The World According to Oatney
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
Back in the HouseState Representative Stacey Campfield joins the show to discuss the antics of the first week of the legislative session in Nashville.
Oatney On the Air-January 11, 2008
A testament of valuesI firmly believe that there are good people in public service within both political parties, but there are times when you can see the difference in values between our two parties in a very clear, and sometimes very unfortunate fashion. Such a distinction could be seen clearly in Nashville yesterday.
Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) doesn't just have an alcohol abuse problem-that led to his arrest last September for driving under the influence of alcohol. Briley also has a problem with disrespect for law enforcement, disregard for the authority of the police, and a distinction of believing himself to be above the law. That led Briley to flee Sheriff's Deputies who were trying to apprehend him, resist arrest when they found him, and vandalize a Sheriff's vehicle when it was clear he was caught. Perhaps this attitude exists because Briley comes from one of Middle Tennessee's elite political families, but to say that Briley has issues would be a major understatement.
Were Briley a Republican caught in criminal behavior, the Republican Caucus would likely treat Briley in the same way that they treated former State Rep. Chris Newton, who was convicted of taking bribes in the Tennessee Waltz Affair. Newton was completely disavowed and encouraged to resign, and it was made clear that Chris Newton's values were not the values of the Republican Party or of its House or Senate Leadership. The Democrats who were arrested in the Waltz were often lionized among their fellow Democrats, with former Lt. Governor John Wilder going so far as to suggest that John Ford and his cohorts had been railroaded, and that arresting those accused of crimes was "not God's way."
I don't doubt that Rob Briley does have a very serious problem with alcohol abuse, and it is true that Briley needs both professional and spiritual help. Actions have consequences, however, and resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, and vandalizing a law enforcement vehicle ought to have more serious professional implications than merely to be shrugged off.
So how did the Democrats react to Briley's reappearance in the Tennessee House of Representatives yesterday? They gave the man who disgraced their Caucus as well as himself a loud ovation.
Labels: Tennessee politics
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The Buck stops hereThe wasting of public funds on an underground party bunker for the Executive Residence just got some key Democratic opposition in the form of Representative Frank Buck of Dowelltown:
"It's a terrible use of state money," Buck said Wednesday. He suggests the state sell the mansion and build a new one at the Ellington Agricultural Center on Edmondson Pike. There wouldn't be neighborhood issues on the 207-acre compound, and, "You can build new cheaper than you can renovate," Buck said.
He is angry because public funds never got legislative approval. "It's shameful that we've turned the purse strings loose to the Building Commission to spend this kind of money," Buck said. He'd like to see the General Assembly pass a quick budget amendment to prohibit the money from being spent until more study is done.
The same people who are complaining about a "revenue shortfall" because their deluded tax schemes are a failure are the very ones who now want to spend $12 million in public funds without so much as a nod from the General Assembly. Can you say "double standard" boys and girls?
The analysis by Tennesseans for Accountability in Government shows that six states have no governor's residence at all, and of those that do, 29 don't have ballrooms.
"It's obvious that 35 governors manage to function just fine without any kind of entertainment facility. It's one more point as to why this is an unnecessary project," said Susan Kaestner, vice president of TAG. "We're seeing some bipartisan support to stop this thing, and that doesn't happen until you've got the beginnings of a groundswell."
Now why is it that 35 Governors manage to do their jobs just fine without an entertainment center (they probably all could, to be honest) but we need one?
Mrs. Bredesen says that if we don't support this rediculous proposal, we aren't forward thinking. Pardon me, but I guess it isn't forward-thinking to believe that our money might be better spent educating children, putting child rapists in prison, or providing turnout gear to the 70% of fire departments in this State that are all-volunteer. I guess that just makes us all backward, Ms. Conte, now doesn't it?
Labels: Tennessee politics
When in doubt, use the race cardWhen someone is accused of discriminating against another person because of race, gender, disability, or other factors, it is a very serious allegation. Because I have grown up with a disability and have-I'm sorry to say-had firsthand experience with what real discrimination is like, I am acutely aware of how easy it is for people to be discriminated against in the negative sense of that term. I have also developed an awareness, however, of just how easy that it is for some to use their race, gender, disability, or other individual uniqueness as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility for their actions-and that is especially prone to occur when a person is in a position of some authority and their actions are questioned.
In Knox County Government, there have been questions about the ethical, moral, and most importantly the legal aspects of the actions of several current and former employees of the Knox County Mayor's office for many months and even years. There are also questions about whether Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale authorized a lot of this behavior, and many of us believe that the evidence points (in some cases circumstantially, and in some cases more concretely) to the reality that he did. Neither Mike Ragsdale nor his underlings have demonstrated that they are fond of having to answer for their actions, and in the case of Knox County Community Services Director Cynthia Finch, she has a very easy way to deflect criticism: As an African-American woman, she can claim that the Knox County Commissioners who are questioning her about allegations of favoritism in grant allocation requests are racists:
"Do you think this commission is motivated racially?" Lambert asked Finch, who is black, as she fielded questions about the grant program sparked by a critical federal report.
"You could do a lot better job," Finch responded.
Lambert left his seat and approached Finch at the lectern, throwing down a stack of photographs including some of a white supremacist rally held downtown over the summer in reaction to a January double murder.
The supremacists had threatened Lambert's life because he "did not want them coming to this town and spreading their hate," the commissioner said."I've been called a racist, and I'm not going to take it," Lambert said, adding after the meeting, "I believe she is calling us racist by saying you could do better. Now that I'm asking questions about these community grants, I'm a racist."
Commissioner Lambert and I certainly didn't see eye to eye during the recent sunshine law trial in Knox County, but I know Lumpy personally and I consider him a good friend. I do not blame him in the slightest for feeling angry, hurt, and personally attacked when Ms. Finch made this muffled allegation that he and other Commissioners were racists. Further, I do not believe he was wrong to try and show Ms. Finch photographs of the Klan rally in downtown Knoxville-the one where Greg Lambert stood up to the Ku Klux Klan. Cynthia Finch's allegation of racism was yet another desperation tactic by yet another official in the Ragsdale administration to avoid public accountability.
Martin Luther King said in his famous "I have a dream" speech that he dreamed of a day when his children would be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." We are hardly moving in that direction when public officials who just happen to be people of color are crying "racism" when they are made to account for their actions in office just as their white counterparts are made to do (and here I thought equality was what we were striving for). Racism is too serious of an accusation to be used as a political tool to avoid public scrutiny. To accuse those who are attempting to get to the bottom of unethical and possibly illegal acts of racism merely to avoid the heat is a disgraceful act of cowardice in its own right.
Ms. Finch is a public official by virtue of her appointment by Mayor Ragsdale. With the public trust also comes the public heat, and that knows no color or gender. Ms. Finch needs to learn to take the heat or get out of the game.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
New Hampshire resultsA review of the New Hampshire Primary results and commentary on the state of the 2008 Presidential race from Warner Todd Huston, John McJunkin, Fabian Story, Adam Graham, later Ken Marrero. Led by David Oatney.
New Hampshire Primary Results Roundtable-January 8/9, 2008
The party that plays chickenAn important Constitutional Amendment passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in Nashville yesterday, and the reaction of the Democratic Leadership in Nashville to its passage is telling. The Amendment would give the General Assembly the authority to to regulate abortion-something that the federal Constitution already gives the Legislature by virtue of its non-mention of the issue. The reaction of Democratic House Speaker Pro-Tempore Lois DeBerry is that this is all just an election-year ploy:
One key Democrat in the House said she viewed the Republican-led measure as a political game to get Democrats on record opposed to it. All 99 members of the House and half of the state senators are up for re-election in the fall.
"They're making it a campaign issue," said state Rep. Lois DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat and the House speaker pro tem.
I know that Senator Diane Black and Representative Delores Gresham (the Senate and House sponsors of the bill, respectively) have a track record of really caring and believing in the cause of Life, so DeBerry saying that this proposal is just a ploy is a bit disingenuous. The Democratic reaction does raise a very legitimate question, however: What exactly is the problem with going on the voting record with your position about the issue of abortion?
The Democratic Party in this State depends on campaign money from many sources and many political action committees. One of those sources has traditionally been the pro-abortion lobby, and especially Planned Barrenhood. However, enough Tennessee Democrats have run for the General Assembly telling their constituents over the years that they are-in defiance of their national party-both politically and personally pro-life that if the proposed Amendment were brought to the House floor and the so-called pro-lifers were made to vote according to the positions they set out, the proposal would have a very good chance of passing both rounds of scrutiny in the House.
The Democratic Leadership is scared to death to bring this to a vote because they know it is a vote that they may lose-and that if they were to go on record as opposing this Amendment, many Democratic legislators will be seen to have been untruthful with their constituents about this issue. The Democratic Party is afraid of losing campaign money on the one hand and afraid of facing the wrath of the voters on the other. All sides are very much aware that if the people actually got a vote on this Amendment in the 2010 Election in a referendum, it would almost certainly pass.
The pro-life movement has been where I've cut my political teeth, and over the years I have become convinced that the abortion question is best dealt with on a State by State basis. This Amendment allows for the Legislature to be able to do its job and its duty, and it deserves the serious consideration of floor votes in both Houses. That doesn't need to happen because it is an election year, it just needs to happen because it is the right thing to do. If there are electoral consequences because of the votes people cast, the positions they take, or the promises they break,then so be it-that is what happens when it is time to face the political music.
Rather than stand on principle and be willing to take an overtly public position on such a controversial issue, the Tennessee Democratic Leadership has decided to play chicken. That reality should give both conservatives who agree with my pro-life position and liberals who do not pause to think about whether such an indecisive party really deserves their majority.
The reason behind the result in New HampshireBy now everyone knows that Hillary Clinton came back to defeat Barack Obama in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary. Much of the mainstream press is attributing this to Hillary's "crying incident," but there may be something else to Hillary's victory that had little to do with that little episode-one that may actually hurt her with voters in the long run. Barack Obama's defeat in New Hampshire may have had more to do with the Republican Primary than the one in which he ran.
It was something of an open secret among political operatives, hacks, mainstream press, and informed political bloggers of both parties that a big factor in any Obama victory in New Hampshire would be independent voters, who are allowed to vote in either party's Primary there. It was expected that these independents would opt for the Democratic Primary and Obama, after polls going into yesterday's vote in the Granite State showed him with a sizable lead. Without independents, Obama would almost certainly lose, as New Hampshire Democrats were shown to favor Clinton by a margin of about 1.5 to 1.
Another candidate who depended on independents for his political success in New Hampshire was John McCain. Independents voted in the Republican Primary there in 2000 in large numbers and handed the then-underdog McCain a huge win over George W. Bush, who identified Republicans in New Hampshire preferred by about 2 to 1 vs. McCain. In this contest, proclaimed Republicans would have given New Hampshire to Mitt Romney by a narrow margin if independents did what the polls were suggesting and voted in the Democratic Primary.
So was it Hillary's crying spell that put her over the top? No. The independents that Barack Obama was counting on to assure him victory in New Hampshire instead voted in the Republican Primary and went heavily for John McCain and handed him a victory on the Republican side, while the lack of "independent" presence in the Democratic Primary insured Hillary Clinton her victory. It is a process that is a great argument for why Primaries and Caucuses should be closed.
The reality that McCain has to rely on independents for his Primary victories is exactly why he will not be the Republican nominee (it is why he was not the last time), and it may be what brings Obama's campaign to an end-and all of this may create an unexpected opening for Fred Thompson.
Labels: Presidential Election
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
The results the establishment hadn't planned onRegardless of what the final results are as they come in from New Hampshire tonight, they are sure to throw the Republican nomination process into a state of even greater confusion. With the polls set to open at most locations in the Granite State in a mere matter of hours, Senator John McCain is seen to have the lead in the polls, but former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is on his heels (though Romney has looked increasingly desperate in recent days). If either McCain or Romney wins in New Hampshire, it has the potential to turn the GOP nominating contest into a long, protracted struggle. The reason, of course, is that neither man is likely to win in South Carolina-Huckabee, Romney, or Fred Thompson look to be among the favorites there, with Giuliani making a serious run at victory in Florida. That whole scenario could produce a mixed result on Super Tuesday, which means that it is still possible for February 5th to come and go without knowing with certainty who the Republican nominee will be.
Some are panicking at the very thought of a real contest for the nomination-me, I love it. As much as I think the process started entirely too early (and it absolutely did), thus far I am enjoying this election cycle more than I have any previous leap year election in my lifetime or in my period of personal political involvement. This isn't because my candidate for President has started off doing amazingly well, as few who understand the machinations of electoral politics would make that argument. Rather, it is because Fred Thompson has started poorly and he still has a chance-every one of the truly viable candidates are still in it today, and it wasn't supposed to work that way. The party establishment gave us a 2008 Primary schedule designed to favor the darlings of the establishment-Romney and Giuliani. Personal opinions and preferences aside, Mike Huckabee is not exactly the darling of the party elite-and Iowa voters gave those elites a big fat belt in the chops by giving the majority of that State's delegates to one of the men the establishment most fears. New Hampshire voters appear poised to do the same thing today if John McCain should win. McCain was once an establishment favorite, but the insider crowd long ago wrote McCain off as unelectable. That he may be (and likely is), but if he wins New Hampshire he must be taken as a serious contender.
The moral of all of this is that despite the best efforts of some to use the early nomination process to silence the voice of the grassroots, that has not yet happened. A brokered convention-perhaps the only way to teach the party brass a lesson about scheduling voting too early-may still be a longshot, but is not out of the realm of possibility.
The first voting results are in from the towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location, New Hampshire:
John McCain 4
Mitt Romney 2
Rudy Giuliani 1
Mike Huckabee 0
Fred Thompson 0
Ron Paul 0
Barack Obama 7
John Edwards 2
Bill Richardson 1
Hillary Clinton 0
Dennis Kucinich 0
John McCain 6
Mike Huckabee 5
Ron Paul 4
Mitt Romney 1
Rudy Giuliani 0
Fred Thompson 0
Barack Obama 9
Hillary Clinton 3
John Edwards 1
Bill Richardson 0
Dennis Kucinich 0
Labels: Presidential Election
Monday, January 07, 2008
This could be funMitt Romney won the Wyoming Republican Caucus over the weekend. Scenario: Huckabee wins Iowa, Romney wins Wyoming and Nevada, McCain wins New Hampshire with Romney finishing second. Fred wins South Carolina.
It could happen. The result? Mass confusion heading into February 5th.
This could get really fun really fast.
Labels: Presidential Election
And the first shot is firedWhen the Democratic Leadership in Nashville are afraid that they aren't going to get their way and that the public may turn against one of their prerogatives, they nearly always lash out and accuse those who speak out against them of being "partisan," while they themselves are the guardians of decency and bi-partisanship. The political weapons of the majority are old, tired, and are growing increasingly ineffective in this age of the New Media and a clearly Republican-leaning Tennessee political blogosphere. Nonetheless, the constant accusation of the opposition being "partisan" is yet again being levied by the Democratic Speaker of the House:
As you can imagine, the differences between Democrats and Republicans can be as stark as day and night. While we do have some House Republicans who act responsibly, there are a few who choose to let distorted partisan motives rule their every move, regardless of the merits of important issues.
Yet when it came time to provide the necessary funding, a number of House Republicans didn’t have the stomach to do the right thing. In all twenty-two House Republicans decided that funding Tennessee’s teachers and students wasn’t quite that important. However, thanks to a majority of Democrats and a few even-minded Republicans, we passed the Schools First Act and made sure the teachers and students of Tennessee got the funding and resources they need to succeed.
What Jimmy Naifeh does not mention, of course, is that one of the prime reasons those Republicans voted against the BEP funding money is because in the end, many Tennessee children would be (and are) getting the short shrift under the Governor's plan. Kids in rural counties are being given far less of the pie than children in Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, and Shelby Counties. Those of you who live in those counties may think the revised BEP is fine and dandy, but if you live in a rural county like I do you see the results of a State system that disproportionately favors urban schools in a State where a very large number of our children still live in a rural or semi-rural setting. That wasn't the only reason that many Republicans voted against the BEP funding-the other reason was because the Governor's tax projections turned out to be way off, as many Republicans knew they would be.
Republicans aren't free to be themselves in the world of Naifeh, for if they vote against his plans they are being "partisan," but he was not being partisan in the least when he listed the names of the 22 Republicans who stood up to vote against him-most of those people are on his hate list anyway, as he is well aware that those folks often use him as a campaign ploy to great effect. Jimmy Naifeh can't stand it that with every Republican who dares to stand against him, his influence is eroded. With former Lieutenant Governor John Wilder (D-Mason) replaced by Republican Ron Ramsey of Blountville last year, Naifeh's nearly absolute power over the affairs of this State was significantly checked by a cognizant Senate Speaker. Since Naifeh, like most legislative Democrats on the Hill, has known nothing in his career or his lifetime but Democratic majorities, the notion that Republicans effectively control the State Senate (and that is likely to be solidified in November) horrifies him. He can no longer expect that Democratic bills-particularly his initiatives-will get a free ride through the General Assembly. Naifeh's only hope for restoring his bygone influence is to significantly increase the thin Democratic majority in the House.
Far from being "bipartisan," Naifeh demonstrates that he is, in fact, extremely partisan. He rewards those "Republicans" who sell out and support him with goodies and choice committee appointments, and ostracizes anyone of either party (but especially Republicans) who dare oppose his will. He is King Jimmy, and we the peons must bow before his whim.
With the second session of the 105th General Assembly due to convene tomorrow, Jimmy Naifeh has fired the opening shot in what is certain to be an election-year partisan war in which he will attempt to bring down those with enough guts to stand up to his thirst for even greater power. I hope our Republican Leadership stands up to Naifeh and fights him with every ounce of vigor we have.
Jimmy Naifeh has launched the first salvo upon us-let the forces of justice return fire with an unquenchable zeal.
Labels: Tennessee politics
Sunday, January 06, 2008
The Epiphany of the LordMatthew 2:1-12:
When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the
days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in
the east, and are come to adore him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and
the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But
they said to him: In Bethlehem of Judah. For so it is written by the prophet:
And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not
the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth the
captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise
men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And
sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child,
and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore
him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they
had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the
child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary
his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they
offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer
in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into
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