In the last few days, Republicans around the Volunteer State have learned that State Party Chairman Bob Davis will step down and that has led to a flurry of speculation about who will replace him. Up to this point, I have avoided the topic not for lack of knowing what was happening, but because of a desire to avoid being caught up in the speculation as to whose "agent" the new Chairman will be, what faction of the party they will come from, and who they will represent.
I have had occasion in the last couple of days to talk to my friend Mike Faulk (himself a former candidate for State Chairman) about all of this, and Mike and I are in agreement that we do not need an agent for this one or an agent for that one. Neither of us wants a Chairman that people can point to and say "he is a Lamar Alexander surrogate" or "she is a Bill Frist person." A Chairman should not be someone who can be labelled as representing one wing of the party over another-not in the circumstances in which the Tennessee Republican Party presently finds itself.
We need a Chairman who will make it his or her goal for the Republican Party to finally take control of the Tennessee General Assembly, something we are painfully close to accomplishing but still haven't pulled off. This needs to be the public obsession of the next Tennessee Republican Chairman. The Fred Thompson campaign will get volunteers from around the State, but Fred is a big boy and can take care of himself in that sense. Yes, the GOP in Tennessee needs to help Thompson, but the movement for Fred is popular enough in Tennessee that on a Statewide level it will take care of itself to a point.
"Oatney, are you proposing a Chairman who is inward-looking?" Yes, to a point I am. We need a Chairman who can capitalize on the unique Tennessee political dynamic that we have-a Democratic Party that is old, tired, out of ideas, and has been in power so long that it no longer looks to the needs of everyday people. Tennessee and Tennesseans have a set of needs that can be addressed by government in Nashville if Nashville will pay attention-something that will not happen as long as (to quote Congressman David Davis) "Jimmy Naifeh runs the State." Control of the General Assembly needs to be the next Chairman's first and primary objective.
As of this morning the candidate getting the most attention is Party Vice Chair Robin Smith. I don't have any problems with Smith as Chairman, but I was really hoping that Paul Stanley might take a stab at it (after flirting with the idea, he has now thrown his support behind Smith). Like Stacey Campfield, I think we really need someone who understands the State Legislature, it doesn't have to be a current legislator-perhaps someone who has been there before. (Note: As much as I would personally love the thought of Ed Bryant as Chairman, that would rule him out in my mind.)
We are just a couple of days into this process, and I hope that a few more serious candidates make their way forward.
All the talk in the papers in Tennessee this morning is about the arrest of Al Gore III, a young man whose father I don't even need to mention. Yes, I understand that the most junior Gore son is under tremendous public pressure. He isn't just the son of a former Vice President and Senator who is still a prominent member of the Democratic Party, but there is the matter of the family name as well.
Even if his father had never been Vice President of the United States, this would still be a major story in Tennessee. Al Gore Jr. once carried every county in the State (it was the 1990 Senate election, I believe), a feat matched only by our current sitting Governor. Indeed, it was because of his father that Al Gore Jr. was able to become such a prominent political force in Tennessee. I can understand that the public pressure can cause Al III to do some things that are really inappropriate, but this isn't his first run-in with the law-at some point I think we need to ask how much of this has to do with being in the public eye and how much of it is this young man believing that he can do whatever he wants because he is Al Gore III.
I recall the uproar among certain people in the media when President Bush's daughters were caught drinking underage, especially among pundits on the Left. I even heard some folks say that this reflected on Bush's ability to run the country. Obviously, after seven years, it is fair to say that I am dissolusioned with the President, and that this is a major understatement. Jenna and Barbara Bush had little to do with that in my estimation, however. If trouble with the law were to become a continual problem for the Bush girls, it is fair to ask the same question that I just asked about Al Gore III.
Some will argue that it isn't fair to place Al Gore III under that kind of microscope, he didn't ask to be born into one of Tennessee's prominent political families. While I agree that this is quite true, I think it is worth noting that we really don't hear much at all about Al Gore III, he is not all over the papers and everywhere in the press like his father. For the most part, Al Gore III is left out of the public eye, and we have to presume that is as he wishes it to be. Since that is the case, that means that he will only be placed into the spotlight if he does something great, or if he engages in stupid or criminal behavior.
Of all the people who should know this, it is that young man. He doesn't want to be in the press all the time, and so he isn't. If he prefers to maintain a relatively private existence apart from the rest of his famous political family, that is certainly his prerogative and his right. He ought to know, however, that if that is what he wishes for himself, you don't do anything to screw that up, like having illegal drugs in your car.
231 years later, and Mr. Jefferson still says it better than I ever could
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776 The unanimous Declarationof the thirteen unitedStates of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Readers will recall the original proposal to give $100,000 in pork to every member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and $300,000 in pork to every Senator to spread around their districts as a sort of bribe. Now the Secretary of State's Office will distribute that money, so this means the Governor will get all the credit for "community enhancement."
I have a wild theory: Some Representatives were refusing to take the money, like Rep. Brian Kelsey, who saw the whole scheme as the vote-buying for which Democrats are notorious. Others figured that if they were going to get that kind of pork to hand out, they might as well do something that will really be of benefit to their constituents' pocketbooks. State Representative Stacey Campfield was working with Knoxville officials to try and use his allotment to provide some tiny amount of relief to Knoxville city residents on their property taxes.
Of course we can't have Representatives refusing to buy votes or who want to use public tax money to provide the public some small relief from taxes, so the best thing to do would be for the Secretary of State to run the whole thing, lest (God forbid) a few legislators might actually use the occasion to serve the people who elected them. This way, King Philip gets all the credit for the newfangled things that all this pork will bring and will in turn continue to receive acclamation from his allies in the press and popularity numbers through the roof, while the scandals and wasteful spending in his administration will be completely ignored-as usual.
You know, for all of the problems that have surfaced in this administration (and are really beginning to come to light in the second term), our Governor is nothing if not a master politician. The man is truly a political genius. I always thought Clinton was incredibly shrewed politically, but Bredesen makes Slick Willie look like a lightweight. He knows how to pull all the right strings to make everyone do it his way, and he gives a new meaning to the phrase "Teflon Don."
Among the myriad of laws-most of which are unnecessary-which took effect yesterday in the State of Tennessee was the Governor's tax increase on a pack of cigarettes. The Governor and his minions on the Hill tell us that this tax increase will help increase funding for education, but it is obvious that it is an attempt at State-sponsored social engineering to encourage citizens to quit smoking. I think that this is obvious considering that a workplace smoking ban, which will make lighting up in most places except bars, nursing homes, and a few other exceptions a criminal act, takes effect October 1st.
Even as I write this, a black market in cigarettes is already developing. I have talked to truckers who have told me that they intend to get cases of cigarettes in North Carolina, bring them into Tennessee, and mark them up enough to make a profit. They will sell them at a price substantially lower than what consumers are paying today. A massive chunk of this State's population lives within a short driving distance of the border with States where the tobacco tax is substantially lower and the savings would be worth the gas money-people will cross the border to buy their cigarettes if they do not buy smuggled smokes, and if they do the latter there is utterly nothing the State can do (it will be nigh impossible to stop smugglers as it is).
If the State is concerned about Tennesseans lighting up, there is something that could have been done without a Statewide public ban and without a tax increase. We have an insurance program in this State that is essentially TennCare Light-Cover Tennessee. Under that program, Tennesseans without ordinary insurance coverage through their work can be covered, and usually all they have to pay on their end is about $50 a month. As today's Tennessean points out, nearly 40% of all enrollees in Cover Tennessee are smokers. The State insists, however, that the premiums being charged are high enough to cover the State from the financial risk of covering all of those people, an argument that I don't buy in the least.
Rather than a massive tax increase that people can avoid by crossing the border or buying smokes on the black market, or enacting a smoking ban that will likely be selectively enforced from place to place, an easy way to cut down on smokers would have been for the State to say that smokers are not eligible for health coverage with Cover Tennessee. Many insurance companies will no longer insure smokers, and doubtless some of these folks are making their way to the State rolls. There is also the reality that many of the folks who qualify for Cover Tennessee are more likely to be smokers, as those of modest means are more likely to light up. Since the State is paying for Cover Tennessee, the State should be able to say who can and who cannot be covered. Removing smokers from the list of persons eligible for coverage would have a substantial impact on the number of smokers, because then smokers won't be able to get health coverage much of anywhere.
Of course the General Assembly didn't bother doing that, they just passed excessive taxes that won't be earmarked for their intended purpose and unenforcable bans so that they could "feel good" about what they view as the smoking "problem."
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