Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 14, 2017


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

July 14, 2017



I can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks since I took a leave of absence from writing this column so I could recover my health.

It’s great to be back! I am not fully recovered, but my strength and energy have returned. So I want to get back to it.

These past 10 weeks have not been my longest period away from Capitol View. I observed the five year anniversary of my 2012 stroke on June 28 while I was gone. I was out close to 3 months (and not writing Capitol View) while recovering from that.

I actually thought at the beginning of 2017, that I would try and tweak some things to continue to make my health even better, much as I did in almost completely recovering from my stroke.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. Over the past two and half months, I have had two operations, a couple of additional medical procedures, numerous doctors’ appointments, and I spent portions of four days in the hospital, all dealing with various maladies.

I’ve learned once again what my late friend and DVL colleague Eddie Jones used to tell me. Getting old is not for sissies. I also have learned and envy my grandchildren as I see the glow of youth and vitality splashed across their happy faces. There is nothing better than having your health. And I want to stay around to watch my grandkids grow up!

Again, I am happy to say I am almost fully recovered from my recent aliments. I haven’t been able to completely “kill” them, as one of my readers implored me to do. But I haven’t given up on that possibility, even though I may have to deal with the impacts of one of my recent impairments for the foreseeable future.

At the risk of providing too much information for some, I will defer from going into more details. After all, this is posted on line, the Internet, the Worldwide Web. So it’s available to almost everyone, everywhere, forever. And that’s too much transparency even for me. I do know many of my readers are friends, so if inquiring minds tell you you must know more, ask me and we can talk…. off line.

I do want to add this:

My life is better and my recovery continues because of the continued love and support of my wife (she is already a saint), my daughters and grandchildren, my sons in law, my sisters and brother, and all of you who have sent me cards or e-mails to wish me a return to good health. Thank you so much!

I am not worthy of the attention, but I sure appreciate it. I can also report I have lost up to 20 pounds in recent weeks. While I wouldn’t promote this as a new diet plan, I have been down to a weight I haven’t seen since high school and none of my clothes fit very well. I have now added a few things to my daily

diet to add back a few pounds. I think that’s helping some. I now need to restart my exercise efforts which pretty well went kaput while I have been dealing with this sickness.

One last positive development to relate. Before this siege of illness struck, I was working to correct one of the remaining issues left from my stroke. That would be the persistent limp I had while walking. I went back to my friends at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center. I took several rehab sessions and it was helping a lot until my other health issues led me to have to cancel the final sessions. Nevertheless, some of the tips I learned (be sure to move my hips when I walk and to lift up my toes and feet), I think has made difference when I walk. At least I am not getting as many inquiries or concerns about my limping. Still I want to go back for a couple more refresher sessions as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading all this.


I can’t possibly recap all the many fascinating stories that played out while I have been away.

Like everybody else in Nashville, I was swept up in the enthusiasm and civic energy that developed around the Predator’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals. It convinces me more than ever that there is almost nothing this great community cannot achieve or overcome, if we are motivated and united.

On the state level, Governor Bill Haslam may have something else to add to his two term legacy along with his considerable accomplishments in education. Unemployment statewide is approaching a record low and only one of the 95 counties in Tennessee presently has a jobless rate above 5%. Wow! That is quite a turnaround when you remember the many years when persistent double digit unemployment numbers were common place in several counties.

Can Governor Haslam take all the credit for that? No. But you can be sure he would be taking criticism for those gubernatorial candidates seeking to take his place if our out of work numbers were staying high. But exactly how do the Republican candidates play it? I suspect Randy Boyd will brag about it. He’s was ECD commissioner for a time under Mr. Haslam, so he can try and take some credit for the declining unemployment numbers too.

But Mr. Haslam is not very popular with a number of the Trump voters in Tennessee because he has spoken out against President Trump at times. So will the other GOP gubernatorial candidates give the Governor the praise (if our unemployment numbers stay down)? Will they add they want to be Haslam 2.0 in their economic and job development policies? Or will that be a verbal bridge too far for them?

Then there’s Washington.

Some things did not change inside the Beltway during my time away.

The Democrats still don’t have a message to win elections.

Being “the resistance to Trump” is not enough. The recent special congressional elections prove that, especially the one in the Atlanta area. That is a potential swing-type district Democrats need to win in 2018 if they have any hope of regaining power in Congress.

In agreeing on and articulating a new winning message, the Democrats also need to decide on their leadership. Both parties have gone through this after losing a presidential election, especially losing it

unexpectedly. But the Democrats have much deeper problems that threaten to make them all but extinct on the state legislative level, and among our 50 governorships, if they are not corrected by the party.

The potential good news for Democrats is that both our national parties in the past have figured out and solved their problems, with a fairly quick turnaround to prevail in elections again. But saying ain’t doing. There’s lots of hard work ahead.

Republicans can’t govern.

The GOP controls everything in Washington: both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court (more or less), even the White House. Their legislative agenda should be rolling through the House and the Senate to be signed by President Trump. But instead no major legislative efforts have passed because the Republicans are not united and a majority in both houses can’t agree on what to do about health care, and possibly on tax reform, the budget.

Republicans have vowed to “Repeal and Replace Obamacare” for years. But now that they have that chance, and the Democrats can’t stop them, they can’t get the votes among their own majorities to make it happen. Crafting a national Health care plan is not a slogan. It’s hard work that so far the GOP does not have the governing wisdom to make happen. Can the party do any better with tax reform, the budget, etc. It does not look promising and President Trump being”angry” if healthcare fails is not likely to help matters.

As far as achievements so far for the Republicans and the President, it’s a short list. In fact, it can be argued the new Supreme Court Justice nominated by President Trump would not have been confirmed by the Senate without changing the filibuster rules. Maybe the Senate, like the House, will find a way to unite enough of its GOP members to pass their health care law and their rest of their agenda. But they are so far behind schedule, staying in D.C. instead taking part of their August recess looks like a move that is way too little and too late.

As for the Trump Administration and White House:

It remains the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” (just not nearly as funny as the old original Saturday Night Live cast).

Whether it is foreign or domestic policy, the President and his team may say they march to their own drummer. But often they appear to march in conflicting or confusing directions. What they’ve done has continued to get good marks from the Trump base. But Mr. Trump’s job approval numbers nationwide in poll after poll have been and remain underwater. Even Mr. Trump‘s incessant Twitter use to articulate policy (in 140 characters or less) or attack his enemies seems to be wearing thin, even among long time Tennessee supporters of the President such as Congressman Marsha Blackburn.

In foreign affairs, rather than being the Leader of the Free World, U.S. policy seems to march away on its own on issues like trade and climate change, leaving our allies puzzled, unsure and marching away from us.

Then there’s the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. In an area of the world already known for holding almost no good policy options, does President Trump have the forbearance and the leadership

skills to forge an agreement that will ease the threat of military action? Patience does not seem to be a virtue of this President so far. He will need to pack a large dose of it to resolve this issue.

And finally there’s the Russian controversy.

Despite all the claims from the White House and the President that it’s just fake news and a witch hunt, this week’s developments regarding Donald Trump, Jr, his meeting with Russian officials and the e-mails surrounding it, have placed this seemingly never ending controversy a lot closer to the inner circle of the President’s family and his political/campaign advisors than previously thought.

Continuing to address this growing scandal on a “drip by drip”, “leak by leak” or ”development by development” basis, rather than making a full disclosure of everything that is known, pulls the Trump White House deeper and deeper into the muck and the mire, making it harder to get anything done, especially as major players feel the necessity to ”lawyer up” as the various investigations grind on.

But having said that, President Trump is beginning to make his mark on Tennessee’s judiciary, and in turn, its politics. The President this week made nominations to fill four vacant federal district judgeships. He is doing the same in appointing new U.S. Attorneys in the state.

It also seems that President Trump is having a huge impact on the makeup of the field of GOP candidates seeking to succeed Governor Bill Haslam. With the nomination this week of Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris to be on the federal bench, it brings to the three the number of would-be or declared Republican gubernatorial candidates who dropped their plans because of a Trump appointment, including Senator Mark Green (whose nomination to be Secretary of the Army did not pan out) and former ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty, who this week was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be Ambassador to Japan.


This week on INSIDE POLITICS we ask two of our best political analysts, Republican Bill R Phillips and Democrat Larry Woods, to discuss what lies ahead in both state and national politics for the rest of 2017, as well as into 2018. That willl be a few very active year with three elections scheduled. Our discussion includes: an open Tennessee governor's race, a U.S. Senate seat, and, of course, the continuing Russian and other controversies swirling in Washington. Watch us!

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