Capitol View Commentary: Wednesday, Nov. 25 - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Wednesday, Nov. 25



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

November 25, 2009


The week of November 30, the United States Senate will begin one of the most important debates in its long history.

National health care legislation is pending on the floor after just barely surviving a cloture vote in which all 60 members of the Democratic caucus (58 Democratic Senators and 2 Independents) had to step forward and vote to allow the debate to occur.

Will they do that again to call an end to the debate and close off a Republican-led filibuster?

That seems pretty doubtful right now. Nowhere close to 60 Senators are ready to support the current Senate health care bill (ask Senator Lieberman) nor are there 60 to support the one approved by the House. Can there be amendments that would make the legislation more palatable on issues such as a public option or an opt-out for such a plan? What about abortion restrictions and the overall large price tag for the plan? And is this just another costly entitlement program that addresses some elements of health insurance reform but does little to "bend the cost curve" as they call inside the Beltway (out here in the real world, we call it cutting the runaway cost of health care which has been going on for years)?

Major amendments would seem to be the only way possible to get a bill through the Senate. But what makes a bill acceptable to one group of lawmakers, may drive away other senators. The political horse trading will be more active and plentiful on the Hill than turkey leftovers. Is this a ploy by Majority Leader Harry Reid to push as hard as he can for what the liberal members of his party want then do a switch to a more conservative bill at the end after "proving" that the current bill can't pass? And what will that more conservative bill looks like?

Nobody in Congress knows the issue of health care better than Nashville Representative Jim Cooper. He's been in the middle of this fight throughout and he has the battle scars (inflicted by both sides in this debate) to more than prove it.

Congressman Cooper is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week. I hope he can give us some perspective on where things stand and where the health care debate is headed when Congress gets back in session,  

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

That includes again on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL 5 at 5:00 AM, Sunday morning (November 29).

You can also watch INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. That includes on the Comcast and Charter Cable systems (Channel 250) and on NEWSCHANNEL PLUS on Channel 5's over-the-air digital signal at channel 5.2

The air times are:

Friday (November 27) at 7:00 PM

Saturday (November 28) at 5:00 AM

Saturday (November 28) at 5:30 PM

Sunday (November 29) at 5:00 AM

Sunday (November 29) at 12:30 PM

Like all our representatives in Congress, Congressman Cooper is already working hard for his re-election in 2010. That includes a $500 per-couple fundraiser to be held Sunday, December 6 at the new Hutton Hotel on West End Avenue. Despite the grief Representative Cooper has taken (over health care and other issues), particularly from those in the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party, the host list  for the evening of "cityscape views, holiday music and mingling" includes an impressive array of political names.

That includes Mayor Karl Dean and his wife Anne Davis, Charles Bone, Andrew Byrd, Richard and Beth Courtney, Waverly Crenshaw, Richard Exton, Bill Freeman, Herb Fritch, Jim Hall, Bill Harbison, Mark McNeely, Elliot Ozment and Fleming Wilt.


There's one other political tidbit I want to comment on this week.

There are now several media sources (, THE MURFREESBORO POST, THE DAILY NEWS JOURNAL and THE TENNESSEAN) which are reporting that popular State Senator Jim Tracy is seriously considering a race to unseat Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon, the dean of the Tennessee delegation.

With all due respect to GOP party activist Lou Ann Zelenik who is already in the race, Tracy's entrance into the race would be a big and serious upgrade in opponents for Gordon. I understand Tracy is inder a lot of pressure from local Republican leaders in Rutherford County to take on Gordon. They not only think he has a chance to win, but frankly, they don't much like Zelenik.

But do the polls show that Tracy has a good chance to win? The 6th District is still drawn to be a Democratic one, even though the demographics are changing. Would Tracy be better off to wait until 2012, when a more politically friendly district has been drawn by a Tennessee General Assembly likely controlled by Republicans?  If he loses in 2010, does he forfeit another chance or would he be putting down a marker as the person to beat in 2012, especially if Gordon decides to retire after this next term leaving the seat open?

Tracy also has a potentially bright future ahead of him if he stays in the State Senate. This is a safe race for him in 2010 (he's not up for re-election). But does he see his future in Washington or at the State House?

That's a lot to contemplate over the holiday season, when most of us are more concerned about whether to have that second piece of chocolate fudge pie.      


 For many of us, 2009 may well be a year best forgotten.

Even by Thanksgiving of last year (2008), we knew 2009 would be a very tough one.  It has not disappointed, bringing us a recession deeper than anything experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and unemployment levels (now at 10.2% nationally) larger than any listings on the jobless rolls  since the early 1980s.

While there is talk of recovery and job growth starting in the first six months of 2010, there is also conversation about a double-dip recession. A double dip? I thought that was what you got with a big ice cream cone?   If the first dip can be blamed on the outgoing Bush administration, how much of the second dip (if it happens) is the fault of President Barack Obama and his policies?

 After voting for change we can believe in, there is still way too much of the partisan gridlock we are all way too familiar with in Washington and frankly very little seems to have changed.

For the ninth consecutive holiday season, we are at war, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while troop levels are down in Iraq, they are likely headed back up in Afghanistan as the President is set to announce his long-awaited decision on new troop levels and a potential exit policy this coming Tuesday (December 1). In both countries, particularly Afghanistan, the casualties mount, and no one can say for sure if we will ever get our troops out of those countries.

A decision to send more troops overseas can only be a bit depressing for many military families this holiday season. Many of them have already seen multiple deployments and the likelihood of still more to come must cast a real shadow of foreboding for them as we celebrate the season. And then there are the folks here in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where the GM (Saturn) Plant is finally shutting down, putting a few thousand more out of work and wondering what the future holds as the unemployment rate in Maury County may hit 20%.          

The outlook for state and Metro workers looks kind of bleak as well with more jobs and services likely to be on the chopping block in 2010. All this might seem a bit strange in Nashville as we continue to debate our city investing in the Music City Center, the largest public project in the history of our state (at nearly $1 billion if you include the convention hotel).

The final debate and decision on the Center is set to begin December 3 when the city finally unveils its financing plan. Then there will be a series of three question and answer meetings for council members and the public during December and early January before a vote is taken by mid-January.

Both sides are working hard to build public support, doing polls (Nashville's Priorities), making speeches to various groups (Music City Center Coalition), sending in letters to the editor and opinion pieces. There may even be more paid advertising on the way.

Right now, it looks as if Mayor Karl Dean still has the votes he needs for approval, convincing local leaders that even in the worst of times, it is still important for the city to invest in itself, even when that investment seems enormous. The problem the Dean administration has had with moving this project forward has been caused primarily by the lousy national economy, not the local opposition groups. This however has led the Mayor to have to go back to the Council several different times to get its approval to take another step forward. Asking for the same thing over and over again is always dangerous in politics. Even if you ask your mom for the same thing over and over, eventually even she might get suspicious about what you're up to and whether it's a good idea. J 

2009 was also a year when we lost a lot of institutional memory and longtime leadership in our city. It's hard to believe we won't have folks such as Eddie Jones, Nelson Andrews, Tommy Burnett, Dan Miller, Don Spain and others around to be involved in our civic and media affairs. It's a great loss, but Nashville has a long history of developing and finding the leadership it needs, so I remain optimistic for the future.

In fact, despite what a terrible year 2009 has been overall, I find a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I have my health and jobs at both DVL and Channel 5 that I greatly enjoy. I have a wonderful wife and family that has increased in size by two during 2009. That includes a 7-month old granddaughter, who is the new princess of my life. She joins her nearly 3-year brother as reasons to celebrate the wonders of the season and of life all year long.

I also have a wonderful new son-in law who has joined our family, giving me a great pair of young men who are now a part of my life taking care of my girls.

Yes, 2009 was not a very good year and we all hope 2010 will be much better. But I think I've learned over the past twelve months that even in the toughest times, if we remain optimistic (as the American people historically always have been) we will find a way to make it through, being grateful for what we have (especially for family and friends) and being willing to share our blessing with those less fortunate, especially this year when times remain troubled for so many.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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