Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 3 - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 3

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CAPITOL VIEW
By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

April 3, 2009

TENNESSEE'S RISING GOP STARS; INSIDE POLITICS & GRIND TIME; BRIGHT IDEAS; METRO; ENDINGS

Bob Corker for President?

In a clear sign of how quickly the political star of Tennessee's junior Senator is rising, Bob Corker is one of about 20+ top national Republican leaders being followed on a new blog site called GOP 12. The site says it provides "breaking news on rising GOP stars and the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination."

You can read the blog at:

http://www/gop12.com

Mr. Corker, so far, doesn't have as many stories posted as some of the other would-be or past Republican presidential wannabes. As of April 1, the Senator had a profile, 36 news stories and 4 videos on the site. Bobby Jindal had 172 news stories, 10 videos plus his profile. And of course, past candidates such as Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin have many more hits (Palin, by the way, also has a special section just for the jokes about her (30 postings).

At least one person who writes for the blog site sure seems to like Senator Corker. From a posting on March 31:

"Unfortunately, for Republicans, there's only one Bob Corker.

But fortunately, for Republicans, there is a Bob Corker."

The post then goes on to link to various, flattering recent articles Mr. Corker has received from THE HILL and MSNBC , as well as a transcript of his most recent interview (March 30) with Larry Kudlow. THE HILL article makes a point of how Senator Corker has become a regular on the Sunday morning network shows such as "Fox News Sunday", "Face The Nation" and "This Week."

It's clear the ongoing "car wars" issue in Washington over the future of America's auto manufacturing industry has brought Mr. Corker to the forefront. The Senator clearly ruffled more than a few political feathers nationally and even here in Tennessee late last year, when he openly advocated deep cutbacks and bankruptcy for any and all of the Big 3 automakers if they couldn't get their financial act together.

Now that even the Obama administration is looking at more reductions and a structured bankruptcy as the "next solution" for at least General Motors (instead just more and more government bailout money), Mr. Corker is sure to remain a key figure on this issue, sought out for frequent comment by the media and the public.  But rather than endorsing this change in policy by the President, Senator Corker has taken the opportunity to call the latest moves by the White House (including the firing of GM's Chairman) "a smokescreen" and "a power play" to cover up the fact that no progress is being made towards solving the problems facing the automakers (Corker says Chrysler is "toast") and that the billions of taxpayer dollars "loaned" to the carmakers will never be repaid.

Even more interesting from a political point of view, Senator Corker is also strongly implying that the White House might try and force GM to make future cutback decisions, including plant closures, based on which states did or did not vote for Mr. Obama last fall.   

In that way, Senator Corker seems to be coming to the defense of the old General Motors Saturn plant in Spring Hill. It was union workers and others there who were among those most upset with Mr. Corker last year because of his "tough love" efforts with the automotive industry. They accused him of being the Senator for VW and Nissan who also have, or soon will have, auto plants in Tennessee.

 So is the Senator trying to get back in good graces with GM auto workers by making the charge that if the Spring Hill closes, it will because of presidential politics not finances?  And is a charge like that credible coming from someone like Senator Corker given his past tough positions about how to handle the crisis in American car industry? 

ALEXANDER TOO

What Senator Corker has become on automotive issues, our other U.S. Senator, Lamar Alexander, has become on many of the other hot-button topics facing our nation. He is now one of the leading spokespersons for congressional Republicans. As the GOP's Senate Conference Chair, his job is to come up with the talking points his colleagues can use to state their points of view (usually in opposition) to whatever the Obama administration is proposing.

As long as I have known him (and that almost 35 years now) Senator Alexander has had a real talent for being able to take very complicated issues and explain them in very simple, understandable language.  His current mantra about President Obama's massive new federal budget (and its deficits) is a classic example. "This budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much" captures in one short sound-bite length sentence where Republicans want to be on this issue, and lots of his fellow GOP lawmakers in both Houses are using this phrase over and over.

But Alexander's efforts so far have not worked, as the President seems to have prevailed again on Capitol Hill. Both the Senate and the House have passed versions of a new budget that are very close to what Mr. Obama proposed.  A conference committee will be necessary to resolve differences, between the House and Senate bill, but clearly this is another major legislative victory for the White House. As usual, both Houses approved this major legislation just before they are off for a two-week recess. It will be interesting to observe what our lawmakers see and hear from their constituents about this budget situation when they get back to their states and districts.

It's also been interesting to watch President Obama on his first overseas trip. He must have thought he was still in Washington listening to the Republicans and Senator Alexander when he heard the repeated criticism coming from some of our allies (France and Germany, in particular) that our stimulus program is spending way too much money and is not the way to go to get out of what is now a deepening worldwide recession.

It must also give the President  pause to see how many around the world no longer believe that America should be the unquestioned leader to decide how to bring the world out of this economic slump and what safeguards should be put in place to keep it from happening again.

The President seemed to have found similar challenges trying to get support from our allies to help with the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It all seems be forcing the President to continue to show a reliance on the politics of practicality, as he learns how to adapt what he said on the campaign trail to how he is acting now that he is President. Sure, he will get some criticism for that, but he seems to be pulling it off pretty well, making this first trip overseas appear to be much more successful than many observers thought it would be.

The challenges confronting  America's leadership in the world having been growing for years now (along with our debt), under both Democratic and Republican control of our government. But they appear to be reaching crisis proportions now. And  so, along with our many domestic issues, it will be up to President Obama to try and address them.   

It could be the biggest challenge facing our country since at least the Second World War. And as the old Clinton campaign slogan says : "It's (still) the economy, stupid." If we can't find a way to get our economy back in shape, our very leadership role in the world could be headed for an end or at least a major amount of power sharing. President Obama says he hopes to work with other countries on these matters, that he plans "to listen, not to lecture" about what should be done.

But what worries Senator Alexander (and he offered unsuccessful amendments to the budget legislation to try and address it) is that with countries like China, Japan and others in the Middle East already owning $1.4 trillion of our national debt, will they start making decisions on what America can and cannot do, just like the Obama administration seems to poised to do with General Motors and Chrysler because we hold so much of those companies' debt? And when will the upward spiral of unemployment (now up to 8.5%, the highest in 30 years) begin to ease. We've lost over 2 million jobs just since the beginning of 2009. If unemployment is the last part of the economy to rebound, when will that be?

 INSIDE POLITICS

We are headed towards crunch time on the Hill.

State lawmakers are hunkered down the next couple of weeks trying to figure out which bills to pass, and which ones to leave aside.  They also begin hearings on the Governor's budget trying to figure out what changes they'd like to make to the multi-billion dollar spending plan.

To get the latest on what's happening and what is likely to happen between now and the end of this year's session in late May or early June, we are happy to welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS this weekend two Capitol Hill experts, Joe White of NASHVILLE PUBLIC RADIO and the Dean of the Capitol Hill Press Corps, Tom Humphrey of the KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL.

You can watch INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network.

Fridays (April 3)........7:00 PM......NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, Comcast Channel 50

Saturdays (April 4)...5:00 AM.......NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Saturdays (April 4)....5:30 PM.......NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Sundays (April 5).......5:00 AM.......WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5

Sundays (April 5)........5:00 AM........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Sundays (April 5).........12:30 PM......NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Don't forget you can also see excerpts from previous INSIDE POLITICS shows here on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. And I am also pleased to announce you can now sign up here on NEWSCHANNEL5.com for an RSS feed of this Capitol View column so it can be sent to your e-mail box every Friday afternoon when it is posted here on line.

BRIGHT IDEAS

It certainly appears Governor Bredesen now possesses a report full of bright ideas about the how the state can do more to save energy. Certainly, the Governor is right in saying the state should lead by example in this area.

So how soon will lawmakers be able to turn off the lights in their offices in Legislative Plaza? That's something some of them say they are not able to do because they have no light switches.

Who says our lawmakers are always wandering around in the dark? J

METRO

It's an annual rite of spring...the Mayor's Budget hearings which began April 1 and conclude April 13.

This year those sessions could be a lot more interesting than usual.

While this is the year that Metro normally raises property taxes (at the same time all property is reassessed in the county) there are a lot of hints that, due to the tough economic times we are now in,  any increase in property taxes will be deferred until the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The budget hearings will no doubt provide some further clues about how the Dean administration is thinking about handling the matter. Either way, it's going to be tough. How tough? Well Mayor Karl Dean ran for office two years ago on a platform that schools and public safety were his top two priorities.

So, according to THE CITY PAPER (April 3), what did he tell Metro Police at its budget hearing? "I'll do what I can, but there are going to be cuts that every department is going to feel....This is not going to be painless for anybody."

So any thoughts on what he'll tell Metro Schools when that city agency comes in on the last day of the hearing on April 13? Metro Finance is asking all Metro departments to submit budgets with cuts up to 10%. Could it be they really mean it this year?

 Like the state of Tennessee, Metro's revenues are well below projections, and no tax hike increases the possibility for service cuts and even layoffs (even though most of the job cutbacks projected for last year disappeared when city department heads got more "creative" about how to handle their personnel).

But it's pretty clear the wolf remains not far from Metro's budget door. Another budget hearing to watch in particular will be the one for the city's Hospital Authority on April 8. Metro has been subsidizing General Hospital for years, including a growing multi-million dollar line of credit in the last several budgets. Mayor Karl Dean has indicated that cannot continue and that he plans to hire a consultant to find new ways to provide health care to the poor in our community (which is a major function of General Hospital).

Supporters of General don't like what they see developing and have organized their own group to tell their story throughout Metro. That includes enlisting at least 70 members of the local clergy and some high-profile members of the Metro Council.  They want Metro to find more money to keep General funded, including federal funds if they can be identified.

While more federal monies are not impossible, they don't appear very likely either, meaning this part of the budget could be a real flash point of contention (among others) when the Mayor presents his spending plan to the Council no later than May 1.

Also closely watch the Mayor's annual State of Metro address coming up sometime in the next few weeks (the most likely date right now appears to be April 23). That speech should give us a lot more clues about how Mr. Dean and his administration propose to handle a most difficult budget year ahead.

 ENDINGS

Belmont University brought great honor and publicity to our community over the past year by hosting the Town Hall Presidential Debate on its campus last fall.  Belmont also sponsored a year-long series of special programs leading up to and after the debate.

A fitting final program was the one I attended last Monday night (March 30) with noted American historian David McCullough as the featured speaker. I have rarely enjoyed a speech more thoroughly.

Dr. McCullough is of the strong belief that we are increasingly becoming, at our extreme peril, a nation of illiterates when it comes to knowing our history. The evidence and examples he cites often evoked laughter from the crowd but the case he made was a very serious one, and one, that if not corrected, could lead our nation into trouble as we try to define and determine our future.

Dr. McCullough is truly an American treasure and it was a great treat to have him in Nashville (especially when by request, he actually sang a Hank Williams' tune for his audience at the end of the remarks).

Priceless

Thanks. Belmont.

Another ending we mark today is the departure of Cherilyn Crowe, the long-time producer of my INSIDE POLITICS show and a frequent editor and information source for this column.  She has been, in many ways, the heart and soul of INSIDE POLITICS, especially in helping me concept the show each week and booking so many of our great guests. We wish her well as she leaves the NEWSCHANNEL5 family for a new job in Washington as Associate Director of Communications  for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. She will be missed, but we hope to stay in touch. Happy trails, Cherilyn.

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