Though virtually every elected local and state official expressed appropriate sentiments during the week which followed the September 11th tragedy, at least two -- U.S. Senator Fred Thompson and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. -- took actions which indicated personal shifts of some consequence. Thompson did so in a way suggesting that the current national crisis may bring him closer to running for reelection next year and Ford stepped forward as an exponent of bipartisan support for emergency legislation.
Expressing a need "to be in Tennessee among Tennesseans," Thompson appeared at a Nashville church service on Sunday and later Sunday night at Bellevue Baptist Church, where he received tumultuous applause from an overflowing congregation.
The senator spoke to one consequence of Tuesday's terrorist attacks: "This is a wakeup call for us that perhaps in some respects we've been needing." He cautioned against expectations of immediate results in the newly declared war against terrorism. "We're not going to be able to bomb our way to victory at 20,000 feet in two or three days," Thompson was quoted as saying on WREG-TV. "But it's something we've got to do and something we will do. We're going to get back to the running of America and we're going to make the folks who did this wish they hadn't done it."
Ford, meanwhile,indicated on Monday that gridlock is no longer a factor in the congressional handling of economic issues. In an interview with MSNBC, the 9th District congressman, who represents an urban Memphis constituency,expressed his willingness "as a moderate Democrat" to consider the reduction in capital-gains taxes, an end sought by the Bush administration, and proposed a solution of his own, the possible suspension of payroll taxes.
Ford suggested that an increase in the current minimum wage might be a part of this "broader stimulus package" and said he believed Congress would enact emergency financial aid for the nation's airlines which would provide $12.5 billion in loan guarantees and grants totaling $2.5 billion.
In a subsequent news release the congressman cited both Northwest Airlines, which maintains a hub in Memphis, and the FedEx Corporation, which is headquartered here, as being in need of economic bolstering.
Northwest Airlines CEO Richard Anderson was quoted this week by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying he intended to act "quickly and appropriately to be certain that Northwest continues operating as a viable airline." (Suggesting that this would mean significant layoffs and other downsizing, the paper estimated the airline's losses to be equivalent to those of Continental Airlines, which has suffered daily losses of $30 million since last week's terrorist attacks.)
* Though politicians continued to look forward to next year's elections, last week was for the most part a week of postponed reckonings and postponed or cancelled campaign fund-raisers and other events. It was as hard for them as for the rest of us to get back to business as usual.