Suggested TN political junkie reading: From a hallelujah for Haslam to John Wilder’s ghost

A listing of some recent writing on Tennessee politics and state government matters (delving into state history in a couple of cases; a ghost in another) that didn’t get mentioned in daily blogging but are well worth reading – at least in the opinion of one Tennessee political junkie.

Haslam gets rave review in Governing

Governing magazine has a generally glowing review of Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to transform the operations of state government. An excerpt:

Seven years ago, Tennessee was seen as a laggard in the field of public administration. Today, it’s a leader. Gov. Bill Haslam has made improving the operations of the state government a major focus of his administration. LEAD Tennessee and other innovative programs, as well as an overall willingness to invest in training, have been attracting attention from other state governments…. Tennessee offers a compelling example of what conservative government can deliver.

On Corker’s mom and his rhetorical clash with Trump

Lawyer/lobbyist Tom Lee says in a Bitter Southerner piece that Sen. Bob Corker’s clashes with President Donald Trump made him think of the Republican senator’s mother and how effective she was back in 2006 when Lee was working for Democrat Harold Ford Jr. in a losing campaign against Corker for the U.S. Senate.

Small and white haired, Jean Corker gracefully uncoiled concertina wire along the top of Southernisms such as “well, bless his heart.” She was equally effective with Republican women over coffee and muffins, as she was in Corker’s television ads, or waving a sign at our campaign bus, daring us to disembark and speak poorly of her boy.

… So when Bob Corker says the White House is an “adult day care center,” a Northerner should understand what a Southern man is saying, that the White House is beneath its raising, which is not unlike tacky, not unlike low, and not unlike trash. If the president of the United States understands Southern idiom, he would be well advised to be insulted.

The more things change….

Constituent letters to the late U.S. Sen. Albert Gore Sr. on matters such as health care, immigration and racial tensions —  written in the 1960s and archived at Middle Tennessee State University —  “often made the same arguments heard in 2017 – sometimes in the very same phrases.”

So says a thoughtful New York Times piece quoting Kent Siler, a MTSU political science professor who has had students reviewing the letters. There are several examples.

Siler himself, meanwhile, has written an op-ed piece in The Tennessean under the headline, ‘How Al Gore Sr. went from hawk to dove in one career.’

TN history painted on a wall

Inspired by a listener question about slaves depicted in one of the murals on the walls of the governor’s office at the Tennessee state Capitol building, WPLN has an interesting review of the paintings and their history. Excerpt:

Taken together, the cycle of 11 murals is meant to tell Tennessee’s early history — from the pre-Columbian era to statehood — with the Agriculture-and-Commerce mural as the culmination.

…The murals were commissioned in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. The artist was Jirayr Zorthian, an Armenian-American painting in a realist style popular at the time. The murals are meant to showcase Tennessee’s natural environment and the work ethic of its people. Rivers roar. Muscles ripple. Scenes are lit dramatically.

Democrats Smell Opportunity

Excerpt from a Politico story under the headline, ‘Democrats smell opportunity in the South after Virginia rout’

Stronger-than-usual recruits have party operatives uncharacteristically hopeful about open gubernatorial races in Georgia and Tennessee, and others are working on recruiting former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

That’s not all. Even if Bredesen skips the race, Democrats are high on Iraq War veteran and prosecutor James Mackler, who already entered the race and has been meeting with national-level donors.

Cagle: TN 2018 elections will be about shades of red, not partisan realignment

On the other hand, Frank Cagle opines that the 2018 Tennessee elections “will be the most significant, the most interesting and the most important since 1994” when Republicans captured the governor’s office, two U.S. Senate seats and a majority of the U.S. House delegation. But, barring Phil Bredesen running for the U.S. Senate, he says there’s no reason to expect a change in overall partisan alignment; it’s just matter of what shade of red will be embraced – the establishment wing of the GOP or the right wing of the GOP. HERE.

(Personal note: Frank, a longtime friend even though the conservative curmudgeon was my boss once upon a time, is dealing with cancer, as he noted in an earlier column, and says at the bottom of his most recent writing that he’s optimistic about the outcome of pending surgery. Me, too. But readers inclined toward prayer: Give him favorable mention in your next communication.)

Medical marijuana evolving at the legislature; guns concealed and holstered

Sam Stockard has done his usual thorough job of reviewing issues facing the legislature in a couple of recent articles.

First, there’s a report on how the medical marijuana bill, after giving many lawmakers heartburn, is undergoing surgery by advocates to lessen the political pain that has prevented passage so far, HERE.

Then there’s a rundown on the cheering and jeering that has accompanied the decision by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally to allow citizens to bear arms at legislative proceedings in the Cordell Hull building – so long as they have a valid handgun carry permit and “keep the weapon concealed and holstered at all times.” It’s HERE.

Houk on John Wilder’s ghost and Cumberland Croup

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, via a Robert Houk column, reports on a lobbyist’s sighting of longtime Lt. Gov. John Wilder’s ghost leaving the Senate speaker’s office at the Legislative Plaza by the back door.

Both Crowe and I believe the lobbyist’s story. If any spirit was going to haunt the Legislative Plaza, It would be that of John Wilder. I hope Wilder’s ghost will visit Crowe and his other former colleagues at the Cordell Hull Building next session.

Another recent Houk column addresses “Cumberland Croup,” known to afflict “state legislators who drink too much of the water in Nashville,” and akin to the “Potomac Fever” that can infest congressmen up in Washington. It’s suggested that the ailment may be linked to lobbying.

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