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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 13, 2017

Posted at 2:18 PM, Oct 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-13 15:18:51-04


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

October 13, 2017



We talked last week about retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker feuding with President Donald Trump. It exploded again last Sunday on Twitter and continued through a Corker interview and taped recording with THE NEW YORK TIMES. Then it went on to dominate the coverage on the weeknight cable talk shows on Monday and it even came up in the daily White House briefing for reporters on Tuesday.

Since the campaign, it has been unusual for a Trump social media feud to stay at the top of the headlines for multiple days as this one has (maybe the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico is an exception). The President has usually moved on to another social media spat or some other Trump-related controversy has erupted.

It is also rare I think for someone to counter-punch Trump and win. Corker’s “It’s too bad the White House has become an adult day care center and someone obviously missed their shift on Sunday morning” is a classic retort and will live on as a social media classic with the likes and the shares to prove it.

Trump underscored that top status in his counter-punch hall of fame by giving the Senator a nickname and even misspelling it (Liddle Bob). If Trump gives you a nickname and then misspells it, you know he is really, really mad at you. And picking on Corker’s lack of height? How completely unoriginal.

Tom Humphrey had a good summary of what’s happened. But this was written and posted on Tuesday so stayed tuned even now or this weekend for possibly more updates.

To give a more national perspective on the Trump/Corker feud, here’s the way THE HILL saw it on Tuesday.

Well at least for now, the President is not asking for an IQ comparison between himself and the Senator. That is something Mr. Trump seemingly wanted to do with his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, continuing his feud with his top foreign policy maker after the Secretary allegedly caller his boss “a moron.” A White House spokesman later said the President was just joking…about the IQ contest. The

joke really is: the ongoing ever lowering level of political discourse in which this nation and its leaders are now engaging.

On the practical political side, this feud could hurt the President and Republicans because Senator Corker has made it clear he will oppose any tax cut or reform bill if it adds even one penny to the deficit. While a lot of details remain unclear about the pending Trump tax legislation (the average family getting a $4,000 monthly raise says the President?), I don’t know too many folks who think the legislation will be anything close to revenue neutral. With the razor thin 52-48 GOP majority in the Senate, the loss of Corker puts tax legislation in peril and leaves the GOP headed towards being 0- for- the- year in terms of passing major legislation in 2017.

By the way, Steve Bannon keeps trying to find a way to get into this Corker/Trump feud. He says the Senator should resign because he criticized the President. Say what? Not going to happen.

As for Corker, these latest barbs are far from his first aimed at the President. He even says most other Republican Senators agree with him about Trump. Maybe so, but they are still doing so privately. Once again, nobody has jumped over the wall to join Corker in speaking out. Oh yeah, I remember, they plan to run again, not retire like the Tennessee Senator.

So far about all other Senators will say is that the President and the Senator ought to cool it and cut back on the rhetoric. But for those Senators who agree with Mr. Corker about the President, maybe they ought to think about how they (like Corker) have done so much to enable and make excuses about Trump over the past several months, both as a candidate and now as President. If this man is the type of threat to this nation that Senator Corker maintains, how is silence an ongoing option?

Meanwhile Tennessee gubernatorial candidate and Congressman Diane Black criticized Senator Corker saying it’s the U.S. Senate not the Trump White House who live in “an adult day care” because they are not doing their jobs. Later in the week she went off again against the GOP Senate majority during a radio interview posted on her Twitter account.

Meanwhile for most of this week, the President and his cabinet continued to announce changes in policies from the previous administration on birth control, continuing DACA, The Wall, immigration, Obamacare, the environment and (Friday) the Iran Nuclear Deal. All these moves will continue to undermine, if not destroy, the legacy of President Barack Obama. This is also one area where Mr. Trump can show some successes in his first 9 months in office, while feeding his conservative base plenty of red meat.

A couple of this week’s changes out of the White House have Tennessee connections. The Iran Nuclear Treaty changes or re-imposing sanctions are bound to keep Senator Corker in the national spotlight while continuing to test his relationship with President Trump. In advance of the Iran announcement, Senator Corker’s office issued this statement Friday which did not appear hostile, but perhaps even open to discuss changes in the Iran deal, an effort that has already started:

“Over the last several months, we have been working closely with the State Department, National Security Council and Senator Cotton to develop a legislative strategy to address bipartisan concerns about the JCPOA without violating U.S. commitments,” said Corker, who voted against the JCPOA and

led the opposition in Congress. “We appreciate Senator Rubio’s contributions to this comprehensive framework and look forward to working closely with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build support for legislation based on the shared goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.”

But whether Congress can act within 60 days is a tough task, otherwise the President says he will move beyond de-certifying the treaty decertify but end it on his own. That’s a move which is bound to ignite a national and international controversy.

Meantime, one of the ACA changes signed in an executive order by Trump, seems to end the subsidies that have kept the on-line insurance exchanges going. With the repeated failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander has tried to put together a bi-partisan effort to keep the exchanges afloat. That now looks even harder to accomplish as the exchanges themselves could well collapse without those subsidies. Remember when Donald Trump was always criticizing executive orders? Oh, wait, that was when someone else was signing them.

The President again this week went back to attacking the mainstream media and its “fake news.” The President even raised the possibility of getting broadcast licenses revoked, with NBC being directly mentioned. Just another curious week in Trumpland. That’s where the White House Chief of Staff began one of his workdays by saying: "I don't think I'm being fired today and I am not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving," Mike Kelly said in a light-hearted moment with reporters. "Unless things change, I'm not quitting I'm not getting fired and I don't think I'll fire anyone tomorrow."

Sounds like a great office atmosphere to me.

And then there’s the latest on how President Trump talks about hurricane relief in states like Texas and Florida versus our territory Puerto Rico, which is populated by U.S. citizens. This is based on the President’s Twitter posts.

"TRUMP ON TEXAS: We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to restore, recover, and REBUILD," he wrote.

TRUMP ON FLORIDA: "Just like TX, WE are w/you today, we are w/you tomorrow, & we will be w/you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to RESTORE, RECOVER, & REBUILD," he wrote.

TRUMP ON PUERTO RICO: tweet Thursday on Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria: "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"


It looks like the candidate field to replace Senator Corker may not be complete.

Former West Tennessee congressman Stephen Fincher is about to begin a statewide “listening tour” to hear what the voters have to say about him entering the contest.

As Tennessee politicians always say, the tour will be from “Mountain City to Memphis” (beginning in East Tennessee then coming west across the state). Fincher says his decision about running will come shortly after the tour.

Another potential candidate name that has surfaced is former Memphis State Representative and GOP Party Chair Bred Martin. Martin is a former top executive of Macy’s and has the personal funds to finance a campaign if needed. He would also be attractive to the moderate establishment wing of the party, which doesn’t have a candidate in the race after Governor Haslam declined to run and Senator Corker announced his retirement.

As far as I know, it’s been a long time since Brad Martin has been involved in day to day state politics. So it’s not clear to me how he’d fare in today’s more conservative, rough and tumble Tennessee GOP primary politics.

Conservative activist Andy Ogles was already in the field before Senator Corker dropped out. Most seem to think he is in the race to stay. But he really hasn’t said a whole lot lately. Carrie Wade Gervin of THE NASHVILLE SCENE speculates Ogles might be eyeing a congressional seat instead.

GOP frontrunner Congressman Marsha Blackburn managed to turn a goof into a bonus. Her opening, on-line campaign ad included words about how she “stopped the selling of body parts.” Twitter found those comments potentially offensive language and pulled the ad.

Then Twitter, after some considerable on-line back lash from Blackburn supporters, reconsidered the issue and allow the ad to be placed back on line. Even before that, the Congressman was trying to make a positive out of a setback. Blackburn’s team tried to rally her pro-life supporters and use the controversy as a means to raise campaign funds.

Blackman also flexed her national conservative support, receiving the endorsement of the Citizens United organization. Could it be the first of several such endorsements that will solidify her strong frontrunner status?

On the Democratic side, Nashville State Senator Jeff Yarbro posted on Facebook last weekend he would not be running while Nashville Representative John Ray Clemmons says he is still deciding about what to do, while Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says he is in the same position.

The one Democrat already in the race, Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler says he is in the August primary regardless. He also got an early state labor union endorsement to bolster his credentials.


Given the fact that Tennessee Democrats have not elected a candidate to the U.S. Senate since Al Gore, Jr. in 1990, you might wonder why party leader have any enthusiasm for 2018. Well, one reason might be this poll from MORNING CONSULT that was released on Tuesday.

MORNING CONSULT says it a nonpartisan digital media and survey research company established in 2013 in Washington, D.C. The company provides news coverage, survey research, and data technology tools on issues in politics, policy and business.

The group’s poll compares the level of support for President Donald Trump in all 50 states (plus D.C.). First it compares those numbers in January of this year (2017) to what they were in September,2017.

The headline for the MORNING CONSULT story releasing the poll reads:

Trump Approval Dips in Every State, Though Deep Pockets of Support Remain

Sub-headline: A comprehensive survey of more than 470,000 Americans finds Trump's approval has fallen in every state since taking office

Indeed, the level of Trump support in Tennessee is still at 53%. But in January, the poll was 61.30% approval versus 27.70% disapproval. Now, in September, it is 53.10% approval to 41.8% disapproval.

The story claims the decline in the President’s support in Tennessee is among the largest in all the states.

Here’s a link to the story and all the states surveyed.

Now it’s just one poll and the 2018 mid-term election are still 13 months away, but that’s a big drop if it continues or is sustained.

So a little optimism I can understand for a party that hasn’t won a Senate race in 28 years in this state.


In today’s social media politics, producing a multi-minute minute video is a great way to effectively and inexpensively get out your campaign message. It gives voters a chance to see who you are, what you stand for, and what you plan to do if elected. All the campaigns do it.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Craig Fitzhugh issued his video in recent days. I got it in a blast e-mail that also allowed me to share it on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a link to watch it.

I strongly suspect Fitzhugh will not be able to raise the funds other candidates have. That’s especially true because as House Minority Leader he won’t be able to raise any funds while the General Assembly is in session. So this kind of campaigning may more of a staple source of support and funds for his campaign than for some of the others.

On the GOP gubernatorial side, Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd keeps adding backing from city and county mayors. He announced Friday another 24 top officials in Middle and West Tennessee are endorsing him. That brings Boyd’s support to 50 of the state’s 95 county mayors and 109 city mayors.


As we approach a very active political cycle in 2018, with the governor’s chair and one of our two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs, this week on INSIDE POLITICS, we go back to the very beginnings of Tennessee

politics. We present an encore showing of my conversation with historian Gordon Belt. We discuss his book JOHN SEVIER, TENNESSEE’S FIRST HERO. We spoke in August, 2016.

John Sevier was the first governor of Tennessee and he was so much more. A legendary frontiersman and soldier who is better remembered in the eastern part of the state. He also had an interesting, up and down following among historians, including a young Teddy Roosevelt who greatly admired him.

I highly recommend this book and that you watch this interview. It will teach you a lot about the early days of our state.

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Both the Metro Sports Authority and the Fair Board this week took the first approval steps towards Nashville building a $250 million major league soccer stadium if the city is awarded an MLS expansion franchise.

The approvals were done with little debate or controversy. In fact, the NASHVILLE POST reports on the Sports Authority session:

“The Metro body was unanimous in its approval, with member Dudley West calling the stadium deal “the best proposal, from the city’s perspective, that we’ve seen,” in part because of the “minimal financial risk” for the city. Margaret Behm, another authority member, called it a “great proposal for our city.”

But there was some opposition among those in the audience, including one Metro Councilman who will be among those making the final decision on the proposal. That comes after the full Council holds a public hearing (October 24 at the Creative Arts Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville) Then the final vote on the stadium plan and its financing, will likely occur on November 7. (the final vote Council vote was orinally set in October but that would have occurred before the public hearing. Whoops, bad form).

“I don’t like it, and that’s why I’m here,” District 12 Councilmember Steve Glover said before the (Sports Authority) meeting.

He said he has questions about a 10-acre private development at The Fairgrounds Nashville included as part of the proposal.

“There’s far too many questions for us to rush through to do this,” he said.

MLS is set to award two expansion franchises before the end of the year; the stadium would not be built unless Nashville’s ownership group is awarded one of the new teams. MLS will award two additional franchises next year.”

The opposition to the stadium also now includes At-Large Councilman Bob Mendes. He said on his personal blog a few days ago that the 10-acre mixed use development (which was not disclosed to the public until last week) is a “non-starter” for him.

But there are 40 votes in the Council, and so far, there are no strong indications the stadium plan is in jeopardy of not passing.

In fact, because the legislation before the Council is a resolution, not an ordinance, it may not take 21 votes to pass, just a simple majority.