I had occasion to watch last night's Democratic debate aimed specifically at African-American voters moderated by PBS commentator Tavis Smiley and hosted at Howard University in Washington. I came away with very real and specific impressions, but I was also struggling with how best to word them so that people understand what I mean. I came to the conclusion that the best way to explain myself is to be direct.
This was Obama's night-there was no real winner because (let's face reality) the majority of that audience was comprised of liberal black intellectuals, Al Sharpton, and a few other self-appointed "leaders" like Sharpton. The liberal intellectuals will vote for Obama because he is a liberal intellectual, the others in that audience will vote for Obama because Sharpton and Jackson tell them to. I do not think that what I saw represented a majority of African Americans, but I do think that the two candidates who appeared the most sincere were Obama (an African American), and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, who was unafraid to tell it like he saw it, and didn't seem to care that it got him booed (tact is not the drug legalizer's strong point, I will say that).
As for the rest of the candidates, the entire business sounded like a disgusting exercise in cheap political pandering. Some readers may say "Oatney, you don't understand, you aren't black." I do have a physical disability that has, throughout my life, caused the whole world to look at me differently. It has affected everything from going to school to getting a job, and it certainly (before I was blessed enough to meet my wife) affected how the opposite sex viewed me. I can make the argument more clearly than many others that I understand discrimination, since I have personally experienced it. I do not use that reality as a means to whine, moan, complain, or try and score cheap political points. What I saw via PBS at Howard last night was a panderers' festival (or a panhandlers' meeting, depending on how you look at it), and if I were an African American, I wouldn't just be upset at that, I would be pissed off, that would feel very demeaning to me.
Hillary was the worst for playing the pandering game, and you could tell by the way she immediately addressed the Supreme Court ruling in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District. In addressing this, she began to sound entirely too much like Bill, who as Panderer-in-Chief had the unmitigated gall to insist that he was the first black president. Dennis Kucinich sounded as though he had taken a happy pill, and might as well just have said "I don't have a snowball's chance in Hell, but this sure is fun Tavis!" As much as John Edwards strikes me as a genuinely good person aside from his politics, he was pandering so much that I was waiting on someone to strike up the piano so Edwards could lead in a sing-along of We Shall Overcome.
The whole atmosphere just reeked of "we don't want to be here but we have to be," and if neither Tavis Smiley nor the audience figured that out, than the Democratic field is filled with people who are better actors on stage than on television. Of course, it didn't help me shed that impression that Joe Biden (fresh from informing the world that Barack Obama is the first clean, articulate black person) acted like a complete horse's rear.
The whole spectacle reminded me of Tommy Thompson's famous line: "Isn't is great to be a Republican!"
First, let me give all of my loyal readers and listeners the good news: I am tentatively scheduled to appear via telephone hookup as a guest of State Representative Stacey Campfield as he guest-hosts for the vacationing Terry Frank. I will be alongside former Democratic Gubernatorial nominee, Kennedy friend and cohort, Blount descendant, gadfly, and socialite John Jay Hooker, who will also join the show by phone in what I anticipate will be a classic. It will truly be an honor to share the air with a Tennessean who is both as great and as notorious as Mr. John Jay. The show will will air from 3-6pm Eastern on the Horne Radio Network-stations 850 WKVL Knoxville, 1290 WATO Oak Ridge, 1140 WLOD Loudon, and 1400 WGAP Maryville.
You can join the show by dialing 865-675-TALK.
Now the bad news: As of yet, the Horne Network still has no live internet feed for the show, or show archive that would allow us to disseminate the show around the world via the internet in the coming days. I appreciate and relish the opportunity to be a guest, but I think that stinks. I can't always pick up Horne stations up this way, and I would love to be able to hear Terry's show more often. If you want Horne to develop a live internet feed, call them and let them know!
Fred Thompson held his first hard fundraiser on Tuesday at the suburban Nashville home of record executive and former California Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb (of Curb Records). As is generally the case with these in-house fundraisers, it was a high-dollar affair at $2,300 a head. What seems to have made the event stick out was the diversity of people who are reported to have attended.
As is to be expected at nearly every Thompson fundraiser, former Senator Howard Baker was in attendance. Former Governor and State Republican Party "elder statesman" Winfield Dunn also made an appearance. Thompson's candidacy seems to bring people together even inside the Republican Party, because as we all know, East Tennessee Republicans and the GOP in the rest of the State have not always gotten on very well-I am sure Winfield Dunn is still smarting over the fact that the late Congressman Jimmy Quillen is who really got him beat for re-election. Indeed, I've heard that he's never quite lived it down (and I like Winfield Dunn, by the way).
The Tennessean reports that in addition to Mike Curb hosting the party, country singer Trace Adkins also came to the Fred-o-rama at Curb's crib. I would be curious to see the guest list to find out who else from country music showed up. I know that Davidson County Democrats love to brag about all the support they have in country music, but it is a well-known reality in Republican circles that conservatives and the GOP have many more friends in Nashville than in Hollywood-I would venture to say that will multiply now that Fred is running for President.
I don't know what the money looks like after this affair Tuesday evening, I haven't seen the numbers. I would venture to say that the Thompson campaign is off to a good running start.
Note: The Following essay will likely appear in whole or in part as part of a compilation of essays about Fred Thompson by Tennessee political bloggers to be published by a New York publishing firm. The working title for the book is "Who is Fred Thompson?" The topic of my essay deals with what I feel we can reasonably expect from a Thompson Administration.
In discussing who Senator Fred Thompson is, we ultimately must ask the question: What will President Thompson do for America? What can we reasonably expect from his administration? As bloggers, most of us have the independence of not working for any candidate's campaign, including Senator Thompson's. That freedom means that we can state honestly what we believe will happen, not merely what the campaign might say will happen.
Many political pundits, including several bloggers on both the Left and the Right, have gone out of their way to try and tell Tennesseans and Americans that a Thompson Administration will be a repeat of the last six and one-half years of the present administration. It is true that Senator Thompson has done utterly nothing to correct that view, and yet I do not believe that view to be an accurate one. This is largely because I think Senator Thompson has far more political sense than our current Republican President. He also enjoys the luxury of having been distant from the seat of power during the worst of the Bush years, so Thompson cannot be blamed for the President's doings.
The great problem for Thompson is that he will be charged with cleaning up the messes left him by the Bush Administration, and mess number one is Iraq. I am in the rather unique position of having opposed the war in Iraq from the outset, yet I am prepared to support Fred Thompson for President. The United States is not in a position where we can merely withdraw our forces without finding a genuine way to declare victory. To say that the terrorists would win in Iraq may be a stretch militarily, but a unilateral withdrawal without first making serious headway against the enemy appears as though we are giving in, and in the eyes of our enemies they will have defeated the Great Satan. There is a Great Satan in the struggle against Islamists, but that Great Satan is not Judeo-Christian America, it is the people we fight. We had the upper hand in that fight, and our forces were winning in Afghanistan-but the President extended the war to Iraq where it previously had not been.
A way out of Iraq is needed, but it must be a way that is brought about with honor and in a fashion that does not leave the enemy with any impression of victory. If there is such a way, I believe President Thompson would find it.
The most important job a President has-the one that will leave a lasting legacy long after he is gone-is the responsibility of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and the federal bench. Supreme Court appointments have been known to alter law without so much as a whimper in Congress. We need to insure (as much as it is possible to do) that the judges that are appointed not only interpret the Constitution as strictly as possible, but that they themselves reflect a conservative vision for society. For too long, conservatives have sat back as liberal Presidents appointed activist judges to the bench who make law from the courtroom. In so doing, these judges have managed to destroy the last vestiges of the Constitution over a period of years. The only way to restore sanity to our federal courts is to appoint judges that will actively move to counter liberal activism with reverse activism until the proper constitutional equilibrium is restored. I believe Fred Thompson will appoint judges and justices to the bench who will do this, and he will be prepared to fight the Senate until he gets them.
If ethics in Washington is a concern to voters, and most Americans say that it is one for them, Fred Thompson has already proven that he has what it takes to restore public confidence in their leaders. As Chief co-Counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, he proved unafraid to ask the right questions and try to expose unethical behavior in government-regardless of the political persuasion of the people involved. Thompson's crusade for clean government garnered national attention in 1977, when Marie Ragghianti, a Tennessee Parole Board chairperson fired under very suspicious circumstances. Democratic Governor Ray Blanton fired Ragghianti after she refused to release felons who had bribed Blanton aides in return for pardons. Blanton was driven from office early after Fred Thompson's work exposed his corruption, and led to national notoriety not only for Thompson, but ultimately for the Governor who replaced Blanton, Lamar Alexander. Fred Thompson's early exposure to State and national politics involved helping to clean up the ethical filth left by others, and President Thompson would keep his White House as ethically clean as possible.
While many may make jokes about the idea of an actor in the White House, Americans old enough to remember the last actor in the White House know that we didn't do so badly. Fred Thompson has one additional advantage that President Reagan did not-he was involved politically long before he became an actor. He has the actor's ability to gently persuade and to speak very well, as well as the political experience to know how and when to use the bully pulpit of the Presidency. As President, the American people can have confidence that Fred Thompson will do that very well indeed.
There is big talk in the Nashville press and among certain Nashville blogs of the potential for a candidacy for the United States Senate by Michael Ray McWherter, son of former Governor and House Speaker Ned Ray McWherter. I generally agree with those who say that as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, he has the best chance of any potential Democratic nominee of unseating Lamar Alexander-which in 2008 will be no chance at all.
Perhaps certain of our friends in the party opposite actually believe they can defeat Lamar! with the son of a popular Democratic Governor who even some conservatives admit didn't serve our State in an ill manner (policy disagreements aside). Mike McWherter, however, will have the distinction of running not on his own record, but on that of his father's, for he will be running in many parts of this State on name recognition alone. Ned McWherter's record was one of collaboration with Governor Alexander much of the time when he was Speaker of the House.
Beyond this, if the junior McWherter wanted a successful run at a Senate seat, that opportunity might have eluded him two years ago-the seat was open and with his name recognition, he easily could have fashioned himself in the Democratic Primary as the "clean" alternative to the Ford machine. Had Tennessee Democrats run Mike McWherter two years ago against Bob Corker, I believe McWherter could very well have won. The current leadership of the Democratic Party in this State does not seem terribly adept at political strategy, they only seem able to win when their candidates (McWherter the Elder, Al Gore Jr. pre-1992, Bredesen) are already pretty popular. They rarely run candidates like Mike McWherter in races they could actually win, as was the case two years ago.
For a Democrat to win Statewide, they must be able to either do as Bredesen did (carry every county on a quasi-Republican platform, as he did last year), or find a candidate that can hold down the Republican vote in East Tennessee that is virtually guaranteed to a margin that can be overcome. Mike McWherter could have done that last year against Bob Corker, as Corker-even though he was from Chattanooga-was not so well known outside of that city. The McWherter name and the money it would have garnered would have challenged the Haslam machine step for step.
Now Democrats may put Mike McWherter in a situation where he cannot do that. Lamar Alexander has many faults, but he is an East Tennessean from Blount County, and East Tennessee people stand by their own-his margin of victory in East Tennessee will be massive. To win, Mike McWherter's margin of victory in the other two Grand Divisions must be massive-especially in Middle Tennessee, and I just don't see it happening.
McWherter could have pulled it off two years ago. Democrats just aren't good at strategy, are they?
I have written in recent days of just how bad the drought of 2007 has been for East and Middle Tennessee. It is so bad that there were substantiated media reports that the spring which produces the water at Lynchburg from which Jack Daniel's is derived was threatened. Jack is now doing everything they can to counteract the story, which leads me to believe that there is at least some truth to it.
A dearth of whiskey is not, however, what is making this drought so bad. The shortfall of rain is affecting people in so many lines of work. People who do landscaping work and who have lawn mowing services can't get any work because there has not been enough rain to make lawns grow to the point of needing mowed. My lawn actually looks like it might need mowing-maybe-for the first time in several weeks. Those who work in the pest control field have the problem of being unable to detect termites early enough to stop them from doing damage because of the lack of moisture. Other pests are making themselves scarce because of lack of water. No rain means few flowers grow-let alone crops-which bees can pollinate. If bees have nothing to pollinate they can't make honey, and if they can't do that, many bees will die.
The drought hurts my wife and I because we have a small rabbit operation. Rabbits, like many other livestock, consume and bed in large amounts of hay. The drought has been so pronounced that in nearly all of East Tennessee and much of Middle Tennessee there has been no second cutting of hay this year. It is the second cutting which provides hay into late summer and through the fall and winter months. Perhaps if you don't have a regular local supplier of hay and you use it and can't grow it yourself, you might get hay from your local Farmers' Cooperative. Good luck with trying-normally the Co-op begins to run low on hay around mid-November, but they are already running low in many counties this year. If you do get hay from a local supplier yourself, that person probably doesn't have much hay to sell you. The price of hay on the open market is obviously going up, so is the price of livestock feed. Food prices at the grocery store are not far behind.
Wildlife is feeling the pinch as well. As pointed out in today's News-Sentinel, it is becoming increasingly common to see deer running around the roads. Sometimes you might see a deer or two this time of year, but you really see them in the late fall when it is hunting and mating season. They are scavenging anywhere they can find in search of food and water.
Rumors abound that the Governor is going to ask the President to declare the State a disaster area because of the scale of the drought. My only question would be why this was not done sooner, when it became clear that this was going to be a severe drought.
A conservative journal of social, cultural, and ecclesiatical affairs grounded in a realistic Catholic Christian worldview. It is my hope that this site will be a reflection of Christ,the teachings of His Holy Church, and of the basic vision of a Christian social morality.