By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations
April 11, 2008
Those dark clouds brewing over the State Capitol aren't just coming from the recent bad storms that have moved through the area.
Everyone's known that the state's budgets for this year and next year were very tight, but I think everyone was taken a little by surprise when Governor Phil Bredesen told reporters the other day that further cuts were coming that are going to be "real---this is not taking a little bit off the edge or trimming the fat out somewhere." The Governor even admitted possible areas that face cuts include wiping out any new state employee pay raises and even eliminating or cutting back on one of his own pet projects, expanding Pre-K classes across the state.
When you list your own favorite programs as candidates for the budget ax, you know things are serious. It's true the Governor could be just setting things up so he can ride to the rescue of state workers and pre-K advocates when he submits his revised budget the end of this month. But seeing that the state's budget shortfall (due to the increasing troubled national and state economy) is already short $276 million from earlier projections, I am fairly sure he's not playing any political games.
Making these kinds of cuts will be painful for state lawmakers, especially in an election year. A number of them are likely to suggest the state dip into its bulging "rainy day" fund to get the money needed to avoid these cutbacks. That's something I'll bet the Governor will resist, setting up potentially quite a confrontation in the waning weeks of the General Assembly.
Originally, legislative leaders had hoped to wrap up their business and go home by the middle of April (both houses are running low on the number of remaining legislative days they have left to hold floor sessions. The state constitution only allows 90 every two years). Nevertheless, it looks to me, even if everyone agrees about the changes and cuts in the budget, (which is highly doubtful) the best-case scenario for adjournment would be mid-May. It's more likely to be late in that month, maybe even after Memorial Day before they can wrap up and go home to run for re-electoin.
I guess so much for the best-laid plans of mice, men and the General Assembly.
This week on INSIDE POLITICS we are taking some time to focus on the national, state and local economy and the problems we face. My guest is Dr. Pat Raines, Dean of the School of Business Administration at Belmont University. I think you will find our interview quite insightful about an issue that is being talked about by everyone these days from the White House to the Statehouse, from City Hall to Main Street. And now they are using the "R" word. Dr. Raines maintains "this is not your father's recession" or your "grandfather's depression", that there are some very interesting factors that make this economic downturn quite different from the ones we've endured in past years.
My other guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week is Chris Ferrell, a former Metro Nashville Councilman-At-Large and now CEO of Southcomm Communications, an emerging communications conglomerate here in town, especially after its surprise purchase in recent days of THE NASHVILLE CITY PAPER. Southcomm already owns NASVILLEPOST.com, a Music Row web site as well as the monthly magazine, BUSINESS TENNESSEE.
Ferrell and his colleagues see a new media dynamic and business model emerging using both multiple on-line and traditional media outlets. But it does mean THE CITY PAPER printing just two days a week, raising questions about the future of its strong coverage of government, business, sports and other aspects of Nashville.
Ferrell says that will continue and be expanded on line with shared resources from NASHVILLEPOST.com and other parts of the Southcomm media empire. As for its role in local politics (editorial positions, political endorsements) Farrell says he and his partners haven't discussed that yet. I'll bet they'll need to and soon with the summer and fall elections not far away. And given the political diversity of this ownership group, those discussions would be quite interesting to hear, I'd say. J
My interview with Chris Ferrell is quite interesting too. You can see INSIDE POLITICS every weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL 5 Network. On Friday night (April 11) you can catch the show at 7 PM on NEWSCHANNEL 5 PLUS, Comcast Channel 50. On Saturdays (April 12) we are back on the Plus Channel at 5 AM and at 5:30 PM. Sundays you can watch us on the main channel, WTVF-TV, Channel 5 at 5AM as well as on the Plus again at 5 AM and at 12:30 PM.
So tune in or set your TiVos. You can also see excerpts from this shows and some other previous INSIDE POLITICS shows here on the NEWSCHANNEL 5 website (www.newschannel5.com and look under the NewsChannel 5 Plus section).
The recent public relations disaster surrounding the visit of the Olympic Torch to San Francisco caught my eye and brought back a few memories.
I remember when the Torch came through Nashville prior to the Atlanta Games back in 1996. It passed just about a block from my home and everyone in our neighborhood (and lots of other folks) came out to see it pass by. It was quite an experience.
Officials in San Francisco probably thought they has scored quite a coup when they landed the only North American appearance of the Olympic Torch as a part of the Olympic Games being held in China this summer, especially with the large Chinese-American and Chinese immigrant population in the Bay Area.
But then came a major re-emergence of issues surrounding China's treatment of Tibet, and suddenly the Torch visit became more an opportunity to protest than to celebrate.
That in turn reminded me of the time several years ago in Nashville when officials at Vanderbilt University thought they had scored a major coup by landing a Davis Cup competition to be played at the school's Memorial Gym. Tennis was at its height of national and international popularity and everything looked quite positive for the event and for Nashville and Vanderbilt.
But then it was announced that one of the teams competing here would be from South Africa. That brought out hundreds of anti-apartheid protestors, calls for the event to be moved, cancelled, boycotted, you name it. Instead of a showcase for tennis, for Vanderbilt and for Nashville, it was a PR mess.
Best laid plans and unintended consequences, they will get you every time.
THE WAR UPDATE
I guess best laid plans and unintended consequences could also be a good way to describe where we are in Iraq and how we are doing trying to get out of there gracefully.
First, it was The Surge and now it's The Pause, as it appears more and more we are in a holding pattern over there. Holding on to whatever little progress we've made militarily in reducing the violence and holding on waiting for the Iraqi government to get its act together to take care of itself and its country. We are also holding on trying to stay out of the civil war that continues to flare up in the country (even though it is pretty clear that we have already taken sides and that in some ways Iran may have more say-so right now about the future of Iraq than we do or the Iraqi government does).
Another word for holding on....we are stuck and the President and the Generals are leaving the matter squarely in the lap of the next President to handle when he or she takes office next January. It must have been kind of weird for General Petraeus when he went to Congress to testify a few days ago. No matter where he seemed to go, the former Ft. Campbell commander was taking questions from or testifying to a legislative panel that contained a potential future boss. Boy, you talk about a tough job interview, although the General may be more than ready to move on from his current post anyway, regardless of who gets elected.
I thought the reactions of our two Tennessee Senators to General Petraeus were interesting. Senator Bob Corker seemed to reflect the frustration of many when he said in his news release: "The surge has been successful from the standpoint of creating greater security, and now I think people want a sense of what the end is going to look like."
Senator Corker didn't seem to get much help from the General on that, as he told lawmakers he'd recognize the conditions that would allow the withdrawal of more troops after July, but he didn't see that in the near future and we should keep the celebratory champagne in the back of the fridge.
Senator Lamar Alexander issued a statement saying we should listen to General Petraeus and not try and force a premature withdrawal of forces. In other words, "stay the course" without using that now controversial phrase.
It is interesting to note that so far, Alexander's Democratic opponents are not going after him much on this topic. I believe Mike Padgett from Knoxville made some anti-war type statements, but if Nashville attorney and former Democratic state party chair Bob Tuke has said anything on this matter, I sure haven't seen or heard about it.
It may not matter. There is yet another poll, this time by the Rasmussen group, showing Senator Alexander with almost a 30-point lead over both Democratic candidates.
BACK ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
After interviewing General Patraeus, all three presidential candidates went back out on the campaign trail.
For Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the primary contest April 22 in Pennsylvania is looming ever larger. Once again, as Obama continues to narrow the once-wide margin Clinton enjoyed in the Keystone State, this contest becomes another life-or-death political struggle for survival for the New York Senator.
Are the polls showing a close race really accurate? They haven't always been this campaign cycle. Can Senator Clinton pull it out again as she did in New Hampshire and Ohio and win by the margin she needs to remain viable? Or will Senator Obama finally land the knockout blow and end the contest by showing he can get enough votes from working class white voters, especially men, in a large swing state he will need to carry this fall? And will the results from Pennsylvania really give us any answers or just further muddle the field?
Speaking of things coming out muddled, what was Governor Bredesen saying when he told the Associated Press after Memphis' loss in the NCAA's men's basketball Final Four championship game that the near-miracle comeback by the Kansas Jayhawks shows why Hillary Clinton ought to stay in the race? I thought the Governor was trying to solve that issue (regardless of how the rest of the primaries come out) by having all the super-delegates get together in June and decide who gets their votes and the nomination?
So now the Governor wants the candidates to hold out until the final seconds of the contest (the vote on Convention floor) before someone quits? Does he want Obama and Clinton to decide who wins on the athletic fields by playing a game of H-O-R-S-E (or bowling)? Is he tipping his intentions on who he plans to support as a super-delegate himself? Or was he just trying to avoid having to say much more about how the Memphis Tigers lost by blowing free throw after free throw and a 9-point lead in the last 2 minutes of the game. It also cost the Governor some Memphis ribs and the chance at getting some juicy Kansas City steaks.
Here's some equally muddled political thinking. THE NEW YORK TIMES had a recent article which about Hillary Clinton's campaign: "...her camp hopes she could have a shot at Tennessee."
What? OK, she won the primary here in February, and carrying a Presidential red state like Tennessee would sure be a big plus for any Democrat, but I have not seen any polling data that suggests she (or Obama) come all that close to beating John McCain here. Sure, it's early, but I hope Senator Clinton has some better talking points for the remaining undecided super-delegates than what the TIMES reported.
Speaking of Senator McCain, it's pretty clear he is under increasing pressure to select his vice presidential running mate. And that may not be easy. Former rival Mitt Romney has made it clear he wants the job. He is bright, articulate and capable of helping McCain attract key independent voters. But choosing him is only likely to further alienate some conservative and evangelical voters who still don't trust Romney because of his switch of position on key issues like abortion and gun control.
What about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? She is very strong with the conservatives McCain needs. Her gender and race might help neutralize any Democratic voter gains coming from nominating the first minority or woman to be at the top of the presidential ballot. But she also carries any and all of the foreign policy baggage of the Bush administration, especially the war in Iraq. McCain has already worried out loud about his chances to win if he can't convince the public the war in Iraq has been worth it. Would adding the Secretary of State to the ticket really hurt that cause rather than help it?
I'd say McCain most likely will choose a GOP governor in a key state that could help put him over the top rather than an opponent or someone from Washington. Steve Holland of Reuters has a very good article (April 11) on this. Look it up and read it.
SOCK IT TO ‘EM
You have to admire Mayor Karl Dean.
He's just submitted a very tough budget to the Metro Council that calls for up to 200 layoffs because of the tough financial conditions he found after he took office last fall.
And he has lots of other major challenges to deal with every day when he comes to work.
Yet, there he was participating in a P.E. class at a Metro School the other day, and not just a few jumping jacks or pushups. No, the Mayor went for jumping rope and right in front of all the reporters and their cameras.
What if he had tripped and fallen flat on his face? Can you say YouTube city, how about the late night talk shows? Not just local but worldwide coverage...and not for good , positive reasons.
But his willingness to stand up and take a chance in promoting his citywide "Let's Get Moving" campaign to make our citizens more healthy is surely commendable (and something everyone, especially me, should try and imitate).
But the Mayor has not emerged completely undamaged by all this. While I never got a good look at them, apparently the socks he wore to the P.E. class were just awful. Hey, Mayor, remember, especially in dealing with the media, no good deed ever goes completely unpunished.
Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at email@example.com .