Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Braintrust at Breakfast

On Thanksgiving morning, Nicole and I were honored to be invited along with dozens and dozens of fellow constituents, donors, Republican Party officials, and guests to the home and farm of State Representative Frank Niceley for Frank's annual Thanksgiving chuckwagon breakfast and foxhunt.

While at the Niceley foxhunt, this photograph was taken:

From left to right: Rep. Frank Niceley, Rep.-Elect Tony Shipley, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Speaker-Designate Jason Mumpower, Sen.-Elect Mike Faulk, Rep. Stacey Campfield.
Front: Yours truly

(Photo Courtesy of Susan Shipley)

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Vance Cheek for Tennessee State Treasurer

The hour is coming soon when the new Republican Tennessee General Assembly will choose who will serve in the offices of Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Comptroller. This is yet another case where the rubber will meet the road.

In the case of the Treasurer's race, it is between a New Yorker and a Tennessean. Both have a finance background, but one has cut his teeth in George Pataki's office, and the other comes from a respected East Tennessee banking family-his Daddy served on the Board of Directors of State of Franklin Bank. He has served as the Mayor of Johnson City, and on the Johnson City Commission. Two years ago, he ran for Congress. He has a wife and a beautiful little girl who also live here, among us, in Tennessee.

He has overseen city budgets, he has been a successful Tennessee attorney, representing many clients from Tennessee. He has also worked in the State Treasurer's Office before-that is the Treasurer's Office of the State of Tennessee. I even spoke with him via phone a couple of weeks ago, he called from a Tennessee number.

The most important quality about the candidate for Tennessee State Treasurer who is from Tennessee isn't even that he is a Tennessean, it is that the Tennessean is the conservative candidate (which shouldn't surprise anyone).

I am extremely proud to endorse my friend and fellow conservative Vance W. Cheek Jr. for Tennessee State Treasurer. Vance has always been a champion of protecting our interests, and I can't think of anyone in Tennessee-or New York City (New York City!)-who will manage our money with the care that is needed after the previous General Assembly and their allies in the Governor's office wrecked the budget with their irresponsible fiscal policies.

We now have an income-tax supporting Naifeh voter as the number-two man in the House, so let us not show that we are moving down the path of tax-and-spend that the previous General Assemblies have done. At least put the Treasurer's Office in the hands of someone who really cares about Tennessee and Tennesseans.

Please call your State Representative and Senator-those from all parties-and ask them for their vote and support for Vance W. Cheek Jr. for State Treasurer.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wilder's Ramblings

From the political graveyard comes the news that former Lieutenant Governor John Wilder may finally be showing signs of his years that do not equate to the wisdom of over half-a-century of public service and 36 years in Tennessee's most powerful legislative position. When Wilder was defeated in the Tennessee Senate in January 2007 by current Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, he sat as the longest-serving leader of a democratic legislative body in the world.

Regardless of one's political affiliation, Wilder should be a person to be respected and admired for his years of service to Tennessee, many of which were seen to come with distinction. Now, however, John Wilder is making statements to the press that would indicate that either he is losing control of his personal faculties and has been for a while (which would mean that Wilder's supporters lied in 2007 when they said he was "sharp as a tack" in his bid to return for yet another term as Lieutenant Governor), or Wilder was not the man above reproach that so many people took him to be during his time in public office.

In an interview with the Union City Messenger, Wilder attempted to defend both former Governor Ray Blanton, who was removed from office early-and partly on Wilder's initiative-for accepting bribes in return for granting pardons, and former State Senator John Ford, who was convicted of taking bribes in return for using his legislative influence as part of the "Tennessee Waltz scandal:

Wilder said he hasn’t heard from his long-time Senate peer, former state
Sen. John Ford, a Memphis Democrat twice convicted in federal court of
corruption and other charges. Ford is serving two sentences in a federal prison
in Louisiana. The charges stemmed from a federal undercover investigation dubbed
“Tennessee Waltz.” Five state legislators were indicted and either pleaded
guilty or were convicted in court.

Does Wilder foresee Ford ever returning to public office?
“If I
was him, I wouldn’t want to get back into public life,” he

Why not?

“Because I wouldn’t want to go to
jail,” he said.

He pauses a moment.
“They set little traps for
me, but I didn’t get in them,” he said.
Does that mean “they” set a trap for
John Ford?

“I know they set a trap for him. Now, that’s a crime.
When a district attorney puts money in somebody’s pocket to put them in jail,
and they’re innocent, that’s a crime. But nobody knows that to be a crime.
And that’s what you get for being in public life,” he said.

John Ford accepted bribes from an undercover agent, and did so in a way that indicated that such behavior was normal for Ford. "They" were the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and ultimately the FBI as well. Ford was innocent? The tapes from Ford's bribery trial prove otherwise. What about Ray Blanton, the former Governor who accepted bribes for pardons, in some cases having his staff members sell pardons? Blanton was removed from office several days early in January 1979 partly because Wilder joined then-House Speaker Ned McWherter in an initiative to have Blanton's replacement, Lamar Alexander, sworn in early.

John Wilder apparently thinks that Ray Blanton was also entrapped by evildoers:

“That’s what happened to all of them, that I know anything about. I’m saying it
happened to (former Gov.) Ray Blanton, too. It goes way back.”

John Ford was innocent and Ray Blanton was entrapped, and "the Senate was the Senate" with
Wilder in charge.

Perhaps there was a time when John Wilder was truly a statesman, and it is quite possible that these are the thoughts of a man disoriented, who cannot remember key parts of his own career and whose age has caught up with him in earnest. However, if Wilder's old supporters are correct and he is still very much of sound mind, these remarks shed a new and frightning light on the philosophy of a man who served 36 years in Tennessee's second-most powerful position.

A very sad footnote to a lengthy career in public life.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No, We Aren't This Bad Off in Tennessee

I thought our new Republican majority was hanging by a thread, and I have loudly complained about the outcome of intra-Caucus elections. At least in Tennessee, however, our new conservative order is not faced with an essentially leaderless party with barely a quarter of all elected seats threatening a coalition to bring it to an end.

At least we are not faced with political instability brought about by a crass attempt to grab power after an election didn't go the way the opposition liked.

We are not faced with a need, real or perceived, to prorogue the business and mechanics of the Legislature in order to maintain stability.

By comparison, I'd say we have it pretty good.

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Democrats and East Tennessee

Certain Democrats in Middle and West Tennessee who have their minds set on regaining the majority in Nashville believe that the path to that majority lies here-in the most Republican part of the State:

As red as East TN is, there have to be Democrats in City or County Government somewhere out there. These are the people who we need to approach to run first. Ultimately, this is a trust building exercise. The TNDP and County Parties have to put a good faith effort forward well in advance to convince our friends in the east of the state that they can compete and will be supported by the party at all levels. In some cases, the local party may be suffering from malaise or lack of leadership. While the State party can’t necessarily directly fix this problem, it can work to create conditions where the problem can fix itself by training up motivated and interested area Democrats.

I have said before in this space that I have no interest in the success of the Tennessee Democratic Party, and I cannot in good conscience wish them political well-being. However, I do understand from a raw political point of view why Democrats-especially liberal Democrats-do not want to write East Tennessee off. As someone who has been involved in several political campaigns and who has even run for public office himself, I believe it to be an insult to the voters to simply write anyone off. Yes, political formations may simply be destined to lose in certain places and among particular people because their views are not deemed to be ideologically compatible. The insult is far worse and the political consequences far greater than simply being willing to campaign and be soundly beaten.

There was a time not long ago, after all, when all too many Republicans wrote off West Tennessee to the Democrats. However, because we were aggressive and we saw that our basic message and social doctrine had many adherents, it has ultimately paid off with a legislative majority.

With that said, it is also clear that many of our friends in the party opposite send themselves strong delusion if they believe that a Democratic Party that continues to move increasingly to the Left will find many adherents in East Tennessee. I've spoken with many Democrats this year who shared that they had voted Republican for the first time in their life. Many others in the First and Second Congressional Districts participated in Republican primaries, and still more find themselves alienated from their party. A few stalwarts simply deny that such crossing over was and is occurring:

The ones I know, myself included, most assuredly did not vote quietly for John McCain or in the GOP primary.

All one has to do is look at the results and the raw data to see that not only did Democrats vote in Republican primaries, but many of those same people did not do so with sabotage in mind because Tennessee turned a deeper shade of red on November 4th, and East Tennessee became so crimson that Democrats crossing over in numbers had to be happening (note that I personally do not believe in the concept of primary crossover voting). The Democratic Party has neglected East Tennessee, to be sure, but antipathy and outright mistrust of the federal government, which is rooted in history, is now at very high levels among the electorate on the "right side" of the State.

For liberal Democrats to win here in the current climate, they are either going to have to change their brand or try and sell themselves as something they simply are not.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My "Incessant" Posts With a Purpose

I had planned to write about something totally different today, but Matthew Colter Hurtt has forced me to discuss the Speaker Pro Tempore one more time, largely because I fear he may confuse the people.

Mr. Hurtt is apparently of the opinion that A.C. Kleinheider has been using my "incessant" discussion of the Niceley-McDaniel race for Speaker Pro Tempore as fodder, since Matthew thinks that it is completely irrelevant:

Speaker Pro Tempore is a largely-ceremonial position (in this legislative body) given to someone for some sort of political points.

All you’re doing at this point is giving Kleinheider something to blog about!

Of the last 19 days, Kleinheider has written something about your disgust for Representative McDaniel, who voted for Naifeh, on 8 of those days! That’s 42% of the last almost-three weeks!

As usual, I care little for what Matthew (or anyone else) thinks of whether or not I blog on about Steve McDaniel. I've not been doing this for fun and laughs, and despite what Matthew or anyone else may think, I really don't have anything personal against Steve McDaniel. My intent was to show that the man has behaved like a closet Democrat, and I think that is pretty self-evident.

Matthew may be confusing the office of Speaker Pro Tempore with that of Deputy Speaker. For while the Speaker Pro Tem does not often preside over the House in Tennessee, he or she does have the ability to walk into any committee of the House and vote a bill up or down, just as the Speaker does. Bill Dunn, who is not a man out to seek any leadership position for the sake of his own advancement, once told me that from a personal perspective-if he were only considering himself-he would like being Speaker Pro Tempore for that very reason.

He is correct that the office of Speaker Pro Tem has been "guaranteed" to others in the past as reward for their vote or political points (see Tennessee Senate, Williams, Mike, and Kurita, Rosalind), but there are serious powers that come with it and it is a position elected by the House for that reason.

The Deputy Speaker never presides under normal circumstances, and his or her primary duty is to communicate with extra-legislative bodies, such as the National Conference of State Legislators, and to have a nice office and appear to be doing something productive. It is a ceremonial position often given to someone deserving of some more influential post, but the Speaker has run out of candy to pass out.

Given these realities, I am sure that at least some can see why I thought it important that a conservative should be Speaker Pro Tempore. I did not write all that I did to give Kleinheider fodder, I wrote it to state uncategorically where I stand and why.

Perhaps it did not also occur to Matthew (I am sure it did to those who pay attention to this weblog on a daily basis) that I just might have thought it to be a good thing for our district, which has for so long been ignored under Jimmy Naifeh while those Republicans who went along with him got the goods, if our Representative were chosen as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Tennessee House.

As I said yesterday, I hope McDaniel proves me completely wrong.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Does Jimmy Naifeh Control the House Republican Caucus?

The World recieved the news about an hour and a half ago that Steve McDaniel defeated Frank Niceley in the Tennessee House Republican Caucus vote for Speaker Pro Tempore. We will never know by how many votes McDaniel defeated Niceley, because the tallies are never made known. A couple of sources inside the Caucus told The World that there were several people who wanted to vote for Niceley, but were moved to cast their vote for McDaniel out of fear that McDaniel would bolt and cast his vote for Speaker for Jimmy Naifeh.

There is no way for someone outside the Caucus room to verify that without getting people who voted for that reason to fess up, but it certainly seems as though the fear of losing the Speaker's Chair played a role in the vote for Speaker Pro Tempore. If true, what message does that send about the nature of this new majority? Is it a majority whose Caucus votes for safety instead of voting their conscience, and did we not see enough of that under the old regime?

Sources inside the Caucus room informed The World that in their speeches just before the vote, Niceley reminded the Caucus that McDaniel voted for the income tax, voted for Jimmy Naifeh for Speaker of the House, and is prone generally to support tax hikes and fiscal mismanagement. McDaniel called on the Caucus to show "unity," and painted himself as the candidate of that unity. A rosy vision, to be sure, but has McDaniel demonstrated unity? He wouldn't stand with the Republican Party when voting for Speaker of the House, and he has been Jimmy Naifeh's lackey in the past. I would love to know how that is representative of Republican unity.

The Republicans have the majority, and had a chance today to show that they were interested in real change. One hopes that the new Leadership does well, and that McDaniel performs far better than many of us expect-I know that I hope and pray for that. However, this does not appear to be a very good beginning on the path to reform.

Let us hope and pray that Steve McDaniel proves me wrong.

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The Rubber Meets The Road Today

This morning we will discover if Frank Niceley is chosen by the Tennessee House Republican Caucus as Speaker Pro Tempore, or whether all of the talk about change, reform, and cleaning house up on the Hill is just talk.

What will be learned is whether the principles with which the Republicans won power in Nashville were just talk, or whether there is conviction behind them. Putting people who supported the income tax and Jimmy Naifeh into leadership is not change in a Republican and conservative direction.

Today we will learn where precisely it is with our new legislative Majority that the political rubber meets the road


Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

I Corinthians 1:3-9:

Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you, for the grace of God that is given you in Christ Jesus, That in all things you are made rich in him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

As the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, So that nothing is wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who also will confirm you unto the end without crime, in the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful: by whom you are called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
As Advent now begins in earnest, we should remember the very reason for this time of the year is not the tree and the gifts and the food and the money we spend. Some of those things are good and can be blessings when viewed in their proper order, but if we obsess and begin to view this season of the year in the materialistic way that the world does, we will become such as the world is.

This season is about preparing for the coming of the Lord. As we prepare to celebrate His first coming in a manger, we should also prepare in heart and mind for His Second Coming in Glory.

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