Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 28, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company

July 28, 2017

A GUBERNATORIAL ENDORSEMENT; INSIDE POLITICS FOCUSES ON THE HILL; ELSEWHERE IN TRUMPLAND; THE NEXT DOG AND PONY

A GUBERNATORIAL ENDORSEMENT

I usually don’t make too big a deal about endorsements, especially ones announced a full year before the election itself.

But with West Tennessee having no candidate in the 2018 Republican primary field for governor, maybe the endorsement of East Tennessean (Knoxville resident) Randy Boyd this week by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has a little more profile than it might otherwise. Says the Mayor:

“Randy will be a strong partner and advocate for West Tennessee, but most importantly, a problem-solver when it comes to restoring safe neighborhoods, quality education, and an improved economy for all of Shelby County,” Luttrell said. “I am proud to endorse and to go to work help elect Randy Boyd as our next governor of Tennessee.”

Of course in sending out the news, the Boyd campaign was quick to offer its perspective on the potential impact of the endorsement (although they don’t say who is making this voter projection for the August 4, 2018 primary).

“Thought you might find this newsworthy - especially since one out of every 10 Republican gubernatorial primary voters statewide in 2018 are projected to come from Shelby County.”

Boyd has made a determined effort to seek support from mayors across the state. He has had some success especially in his East Tennessee base. But the Luttrell endorsement would seem to be the most significant for Boyd one so far. That is, if you believe endorsements like these carry that much impact with voters.

INSIDE POLITICS FOCUSES ON THE HILL

There were times last year when Congress seemed rather irrelevant to our politics as the presidential campaign took center stage.

Now with what’s happened this week in Washington, the House and Senate have re-emerged into the spotlight.

That’s especially true with the Senate debating and voting unsuccessfully several times to repeal and replace Obamacare. The failure broke a seven year campaign promise by Republicans to end the health care program.

Meanwhile, the House has passed a budget bill that contains some funding for President Donald Trump’s controversial wall across the Mexican border. And both houses approved, by veto-proof majorities, a sanctions bill against Russia, Iran and North Korea that challenges presidential powers.

There is no greater expert on Congress in this area, and maybe in the entire country, than Dr. Bruce Oppenheimer of Vanderbilt University.

He is our guest on INSIDE POLITICS. What a great time to have him with us.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include 7:00 p.m. Friday; 5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday; along with 1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

ELSEWHERE IN TRUMP LAND

I think I could fill up this column every week with all the controversies President Trump either creates or gets involved in every seven days.

I guess he likes keeping things stirred up. Some folks think he does at least some of it as a diversion to other more serious matters in the news (like the Russia investigation). I am not sure how you can really determine that. But I would ask one thing.

How can you screw up a speech to Boy Scouts? Most politicians I’ve known or followed love to speak to an audience like that. It’s “mom and apple pie and the American Way “type stuff. They get to give these young folks encouragement and support, to urge them to stay involved as they already are, in positive activities such as scouting.

But instead it seemed Mr. Trump turned his address to tens of thousands of Scouts from all over the nation into a campaign rally, even trying to get the young people to boo his opponents like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Now the President likes to do rallies. He’s been doing them in friendly states every couple of weeks since he took office, even though his next election is over 3 years away.

That’s fine. But, Mr. President, how can you go overseas (Poland) and give (by your estimation) one of the greatest speeches ever by a President, and one that even get some good reviews in the WALL STREET JOURNAL from Peggy Noonan? But then you come home and get really bad reviews in every news account I’ve read about your address to the Scouts, including comments from parents and other adults who were present. Even national Boy Scout officials publicly apologized for how unexpectedly political Mr. Trump’s remarks were.

Mr. President: Didn’t your revamped communications team prepare you an appropriate speech? Did you mostly ignore that text? Did you leave it on Air Force One or on your helicopter or back in the White

House? If you hire good communications folks, you need to trust their abilities, not give one of your stream of consciousness rants that stirs up your base at a political rally, but which is totally inappropriate for an audience of children.

Of course, speaking of his revamped communications team, and its new director Anthony Scaramucci, I had to check to see if his responsibilities are primarily to draft a strategy to better explain and build support for the President. So why is acting like the White House personnel chief seeking to fire those who he thinks are allegedly leaking information.

Then there’s also his now quite public and profane fight with other top White House aides. Now feuds in a presidential administration are as old as the republic itself, dating back to George Washington’s first Cabinet and the well- known disagreements between Vice President John Adams and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.

But never can I recall in history anything like the present feud in the White House at least in how public and profane the new Communications Director has made it. I guess we should be comforted that the President didn’t send his new top aide (already nicknamed Little Trump) to make comments in his place to the Boy Scouts.

But, per usual, the President has already moved on to still more controversies: banning through his twitter posts, any transgender men or women from serving in the U.S. military in any fashion,. Whoops! He did that without giving any kinds of heads up to the Pentagon. Mr. Trump has also continued his near daily bashing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions because he recused himself from the Russian probe, as required by Department of Justice guidelines.

The President wants and expects loyalty he says, or more likely someone else in that job who will fire the Special Counsel and thereby stop the Russia probe. The President seems particularly determined to act (even if it takes a recess appointment to get a new AG on board), especially since it appears clear the Russia investigation is now moving into a probe of the President’s and his family’s finances.

I don’t know why, but for Mr. Trump, it always seems come back to his closely guarded and still undisclosed tax returns.

And so it goes.

THE NEXT DOG AND PONY

On Monday (July 31) the Metro Council will see a presentation about a potential new major league soccer stadium that Mayor Megan Barry wants to see built at the State Fairgrounds. After drawing consistently large crowds in recent months for several high level amateur and professional soccer matches held at Nissan Stadium, Nashville appears to have a pretty good chance to get an expansion franchise in the MLS soccer league.

But that won’t happen without at least an approved financing plan for a new stadium to be built for the new team.

So what about the presentation? How much more the Council will see and learn about the project besides renderings and other pretty pictures is hard to say. The Barry administration, along with

supporters of the effort to land Nashville an MLS franchise, are apparently not ready to talk financing of the possible “public private partnership” to build the facility.

That likely also means there will be no new information about Vanderbilt being a paying tenant and playing its home football games at the MLS stadium. That’s a potential move off campus that may not be getting good reactions from Black & Gold fans. The University has conducted a survey of supporters but has not released any details or results. So stay tuned.

Believe it or not, Mayor Barry is approaching the halfway point of her first four-year term in a couple of months (September). She has managed to avoid any major gaffes or problems so far, although recently moves by her administration to redevelop park land (the old Greer Stadium) and bring new recreational opportunities and service to the Bordeaux community by taking over an underutilized YMCA, are meeting with some unexpected and perhaps strong opposition from neighbors and others.

It’s hard to say whether these situations will develop into full- fledged fights. We will know more when the proposals come before the Metro Council in the weeks to come. However, in terms of the Greer Stadium proposal, already all 5 Metro Council At Large members have sent the Mayor a letter saying they prefer Greer revert back to park land rather than the mixed use project developers are proposing. So the Barry team may have some work to do to get that legislation approved.

We will be having the Mayor on INSIDE POLITICS in mid-August to reflect on her first two years and look ahead to what is likely to be her toughest job (and perhaps her legacy achievement if she gets it done): the approval of a major funding plan to begin to build Metro’s part of a decades-long $6 billion mass transit improvement plan for Nashville and our surrounding counties.

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