Monday, July 27, 2009

The Statesmen Get Together

Nicole and I attended the 2009 Tennessee Republican Statesmen's Dinner Saturday evening at the Nashville Convention Center. We drove to Knoxville and then carpooled up with Rob Huddleston, who was waiting on Angela to finish a beauty treatment-she had to be in Nashville that morning anyway, due to the State Republican Executive Committee meeting. Rob and I were in agreement that the ladies certainly looked better than we did.

When we arrived, the Haslam people were noticeable immediately and were out in force. Haslam's little helpers were everywhere on the entrance floor distributing stickers and pointing people to Bill Haslam's reception. Haslam was the only gubernatorial candidate with a reception before the dinner itself, and there was even a bit of supper at that event. Bill Haslam didn't have a hospitality room, he had a hospitality court-perhaps we might even term it a hospitality hallway. The bar wasn't open, but everything else was and there was plenty to eat and drink. It was quite clear that money was obviously no object to the Haslam camp, especially when one considers that this was an event filled with party activists who are likely going to back the Republican nominee whoever that might be. Bill Haslam has enough money to throw what amounted to a lavish pre-dinner social hour prior to the main event with very heavy hors d'Ĺ“uvres . When the other candidates complain that they need their financial playing field a bit more level because they are up against the Haslam monetary juggernaut, one only needed to attend the Haslam hospitality hour to grasp the truth behind that statement. If no one donated to Haslam's campaign (and plenty are doing so), the Haslams would have plenty of money to fund the race themselves and it wouldn't hurt them in the least.

There was good reason to be seen at Haslamfest, namely because everyone else was there whether they really supported Bill Haslam or not. Susan Richardson Williams, Rob Huddleston and I once again teased one another over SRW's paid support of cap and trade (something every dinner speaker railed against, and I am sure this caused Susan no small amount of nausea). Not a single person there supported the President's health care proposal, and I suspect that if they did secretly agree with it, they wouldn't dare have said anything about it in that setting. Mike Bell, Gerald McCormick, Deb Maggart, Tony Shipley, Delores Gresham, and Vance Dennis were all to be found moving around the Haslam hallway at some point, and not everyone in that group is part of the Bill Haslam fan club by any stretch. Robin Smith made her way to the back of the room, and Robin's sticker was the only candidate advertisement I wore all night. I made a conscious decision not to wear stickers or pins for any of the gubernatorial candidates, even my favorite. I was there as a blogger, yes, but also as a Republican ready to support our party. I know that one of those men will be the nominee, and we will all have to close ranks around him. As for Robin, I wore her sticker because I would gladly do anything Robin Smith asks of me which I am capable of, and she knows this.

The dinner fare was the standard Republican menu at most such events around the State (see chicken and potatoes, roasted), and Jeff Sessions gave a pretty good speech on the evils of Cap and Trade and Obamacare, but the highlight of the night were the speeches by the gubernatorial candidates. Bill Gibbons went first, and it is with Christian love that it can be said that Gibbons looked like a deer in the headlights tonight. From the minute he was introduced, he didn't seem in his element. Crime is the consistent theme in his stump speech. An important issue, but not the only one. He says he wants to improve our schools and expand Tennessee's economy, but he doesn't tell us how.

Someone killed Bill Haslam and took control of his body. I don't know this new person but they sure sound fine. According to Haslam's body-double, he is pro-life, believes in "our fundamental values as Republicans," and wants to "preserve our Second Amendment rights." New Haslam is also one of America's most fiscally conservative mayors. I'm not sure where New Haslam is the Mayor, but from the sounds of this magical place we all need to move there. New Haslam also derided the President's fiscal irresponsibility and made sure we knew that while the President was irresponsible, New Haslam was not.

Ron Ramsey gave the most charitable speech, highlighting Republican accomplishments of the last year and saying that he "guaranteed" that one of the four of them was going to be our next Governor. Ramsey also reminded the audience with no small amount of glee that Republicans now control every county election commission. Zach Wamp talked about his desire to improve Tennessee health, but acknowledged that he had no power to force us not to eat our morning buscuits and gravy. Wamp also talked about wanting to improve Tennessee education and literacy still further, but I had to wonder what candidate would not want to accomplish that goal.

Both Lamar Alexander and his State Director Patrick Jaynes were very kind to us. Patrick introduced us and I thanked the Senator for having us, he thanked us for coming and sitting at his table. Lamar joined Bob Corker in presenting the inaugural Howard Baker Award to the man for whom it is named, and Senator Baker really seemed genuinely moved by the special presentation. Terri Lynn Weaver closed things out with a medley of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and God Bless America.

After dinner we talked a few minutes with John Duncan III, who introduced himself to me and pointed out that his father is quite a fan of this weblog. Apparently, this dates back to my 2007 comparison of Congressman Duncan to George Washington in his conservative opposition to frivilous foreign wars. JDIII is a very affable young man, and several people have told me just how down-to-earth he is, and I can see it. No wonder many East Tennesseans believe that he should succeed his father in Congress one day.

Rob, Angela, Nicole, and myself eased our way to Zach Wamp's hospitality room. There was a live band that was very good, but the music was so loud in that confined space that it was hard to enjoy it in there. Wamp had an open bar at his reception, but I decided against an adult beverage so that Rob and I could chat on the way home-I settled for a Co'Cola. One thing no one can say about Zach Wamp is that he is a stuffed shirt who does not enjoy himself. I came away from his hospitality room with the understanding that if elected, Wamp may be Tennessee's first air guitar-playing Governor. He also clearly enjoyed being with those who visited his room.

Nicole-who shares my political views but isn't normally as gung-ho about political functions-has told me more than once how much she enjoyed herself and would like to attend another Statesmen's Dinner. The first thing she told me when we had a chance to be by ourselves was "I had a really good time tonight." I was gladdened by this, because I have a feeling this Statesmen's Dinner probably won't be our last.

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At Tuesday, July 28, 2009 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Face it, you are going to get Haslam and you're going to feel fucked like the Dem's did with Bredesen. Haslam is a pro-choice, gun-neutral, help out his rich friends - like all money Republicans are. He will turn out to be your worst nightmare - and in turn, I'll get great joy out of your continual heartburn.

You and your kind will never figure out that you are simply an inconvenient sideshow for the the money Republicans and their attempts to shift all remaining wealth to the upper class. They soothe you with their promises of "conservatism", but only offer tax cuts for the wealthy. Look at the term of your favorite presidents, Bush and Reagan - all they did was widen the gap between rich and poor and none of the real "conservative" issues were ever addressed. If they had been, there wouldn't have been anything to get you nuts to the polls the next time. Think about that the next time you go vote - a vote for any republican is like giving yourself a lobotomy over and over again.

At Tuesday, July 28, 2009 6:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever actually met Bill Haslam? You apparently aren't from Knoxville. But people like him around here. The man literally shrunk the city's budget. Government is SMALLER than it was last year. Are you hearing that? I don't mean in terms of inflation or any other kind of spin, I'm talking about actual real dollars. The government of the city of Knoxville is smaller than it was last year. And it's smaller than it was the year before that. In this day and age, that is an anomaly! He is truly a fiscal conservative, I don't think there is any debating that. And if someone like that were in charge of the state, I for one would be glad to see it!

I do not pretend to know him personally, so perhaps you're right about him secretly being pro-choice or anti-guns, but that is only speculation, at best. And the only thing I could base an opinion on pertaining to his record on abortion is that the TN Right to Life has had Bill Haslam cut the tape on openings of new buildings and such. Oh, and he was also a Sunday school teacher at his church. So I would be willing to bet that he really is pro-life. Unlike Corker, who actually had said questionable things in his past but was campaigning on a new platform, Mayor Haslam has a clean record on that issue. So I would love to know where you are getting your facts.

I am red-blooded Republican. And it frustrates me when fellow "conservatives", who want lower taxes, fair taxes, no taxes, etc., call the democrats socialists because they take from the rich and redistribute to the poor, then get upset when families actually have the intelligence and determination to earn honest money (the American dream), and try to bring them down by calling them wealthy, liberal, fake Republicans. Tell me - why is that??? What has Bill Haslam done that's SOOOO liberal? Heaven forbid a man actually earn money and then run for office. It seems to me like we would actually WANT someone who has proven they know how to run a business.

I do not know you, and this is not personal. I sincerely just don't understand where your anti-Haslam sentiments are coming from. I said some of the same things about Corker, but I don't see where Haslam has the same problems Corker did. His record is clean. And I don't mean to put down Corker. Despite all the evil things people said about him, he has actually turned out to be a pretty good Senator. Perhaps having Mayor Haslam as governor wouldn't be as bad as you think. Thoughts? Concerns? Suggestions? Comments? Feel free to email me at

At Wednesday, July 29, 2009 10:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't say I was anti-Haslam, just that when you get him you'll be very disappointed.

Yes, I'm from around Knoxville, and yes, I know Haslam pretty well. You must not know much about K-town, because if you did, you'd know that Knoxville is predominately Democratic and somewhat progressive - don't ever make the mistake of confusing Knoxville and Knox County.

Pray tell, though, tell me what business that Bill Haslam has run, earned money and proven that he knows how to run a business? I like Bill, but he's hardly the moving force behind Pilot Oil.

Learn a little more about politics and I'll deem it worth my while to consider debating you in political matters, but until then, stay on the sidelines and let the big boys handle this.

At Thursday, July 30, 2009 2:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying.

You are right, you never said you were anti-Haslam. You only said that someone killed him and took over his body, that he pretends to be pro-life, pretends to believe in fundamental Republican values, pretends to care about Second Amendment rights, pretends to be a fiscal conservative, and pretends to be fiscally responsible. You also make his pre-dinner reception sound like a lavish ballroom tuxedo affair. But a friend of mine who was also there said they gave out bottled cokes and waters, and had the standard cheese & cracker appetizers, etc. You yourself said there was no open bar, but that the Wamp reception had an open bar and a live band. Which sounds more lavish? But you're not anti-Haslam. Right. I don't care that you are, I just wish that you, a self-proclaimed "political big boy", would state the obvious and not pretend to be a fair, socially moral conservative. You have no proof for more than half of the claims you have made about the mayor. He decreased the size of K-towns government, decreased the size of its budget, increased it's rainy day fund, and gave it its highest credit-rating in the city's history. That sounds pretty fiscally conservative to me. Meanwhile, Zach Wamp voted for the bailout among other things. And Ramsey hurt business owners by raising the cost of umemployment from $7000 to $9000 and made it retro-active to January 1st. He proclaimed to 1300 people at the statesmen dinner that he has always lowered taxes, but when a friend of mine called him out about the unemployment increase afterwards, he apologized and said he didn't mean to say that and that he normally doesn't say that in his speeches. So I guess he just conveniently forgot about that on the night he was speaking to ALL of the grassroots people in the state. But Mayor Haslam is the one pretending to be fiscally conservative? Common sense begs to differ.

I am aware that K-town is predominantly Democrat, which to me speaks even more to the success that Mayor Haslam has had here. I hope people don't confuse him with the Knox County mayor and that whole mess.

Obviously I was referring to Pilot, and I am aware that his dad started the company and that Bill is no longer the moving force behind the company, but he was the CEO for nearly 20 years. And it was during that time that the company expanded from a regional company to a national company. I think spending 20 some odd years running a national company qualifies as legitimate business experience, no? That alone is more executive experience than Ramsey or Wamp have, even before he became mayor. Your argument would have made more sense in 2003 (when he ran for mayor) that his business experience was lacking and that he wasn't qualified to run a city. But surely you see now based on his performance that he was indeed qualified for that job. I now think his executive experience both as a CEO and as a mayor more than qualify him to run for governor. And at the least, he is certainly as qualified as his opponents.

I would have thought that Wamp and Ramsey would be able to outduel him politically too, due to their longer years of serving as politicians. But if Haslam
was the only reception beforehand, that sounds pretty smart to me. Either the politician or his campaign managers, someone knows what they are doing. I think we both can agree that no one on the Gibbons campaign knows what they are doing! He needs to drop out already.

At Thursday, July 30, 2009 2:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When was Bill "CEO of Pilot"? You sure you are not thinking of the Jims? Big Jim was President and CEO of Pilot forever, and Little Jim is current President and CEO. Bill, while an important player in the business that his daddy built, was never the mover and shaker.

As for the rest of your post, I don't think you are responding to me, so I think I'll refrain from commenting upon what happened at the Statesman's Dinner.

BTW, I'm a hard-core liberal. I remember Haslam's mayoral campaign and he was pretty convincing in that campaign that he wasn't a conservative at all. I don't even recall him saying that he was a Republican during the campaign, as I recall often him telling people to not confuse his family's politics with his.


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