advantage of the schism in the GOP as highlighted by the Carr-Alexander race. Adams also says Washington is "broken" and new faces are needed in leadership.
But while Adams has been a state party activist and is supported by longtime state party leaders such as Nashville lawyer Bob Tuke (who is his treasurer), there are questions about well he'll be funded and if he can build the statewide support and name recognition he'll need to be a factor come November, 2014. Stranger things have happened I suppose. But for now it would be a very strange thing indeed if the Democrats can win back this Senate seat or for that matter the Governor's Residence next year.
POLITICAL JINGLES ON INSIDE POLITICS
If this was a normal November (an election year), we'd be coming up on Election Day next Tuesday and the airwaves would be filled with political advertising.
You don't hear it much anymore, but those ads used to include musical songs and jingles. The Gore Center at Middle Tennessee State University has an on-line exhibit taking a look and listen back on the history of music and jingles in political campaigns, both nationally and here in Tennessee.
You can find it at this link:
This weekend on INSIDE POLITICS (and to help those political junkies who need their campaign advertising fix) we offer an encore presentation of our interview with MTSU professor Kent Siler where we discuss political jingles and music. That includes in particular the "golden age" of such advertising in Tennessee back in the 1960s and ‘70s. Yes, it's "Vote for (John Jay)" Hooker" and a "Ray of Blanton Sunshine" among the many jingles we discuss.
Nobody seems to do this kind of ad anymore in politics. I‘m not sure why they don't. It's been 40 to 50 years since these campaigns occurred yet I still remember the tunes and all the words. OK, maybe I am just weird.
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WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE MONEY
It was just a couple of weeks ago that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was making a major announcement to reporters that in the years to come (beginning in the next state budget in 2014) he wanted to make Tennessee known as the state with the "fastest growing teacher salaries in the country."
Now no figures or percentages for pay raises were used but with state revenues up $342 million from initial projections last budget year (that ended in June) and still up $42 million after projections were revised it looked like the state had some dollars to work with to give raises.
But now, two months into the new fiscal year maybe that's not so true. Collections are down $83.3 million from projections and the governor is asking all departments to submit budget for next year that reflect a 5% cut.
Now sometimes requested cuts like that are done, not out of dire necessity, but to see how departments prioritize. But if these revenue declines persist, how does the governor recommend teachers' pay increases to allow Tennessee to have the fastest growing salaries in the country? Does he have to do that while cutting other state departments? If so, which ones and by how much? This year's budget hearings by the governor, which begin shortly, may be quite interesting to watch and observe.
THE LEGISLATIVE BOOK CLUB
As if our lawmakers on Capitol Hill here in Nashville don't have enough to keep them busy, now (according to an Associated Press story, October 29) members of the Senate Education and Government Operations Committees are holding two days of joint hearings next week concerning the textbooks used in Tennessee's public schools and the Tennessee Textbook Commission that oversees that selection process along with the State Board of Education.
Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham said in a news release (again, according to AP) "that she wants to avoid what she called indoctrination in school textbooks." She also noted some parents have complained "about the content of some textbooks."
But why are lawmakers getting involved? Why is it their job and what special (if any) expertise do these Senators have to decide what textbooks are used and what contents are appropriate? After all the present law gives that oversight to the 10-member Textbook Commission (appointed by the Governor) and to the State Board of Education (which is also a gubernatorial-selected panel). They together set up a list of approved texts school system can decide to use. If there are issues and concerns, why can't these two state agencies handle any complaints or provide the oversight needed?
You also wonder if hearings like these don't send a rather "chilling message" to educators since lawmakers do have the authority (and have used it from time to time) to "sunset" (or put out of business) state departments and agencies they don't like or no longer think are needed.
Hopefully we're not headed in that direction but I do wonder if the committees plan a separate news release when they announce their book burning session?
THE BEST YET
I had another doctor's checkup this week and I got the best results yet. My weight is still about the same in the mid-170s (30 pounds lighter than my heaviest ever); my blood pressure was 105/65 which is even lower than it was when I took it earlier in the morning. I guess I don't have "white coats syndrome" anymore. And most importantly after I told the doctor that I am going to exercise at the Y twice a week and that I am drinking lots more water to keep from being dehydrated, he said everything seems about "perfect."
In fact he said he felt a little bad, because usually he likes to have something critical to say about what his patients need to do or improve, but this time he didn't. I wanted to laugh and almost cry at the same time.
But leave to it my family to keep me humble and avoid the big head. After hearing the report my daughter Kelly said: "Glad to hear the good report. Now you can start going to the Y three days a week."
There's no rest for the recovery, I guess.