Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 17, 2009 - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 17, 2009



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

April 17, 2009


In his short time in office, President Barack Obama has been compared to several of his predecessors: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, among others.

Now you may soon be seeing and hearing comparisons between Mr. Obama and Thomas Jefferson.

Just like our third President, Mr. Obama is having trouble with pirates off the coast of Africa. In Mr. Jefferson's day, just after the turn of the nineteenth century, it was the Barbary pirates who the United States fought a war against from 1801 to 1805 (and again in 1815) after several of its ships were seized in the Mediterranean along the northern African coast and even out into the Atlantic Ocean (with the cargos and crews held hostage with demands for huge ransoms). Except for a slight change in location (the current problem faced by President Obama is off the coast of Eastern Africa in the Indian Ocean and the pirates are based in Somolia), it sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it?

The Barbary problem actually began during George Washington's term and led the Congress in 1794 to create the U.S. Navy to combat the problem. The other ways that what occurred during the two Barbary Wars continue to echo in our history today are the exploits of the U.S. Marines in the conflict. Their heroism is still reflected in one of the opening lines of the Marine Hymn that references "to the shores of Tripoli." The war also gave the Marines one of their enduring nicknames, Leathernecks. That's because (according to Wikipedia), the Marines in those days were the ones who boarded their opponent's ships to seize them during battle, so "the Marine's uniforms had leather high collars to protect against cutlass slashes" (by the pirates). This led to the Leatherneck nickname which endures over two centuries later.

Here's another clue from history about this pirate problem. While the first Barbary War was more or less an American victory, whenever America and the other major countries in the world (the European powers) became distracted by fighting among themselves (the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812) these pirate efforts would spring back to life and there would be ships seized, ransoms paid and even, in some cases, tribute paid by the governments, to keep their ships safe.

But finally, after these wars ended, many of these developed countries (particularly France) began to take over and slowly colonize the areas and eradicate the places where these pirates kept their bases. Finally by the 1830s the problem died away, only to return in modern times as countries such as Somolia have no organized government to keep the peace.

It's ironic that just a few days ago, President Obama made a major speech about working to create a world "without nuclear weapons." Now he finds himself in the midst of much older struggle, one straight out of the 19th Century and even earlier times of how to protect world commerce while dealing with pirates on the high seas.


Confirming what had become obvious over the last few weeks, former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. has issued a statement that he will not run for Governor in 2010. His decision leaves the race for the Democratic nomination wide open and its potential field of candidates without much pizzazz at this point.

There are three folks in the race right now (Nashville businessman (and former Republican) Ward Cammack, former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan and State Senator Roy Herron, who announced last week). There are several other potential candidates in various stages of testing the political waters, including Mike McWherter, the son of former Governor Ned McWherter, former state party chair Doug Horne (who just announced he won't run according to THE NASHVILLE POST 4/17), ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber, House Minority Leader Gary Odom, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Senator Andy Berke from Chattanooga. Does the Ford announcement help any of these folks in particular? It's hard to say, although I did have one source speculate that perhaps it will open the door for McWherter to emerge, if he does so in a decisive way (something he failed to do when he toyed with the idea of running for Senate in 2008) maybe this could help his campaign move to the front.

Frankly, none of these potential Democratic candidates has the statewide name recognition or the money that Ford could have raised for a statewide race (although Cammack does have plenty of his own money to spend and Herron reportedly has some money he can bring over from his Senate campaign funds). Maybe just as Bill Frist's announcement that he was not running brought the GOP gubernatorial field into quick focus, maybe Ford's will do the same for the Democrats. But I doubt it. And with Democrats continuing to fight among themselves over control of the state party's apparatus, it appears to me they are falling further and further behind the GOP in getting well organized for next year, both for the Governor's race and the all-important battle (for redistricting reasons) to control the General Assembly.

But Democrats did get a chance to get some political shots in recently when Pilot Oil of Knoxville (owned by the family of Knoxville Mayor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam) agreed to pay a settlement in a lawsuit brought by Tennessee's Attorney General over price gouging last year at some of their stations during Hurricane Ike. Pilot is not admitting any wrongdoing and says it has new controls in place to keep their prices correct, but State Democratic leaders could barely contain their glee when they issued a news release critical of Haslam and Pilot. GOP Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey was also pumped up about the chance to take a shot at his Republican rival, although he indicated he would hold most of his fire until the primary campaign gets into full gear later this year (that's when Ramsey can also start raising money to run TV ads, by the way).   



Congressman Marsha Blackburn is my guest this week on INSIDE POLITICS.

A lot of our discussion focuses on the economy and whether we are starting see "some glimmers of hope" (as President Obama put it the other day) or at least a bottoming out from our economic free-fall in recent months. Congressman Blackburn believes we are, but she doesn't think the President's stimulus or his new budget has much to do with it. She says it is just the natural cycle of economics.

Ms. Blackburn has been one the leaders of the TEA Party/Tax Day events that attracted thousands of Tennesseans to rallies across the state on April 15. TEA Party stands for Taxed Enough Already. Combining their latest efforts with Tax Day (when no one really enjoys paying their federal taxes due that day), no doubt had a lot to do with the large turnouts at these events.

It appears most of those attending the rallies are conservative Republicans opposed to President Obama's stimulus and budget plans. But it is interesting to note, looking at their calendars and websites, neither of Tennessee's U.S. Senators (Lamar Alexander or Bob Corker) attended a TEA Party, and they put out no news release or statements supporting the effort. Mr. Alexander did send out a release on Tax Day touting the need for a greatly simplified federal tax code.

Another prominent Tennessee Republican who did not seem to get involved in the TEA Party/Tax Day effort was Knoxville Mayor (and GOP gubernatorial candidate) Jim Haslam. When I asked Congressman Blackburn if she was disappointed about that, she only answered that they all missed having a great time at the events. Lt. Governor Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp didn't miss out. Both are competing hard for the conservative GOP vote and did all they could to promote the TEA events on Tax Day.

Also in our INSIDE POLITICS interview, Congressman Blackburn talks about the key upcoming issues in Congress concerning health care reform and climate change/energy. You can look for Ms. Blackburn to play a key role in the debates on these issues because of the committees on which she serves in the House.

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

FRIDAYS (April 17).................7:00 PM..........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, COMCAST Channel 50

SATURDAYS (April 18)............5:00 AM..........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

SATURDAYS (April 18)............5:30 PM...........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

SUNDAYS (April 19).................5:00 AM...........WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5

SUNDAYS (April 19).................5:00 AM............NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

SUNDAYS (April 19).................12:30 PM...........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Don't forget you can watch excerpts from previous INSIDE POLITICS shows here at And you can now sign up to receive this column every week by RSS feed by signing up here on the website. 


When Nashville's Mayor comes to address a joint committee meeting of the Metro Council, that's something that always gets the members' and the media's attention.

Sure enough, Mayor Karl Dean was clearly putting on the full court press the other day to keep Council members behind his proposal to build a new Convention Center downtown. Calling it "Nashville's own stimulus program" that is needed to keep the city's tourism and convention business competitive with the rest of the country, the Mayor says it is important for the city to invest in itself from time to time, despite the project huge price tag for the new center. The Mayor's appearance also drew a huge crowd of downtown supporters to the Council chambers, as well as lots of TV news coverage and a front page, above the fold story in THE TENNESSEAN (April 14).

The Mayor's appearance (and the large crowd of business and tourist industry leaders he brought with him to fill the Council chambers) also likely increases the chances the Council will approve his request to allow the city to begin to buy the land necessary for the new Center, and leave final approval of the project and the bonds to pay for it, until later this year. But you can still expect quite a debate on the Council floor from those who are worried the timing is wrong in our tough economic conditions, and that local taxpayers will somehow still get stuck footing the bill. The Mayor has made it clear that no property tax dollars will be used and he is even trying to get that written into state law. He also says without an investment like this, times may get even tougher for Nashville as conventions and tourists continue to go elsewhere.

Look for the Mayor to talk about this topic even more during his upcoming State of Metro address on April 23. He'll also be talking about his new budget, I suspect. That spending plan is due to the Council no later than May 1.

Since it is pretty clear there won't be a request for a property tax increase this year (especially with the down economy and so many in the community unhappy with their new property reappraisals), that means lots of departments may have to face significant cuts, including employee layoffs. The Mayor is also trying to calm down another fight that his administration has had with the city's Hospital Authority.

After warning that he did not plan to continue to extend a multi-million dollar line of credit to the city's General Hospital, the Mayor has now joined the hospital's supporters (including a number of ministers from across the city and particularly those serving minority populations). The Mayor now says he will ask federal officials for help in using stimulus funds to fund General. Nobody's sure how that can be worked out, and I found it odd that in the news articles about the plan, it was indicated that support would be sought from our two Republican Senators in Washington. That's fine, but don't the Democrats run Washington these days? So what about seeking help from Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper? The absence of his name in the Mayor's statement was sure puzzling. 


Talk about being shovel-ready!

Less than a month after letting contracts (March 20), work has begun on the first American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded transportation projects in Tennessee. Actually, ten local bridge projects are being funded right away with a special groundbreaking ceremony held to mark the occasion at the McMurry Road Bridge in Gibson County in Trenton, Tennessee recently.

Underscoring the importance of the event, those attending included Governor Phil Bredesen, local West Tennessee Congressman John Tanner and TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely, dignitaries who probably would not have been present had this project been funded, as such developments have been in the past, largely with state and local funds. It's also likely this project might not have been funded at all anytime soon without the stimulus monies.

So, don't we all feel stimulated?

Well, maybe we should. THE TENNESSEEAN reports (April 14) that some 450 new road projects in all 95 counties, the most aggressive roads and transportation program in state history, will be funded over the next three years in Tennessee using a combination of federal stimulus dollars along with state money and bonds (however some road builders and Republicans in the General Assembly have been questioning the use of bonds instead of Tennessee's usual pay-as-you-go road funding system).

I am just impressed state officials were able to figure out all the federal guidelines, red tape and restrictions attached to the stimulus funds and got something under construction this quickly. Has our government on the state, local or federal level ever been this fast? I hope it helps.

Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.