Friday, July 25, 2003

WATCH THIS SPACE!

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Posted on Fri, Jul 25, 2003 at 4:00 AM

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Thursday, July 10, 2003

Changing Course?

Congressman Ford moves to distance himself from Bush on Iraq and its aftermath.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2003 at 4:00 AM

U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, a member of his party's congressional Blue Dog caucus and of the equally moderate-to-conservative Democratic Leadership Council, continues to try to find a middle way on Iraq and other national controversies. But, like Massachusetts senator John Kerry, whom he supports for president, Ford may be edging toward a position of sharper opposition to President Bush on some key issues.

In a statement released Tuesday, Ford stayed well clear of the accusations of dishonesty that some Democrats have levied at Bush concerning the simmering WMD issue, but he called upon the president to publicly address the issue of "whether intelligence was twisted or exaggerated."

As Ford noted, "In January, the president came before the Congress and delivered a compelling case for immediate military action to be taken against Iraq. The case was predicated on Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against our interests at home and abroad."

Ford subsequently voted with a congressional majority to authorize Bush's use of appropriate force to quell such a threat. A successful military campaign in Iraq targeting its then leader, Saddam Hussein, ensued. But unrest and guerilla action have continued, and American troops seem consigned to an indefinite presence. Ford's statement expresses misgivings about both his vote for the war resolution and the prospect of a quagmire in Iraq:

"As much as I wanted a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, I believed that the president had sound intelligence to justify an invasion and a comprehensive plan in place to stabilize Iraq after a successful military campaign."

But, says the Ford statement, "Since President Bush declared the military effort successful and over in May, assertions about exaggerated claims of weapons of mass destruction and poor postwar planning abound. As a matter of fact, it is obvious from daily news reports that the administration is struggling with bringing stability to Iraq. Moreover, a group of senators returning from the region last week report that our soldiers are growing restless and that Iraqis are less supportive of the U.S. presence.

"Over the weekend, another disturbing claim was made by a respected foreign service officer -- that he had informed the administration that the reports of Iraq attempting to purchase uranium from Niger were false.In spite of this, President Bush repeated these reports publicly and prominently in his State of the Union Address."

Ford's statement concludes by "urging" Bush "with all the specificity the president can spare -- and without compromising the safety of the 146,000 troops" to "address the nation and the Congress in order to answer questions about whether intelligence was twisted or exaggerated and to discuss plans to rebuild Iraq."

Ford, who acknowledges having designs on the U.S. Senate seat which incumbent Republican Bill Frist is expected to vacate in 2006, has made an effort of late to stake out a centrist position on prescription-drug legislation -- expressing preference for a Senate version that, he says, would not lead seniors to leave Medicare for private health-care coverage.

A House bill largely eschewed by Democrats would do just that, he said, though granting that one of its provisions -- welcomed last week by Shelby County mayor AC Wharton -- would confer instant financial grants upon beleaguered medical institutions like The Med in Memphis. Ford said he remained hopeful that a bill that both safeguarded Medicare and retained the grants would emerge from a joint House-Senate conference committee.

"Big Tent" Politics: Saturday's annual picnic at St. Peter Village drew the normal quotient of ambitious politicians, with the most prominent display being made by Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, whose reelection effort was boosted by a large tent which teemed with helpers and hot dog griddles.

Other, smaller tents were maintained by City Council candidates Jim Strickland and Carol Chumney, both seeking the District 5 (Midtown, East Memphis) seat. George Flinn, another candidate for that seat, was also in evidence, as were Lester Lit and Scott McCormick, candidates for the "superdistrict" 9, position 1 seat. Making a late appearance was former Commercial Appeal political reporter Terry Keeter, who also seeks that seat.

Would you buy a used pacemaker from this man? Shelby County Commissioner John Willingham, who underwent an operation last month to replace a defective pacemaker, emerged in apparent sturdy condition and promptly confirmed a report that he intends to auction off the discarded pacemaker.

It will be offered on eBay.com, said Willingham, with proceeds to go to charity -- St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital being one prospect. Veteran pol Joe Cooper, a another candidate for the District 5 council seat and a Willingham friend, answered the obvious question by saying, "John's a legend in the barbecue world. That's why people will bid on it."

BUNKER CAMP CLAIMS FAVORABLE POLL

BUNKER CAMP CLAIMS FAVORABLE POLL

Posted on Thu, Jul 10, 2003 at 4:00 AM

At this early stage of the city election process, candidates and their helpers are doing mucho reconnaissance. I.E., they’re polling for name-recognition, relative weaknesses and strengths, issues, and whatever else might be helpful in determining their strategies vis-ˆ-vis opponents. Another use of polls, of course, is to publicly boast advantages where they exist or to try to create advantages if publicizing such-and-such information elicited by a poll might do so. (In the latter case, opponents are likely to cry foul or, in the language of the day, “Push Poll!”) In any case, Lane Provine, consultant to several candidates this year, has results concernng the race for City Council District 1 (Frayer/Raleigh/Cordova), in which his client, Republican Wyatt Bunker, is challenging incumbent E.C. Jones. (Jones is a Democrat, but his party, unlike the G.O.P., has decided not to endorse candidates this year.) Provine finds -- “and it’s a surprise to me, too, at this stage,” he says -- that Bunker, currently a member of the Shelby County school board from a Cordova area recently annexed to Memphis, actually leads Jones, who has served District 1 for several terms. The figures are: Bunker, 33 percent Jones, 30 percent Undecided, 37 percent According to Provine, the poll was conducted by Conquest Communications Group of Virginia on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Some 400 “likely” voters were contacted in a ratio corresponding to the ethnic distribution of the registered voting population: 50 percent white; 34 percent black; and 16 percent “other.” Margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent. Provine said voters seemed to give equal weight to the issues of crime, taxes, and education, “depending on how the question was phrased.” Another candidate represented by Provine is George Flinn, the former candidate for county mayor who is running for the council in District 5 (Midtown, East Memphis). “We’ve done some polling in that district, but not candidate-vs.-candiate polling yet,” says Provine.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

POLITICS

Congressman Ford moves to distance himself from Bush on Iraq and its aftermath.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2003 at 4:00 AM

CHANGING COURSE? U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, a member of his party’s congressional Blue Dog caucus and of the equally moderate-to-conservative Democratic Leadership Council, continues, somewhat conspicuously, to try to find a middle way on Iraq and other national controversies. But, like Massachusetts senator John Kerry, whom he supports for president, Ford may be edging toward a position of sharper opposition to President Bush on some key issues. In a statement released Tuesday, Ford stayed well clear of the accusations of dishonesty that some Democrats have levied at Bush concerning the simmering WMD issue, but he called upon the president to publicly address the issue of “whether intelligence was twisted or exaggerated.” As Ford noted, "In January, the President came before the Congress and delivered a compelling case for immediate military action to be taken against Iraq. The case was predicated on Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against our interests at home and abroad.” Ford himself subsequently voted with a congressional majority to authorize Bush’s use of appropriate force to quell such a threat. A successful military campaign in Iraq targeting its then leader, Saddam Hussein, ensued -- but unrest and guerilla action have continued, and American troops seem consigned to an indefinite presence. . Ford’s statement expresses misgivings both about his vote for the war resolution and the prospect of a quagmire in Iraq: “As much as I wanted a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, I believed that the President had sound intelligence to justify an invasion and a comprehensive plan in place to stabilize Iraq after a successful military campaign.” But, says the Ford statement, "Since President Bush declared the military effort successful and over in May, assertions about exaggerated claims of weapons of mass destruction and poor postwar planning abound. As a matter of fact, it is obvious from daily news reports that the Administration is struggling with bringing stability to Iraq. Moreover, a group of senators returning from the region last week report that our soldiers are growing restless and that Iraqis are less supportive of the U.S. presence. "Over the weekend, another disturbing claim was made by a respected foreign service officer -- that he had informed the Administration that the reports of Iraq attempting to purchase uranium from Niger were false. In spite of this, President Bush repeated these reports publicly and prominently in his State of the Union Address.” Ford’s statement concludes by “urging” Bush “[w]ith all the specificity the President can spare -- and without compromising the safety of the 146,000 troops” to “address the nation and the Congress in order to answer questions about whether intelligence was twisted or exaggerated and to discuss plans to rebuild Iraq.” Ford, who acknowledges having designs on the U.S. Senate seat which incumbent Republican Bill Frist is expected to vacate in 2006, has made an effort of late to stake out a typically centrist position on prescription-drug legislation -- expressing preference for a Senate version that, he says, would not lead seniors to leave Medicare for private health-care coverage. A House bill largely eschewed by Democrats would do just that, he said, though granting that one of its provisions -- welcomed last week by Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton -- would confer instant financial grants upon beleaguered medical institutions like The Med in Memphis. Ford said he remained hopeful that a bill that both safeguarded Medicare and retained the grants would emerge from a joint House-Senate conference committee.
  • ‘Big Tent’ Politics: Saturday’s annual St. P)eter's picnic drew the normal quotient of ambitious politicians, with the most prominent display being made by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, whose reelection effort was boosted by a large tent which teemed with helpers and hot dog griddles.. Other, smaller tents were maintained by city council candidates Jim Strickland and Carol Chumney, both seeking the District 5 (Midtown, East Memphis) seat. George Flinn, another candidate for that seat, was also much in evidence, as were Lester Lit and Scott McCormick, candidates for the “superdistrict” 9, position 1 council seat. Making a late appearance at the picnic was former Commercial Appeal political reporter Terry Keeter, who also seeks that seat. It’s official now, by the way: Herenton has an opponent: Beale Street entrepreneur Randle Catron, who filed his completed mayoral petition with the Election Commission on Monday.
  • Would you buy a used pacemaker from this man?Shelby County Commissioner John Willingham, who underwent an operation last month to replace a defective pacemaker for his heart, emerged in apparent sturdy condition and promptly confirmed a report that he intends to auction off the discarded pacemaker. It will be offered on eBay.com, said Willingham, with proceeds to go to charity -- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital being one prospect. Veteran pol Joe Cooper, a another candidate for the District 5 council seat and a Willingham friend, had earlier reported Willingham’s interest in auctioning off the pacemaker, and he answered the obvious question by saying, “John’s a legend in the barbecue world. That’s why people will bid on it.” First-term commissioner Willingham, who has led a varied career, including stints in federal government and construction, is best known as a prize-winning barbecue maven. Within days of his replacement operation last month, the refitted Willingham turned up at a meeting of the monthly Dutch Treat Luncheon forum and robustly proclaimed himself “meaner than ever.” His return to full commission activity coincided with the most intense and fractious deliberations on the county budget.

    Friday, July 4, 2003

    RADIO ADDRESS BY REP. HAROLD FORD

    RADIO ADDRESS BY REP. HAROLD FORD

    Posted By on Fri, Jul 4, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    (The following was broadcast nationwide on Saturday, June 28th, as the official Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address. As a response in its turn, the Flyer published an editorial, which is appended.) Good morning. This is Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee. This week the Supreme Court reaffirmed our commitment to diversity and progress. Because of this enduring commitment, our military is more cohesive and effective. Our businesses are more dynamic and competitive. And our colleges and universities are educating and enriching more people. In short, the American family is stronger today than it was a generation ago. All of this is good. In the majority opinion in the Michigan case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed her hope that 25 years from now affirmative action would not be needed. We all look forward to that day. Our vision is an America where all children can grow up truly believing they can achieve whatever they want -- an America where the only thing that determines how far you go is your ambition and hard work. This week, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and the Congressional Black Caucus welcomed hundreds of business, political and academic leaders to Washington to chart a course for a better America. You know, part of the American tradition is for each generation to make life better for the next. So the question is, how do we make it better for our children? Let's be honest, there are challenges and opportunities ahead of us that must be met with leadership that inspires and invests in America's future. We must realize that our future will only be as bright as the decisions we make today allow it to be. As optimistic as I am about the future, we can't be afraid to try new approaches. We can't have the same response to every economic challenge. Over the past three years, 3 million jobs have been lost. One million more people don't have health insurance. And states are shutting down things and raising taxes just to balance their books. Some people in Washington spend a lot of energy complaining about politics. That same energy could be better spent fully funding the Leave No Child Behind Act, so when school starts back in the Fall, principals, teachers, and parents can all do their jobs better. Anyone who has been in a school knows teachers have it hard enough as it is. We can also do better when it comes to national security. Instead of complaining about politics, people in Washington could spend their time better by reforming and strengthening our intelligence gathering. I voted for the use of force in Iraq. We are safer without Saddam in power. But our continued security depends on our intelligence being accurate and trusted. We must ensure that it is. We can also do better by our seniors. The prescription drug bill that the House of Representatives passed this week will privatize Medicare before the end of the decade. The better plan would not force seniors to leave Medicare to get prescription drug coverage. That is the plan my party supports. This week we celebrate the Fourth of July. We mark the occasion by saluting the veterans and patriots who have defended our freedom. Their courage made America better for us. And it's now time for this generation to make it better for the next. This is Congressman Harold Ford. Thank you again for listening. THE FLYER'S EDITORIAL RESPONSE: A Waste of Time In one of those dramatic monologues by Robert Browning that we all studied in school, a character says of a painting on his wall, "I call that piece a wonder." We are put in mind of Browning by the official Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address last Saturday. Delivered by our own 9th District congressman, Harold Ford, that piece was worthy of being called a wonder too. In roughly five minutes and 537 words, the congressman -- who is famously eager to advance himself politically and plans a statewide Senate race for 2006 -- managed to say as close to nothing as is physically possible in the time and space allotted. It was a Guinness Book feat. But as far as offering any kind of useful contrast to Bush on the burning issues of the day ... didn't happen. Not even close. Here is part of Ford's rhetorical runup: "You know, part of the American tradition is for each generation to make life better for the next. So the question is, How do we make it better for our children. Let's be honest, there are challenges and opportunities ahead of us that must be met with leadership that inspires and invests in America's future. We must realize that our future will only be as bright as the decisions we make today allow it to be." Riveting stuff, no? So how does the congressman deal with the circumstances of the Iraq war and the so-far missing WMDs -- issues that increasingly have Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans wondering if the nation has been lied to by political leadership? Said Ford: "I voted for the use of force in Iraq. We are safer with out Saddam in power. But our continued security depends on our intelligence being accurate and trusted. We must ensure that it is." Dubya couldn't have said it better himself! Repeatedly the congressman lamented that people in Washington spend too much time "complaining about politics." (Never mind that the official Democratic response is supposed to be a reasoned political complaint!) "That same energy could be better spent fully funding the Leave No Child Behind Act, so when school starts back in the fall, principals, teachers, and parents can all do their jobs better." This was followed by a real clincher: "Anyone who has been in a school knows teachers have it hard enough as it is." And, again, on the burning question of Iraq and of deception at the highest levels of government: "Instead of complaining about politics, people in Washington could spend their time better by reforming and strengthening our intelligence gathering." Readers who may doubt that Ford's remarks were quite as banal, as non committal, and as beside the point as this summary suggests are invited to read them in their entirety -- as posted on the Flyer Website, www.memphisflyer.com. [See above.] Meanwhile, hearken to the congressman's conclusion -- and its unintended ironies: "This week we celebrate the Fourth of July. We mark the occasion by saluting the veterans and patriots who have defended our freedom. Their courage made America better for us. And it's now time for this generation to make it better for the next." That can't be done, sir, by beating around the bush -- or the Bush -- so miserably as this.

    Thursday, July 3, 2003

    POLITICS

    POLITICS

    Posted on Thu, Jul 3, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    TENNESSEE'S GOT GAME NASHVILLE -- Events of the last several days have greatly improved the outlook -- at least in Tennessee -- for two of the Democratic contenders vying for the right to challenge President Bush in next year’s presidential election. Those two are Florida senator Bob Graham, who was in Nashville Saturday night to deliver the keynote address at Tennessee Democrats’ annual Jackson Day dinner; and ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose recent rise in the polls has been accompanied by a surprisingly strong fund-raising surge. The state’s two leading Democratic spokesman -- party chairman Randy Button and Democratic state executive director Jim Hester -- agreed after Graham’s generally well-received address on a pecking order of viables that would rank the Floridian with four other “top tier” names: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry; North Carolina Senator John Edwards; Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt; and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Missing from this provisional list of viables was Dean -- but Hester hedged with an important proviso that ended up, as of Monday, being eminently invokeable. “His viability depends on whether he can get a grass-roots movement going, and what his receipts are for the quarter just ending,” had said Hester. “Grass roots” can be defined any of several different ways. If it means neighborhood meetings, like an earnest but spottily attended and somewhat raggedy one which occurred in Memphis recently, Dean’outlook in Tennessee might be seen as marginal; if, however, it means bottom-line responses like last week’s MoveOn.org internet poll that supposedly vaulted him to the top of the pack among the kinds of yellow dog Democrats who respond to such things, Dean has been doing very well indeed. And, speaking of bottom lines, Dean’s 2nd quarter fund-raising of $6 million is right up there with any of his better-known rivals’ best showings during a financial-disclosure period. At that rate, Dean could be a match for anybody save Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, who skewered Dean Sunday before last with prosecutorial zeal on questions relating to Dean’s positions and met several of his answers with unmasked scorn. The general consensus was that Russert had gone -- in almost the World-War-I sense of the term -- over the top, but organization Democrats, especially in southern states like Tennessee, are made nervous by such facts, all probed by Russert, as Dean’s 1-Y draft status during Vietnam, his unfamiliarity with current enlistment numbers in the armed services, and his legal recognition, while governor, of civil unions involving gays and lesbians. In the game of political scrabble, the word they’re looking to complete is “govern,” not “McGovern.” Still, Dean has summoned up some real hot-bloodedness, both in himself and in a growing number of supporters from what he calls the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” -- that wing which is less interested in coming to terms with the positions of the current president of the United States than in coming to grips with them, and with him. Seen in that light, the previously unheralded Graham acquires a new luster -- one that he reflected, however modestly, Saturday night. Though he came off as somewhat stiff, even staid, even a bit stuffy (and probably every other “st --” modifier one could think off), Graham was no pussy-footer on such key positions as George W. Bush’s tax cuts -- “catastrophic,” he called them -- and the late war with Iraq, which Graham noted that he had voted against on the solidly patriotic -- and highly arguable -- grounds that it was a red herring undermining the War Against Terror. Though, on the evidence of his speech Saturday night, Graham is not an exciting presence, his manner of being stolid (yet another “st-” word) is in line both with his party’s past traditions and with its present need to pose a difference. He is also, as he reminded the audience, undefeated in several elections in the state of Florida, and, as everybody surely remembers, that Republican-leaning state is where the last Democratic presidential nominee, fairly or not, met his Waterloo. Aside from all else, Graham is on everybody’s list for vice president -- the hangover from that fateful 2000 Florida countdown being one good reason. Moreover, Graham has managed, as Button noted, to recruit a Tennessee staff containing several veterans of past political combat in the state. So have the other contenders in his and and Hester’s basic list of five. The outcome in Tennessee could be close -- and complicated by the apparent rise of Dean. Button, Hester, and other Democratic cadres in the state can barely conceal their excitement at the prospect that Tennessee, which moved its presidential primary up to February 10th, in the immediate wake of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, could play a decisive role in determining the Democratic nominee. One fly in the ointment: South Carolina, which has subsequently moved its presidential-preference event to February 3rd, just after New Hampshire, giving it a chance to become the barometric Southern state instead of Tennessee. Button and Hester both express concern, but each has an answer to the worry. Button says, “For one thing, for them to have a primary would cost $3 million, and South Carolina can’t afford that. Nor would a caucus be nearly as significant.” Hester concurs, and adds, “South Carolina’s a Republican state, not like Tennessee, which has always been evenly divided. People will be watching the results in Tennessee a lot closer.” Maybe so In any case, key Democrats in the Volunteer State are convinced that Tennessee’s got game -- unless the Palmetto state manages somehow to muck things up.

    Politics

    Politics

    Posted By on Thu, Jul 3, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    Tennessee's Got Game

    The state's presidential primary could end up making a difference for 2004.

    POLITICS by JACKSON BAKER

    NASHVILLE -- Events of the past several days have greatly improved the outlook -- at least in Tennessee -- for two of the Democratic contenders vying for the right to challenge President Bush in next year's presidential election.

    Those two are Florida senator Bob Graham, who was in Nashville Saturday night to deliver the keynote address at Tennessee Democrats' annual Jackson Day dinner; and ex-Vermont governor Howard Dean, whose recent rise in the polls has been accompanied by a surprisingly strong fund-raising surge.

    The state's two leading Democratic spokesmen -- party chairman Randy Button and Democratic state executive director Jim Hester -- agreed, after Graham's generally well-received address, on a pecking order of viables that would rank the Floridian with four other "top tier" names: John Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman.

    Missing from this list was Dean, but Hester hedged with an important proviso: "His viability depends on whether he can get a grassroots movement going, and what his receipts are for the quarter just ending."

    "Grassroots" can be defined any of several different ways. If it means neighborhood meetings, like an earnest but spottily attended one in Memphis recently, Dean's outlook in Tennessee might be seen as marginal. If, however, it means bottom-line responses like last week's MoveOn.org Internet poll that supposedly vaulted him to the top of the pack among the kinds of yellow-dog Democrats who respond to such things, Dean has been doing very well indeed.

    And speaking of bottom lines, Dean's second quarter fund-raising of $6 million is up there with any of his better-known rivals. At that rate, Dean could be a match for anybody save Tim Russert, the host of NBC's Meet the Press, who skewered Dean Sunday before last with prosecutorial zeal on his positions and met several of his answers with unmasked scorn.

    The general consensus was that Russert had gone over the top, but organization Democrats, especially in Southern states like Tennessee, are made nervous by such facts -- all probed by Russert -- as Dean's 1-Y draft status during Vietnam, his unfamiliarity with current enlistment numbers, and his legal recognition, while governor, of civil unions involving gays and lesbians.

    In the game of political scrabble, Tennessee Democrats want to spell "govern," not "McGovern." Still, Dean has summoned up some real hot-bloodedness in a growing number of supporters from what he calls the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- which is less interested in coming to terms with the positions of the current president than in coming to grips with them, and with him.

    Seen in that light, the previously unheralded Graham acquires a new luster -- one that he reflected, however modestly, Saturday night. Though he came off as somewhat stiff, even staid, even a bit stuffy, Graham was no pussyfooter on such key positions as George W. Bush's tax cuts -- "catastrophic," he called them -- and the late war with Iraq, which Graham noted that he had voted against on the solidly patriotic grounds that it was a red herring undermining the War Against Terror.

    Though, on the evidence of his speech Saturday night, Graham is not an exciting presence, his stolid manner (yet another "st--" word) is in line both with his party's traditions and with its present need to pose a difference. He is also, as he reminded the audience, undefeated in several elections in the state of Florida, and, as everybody remembers, that Republican-leaning state is where the last Democratic presidential nominee, fairly or not, met his Waterloo. Aside from all else, Graham is on everybody's list for vice president -- the hangover from that fateful 2000 Florida countdown being one good reason.

    Moreover, Graham has recruited a Tennessee staff containing several veterans of political combat in the state. So have the other contenders. The outcome in Tennessee could be close -- and complicated by the apparent rise of Dean.

    Button, Hester, and other Democrats in the state can barely conceal their excitement at the prospect that Tennessee, which moved its presidential primary up to February 10th, in the immediate wake of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, could play a decisive role in determining the nominee.

    One fly in the ointment: South Carolina, which has moved its presidential-preference event to February 3rd, just after New Hampshire, giving it a chance to become the barometric Southern state instead of Tennessee.

    But, Button says, "For them to have a primary would cost $3 million, and South Carolina can't afford that. Nor would a caucus be nearly as significant." Hester concurs, and adds, "South Carolina's a Republican state, not like Tennessee, which has always been evenly divided. People will be watching the results in Tennessee a lot closer."

    Maybe so. In any case, key Democrats in the Volunteer State are convinced that Tennessee's got game -- unless the Palmetto State manages somehow to muck things up.


    Political Snapshot

    Here's some of what's been going on.

    by JACKSON BAKER

    City Elections

    With the July 17th qualifying deadline for candidates approaching, the most closely watched race continues to be that for the District 5 (Midtown, East Memphis) City Council seat being vacated by incumbent John Vergos. Various all-candidate forums are in the offing, including one set for the July 12th Dutch Treat Luncheon at the Piccadilly cafeteria on Mt. Moriah.

    Conventional wisdom remains that Republican endorsee George Flinn is guaranteed a spot in a likely runoff election by virtue of his personal resources (physician/broadcaster Flinn spent roughly $1 million of his own money in a losing race for county mayor last year) and his endorsement by the Shelby County Republican Party. In that scenario, Flinn's runoff opponent would be either lawyer Jim Strickland or state Representative Carol Chumney, with frequent candidate Joe Cooper relegated to a spoiler's role and newcomer Mark Follis considered to lack enough financing and name recognition to make a difference. There is a countersentiment emerging, however, that the real race is between Strickland and Chumney.

    The rivalry between the two Democrats in this nonpartisan race is likely to be hotly contested. Supporters of Strickland, a former local Democratic chairman with numerous personal connections to independents and Republicans (one of whom, former GOP chair David Kustoff, is his law partner) stress their man's broad political appeal and his fund-raising ability.

    Strickland has already raised more than $50,000 of the $100,000 goal he set for himself -- thanks largely to a well-attended River Oaks fund-raiser last month.

    Chumney's backers cite the superior name recognition she has earned through several terms in the legislature and in her losing bid for the Democratic nomination for county mayor last year. They also point to the presence in her campaign of some seasoned political hands -- like pollster/consultant John Bakke, who wasted no time in releasing a poll last month showing Chumney to be well ahead of the competition.

    Bakke's mid-June survey of some 300 likely voters showed Chumney with 43 percent, Flinn at 20, and the others trailing behind. Her "favorable" rating was at 62 percent, with 12 percent unfavorable; Flinn's equivalent numbers were 32 and 31, Cooper's 22 and 42, and Strickland's 14 and 1.

    The sounding, which Strickland's camp promptly denounced as a "push poll," also indicated the extent to which Chumney intends to campaign as the anti-Flinn candidate -- an impression underscored by repeated references to Flinn in her speaking appearances.

    Chumney suffered a measure of embarrassment last month when it was revealed that she had consulted with U.S. Attorney Terry Harris regarding the Memphis City Council's pending decision on final district lines. Council chairman Brent Taylor, a Republican and presumed Flinn supporter, called that an effort to intimidate the council and influence its decision, though Chumney responded that her intentions had been merely to gather information.

    State Lottery Board

    Just as both men had insisted, that compact between Governor Phil Bredesen and state Senator Steve Cohen on the composition of the new lottery board seems not to have involved any private codicils, though other local politicians left their fingerprints on the process.

    Former Shelby County commissioner Morris Fair, one of two Memphis appointees, said Monday that House Republican leader Tre Hargett of Bartlett had sounded him out about serving and apparently passed his name to the governor.

    Another Memphis appointee, Marvell Mitchell, has ties to the Ford political organization but may also have received sponsorship from Democratic state Representative Larry Miller.

    Both men, however, have administrative backgrounds that would seemingly justify their selection on merit alone.

    County Commission

    The complicated budget process involving Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, county department heads, and members of the Shelby County Commission continues this week, with no agreement likely until August. The county will be forced to implement a continuation budget in the meantime.

    Much of the testimony at last week's budget committee meeting featured misgivings from county officials about the effect of massive cuts. County Trustee Bob Patterson, in effect the county's tax collector, warned that deep cuts in his budget would prevent him from raising the funds to properly run county government. "You cut my staff, you cut your own money," Patterson said.

    Much of the dialogue concerned a reluctant willingness of the department heads to consider 10 percent cuts in their budgets while insisting that cuts of the magnitude of 16 or 17 percent -- the figure associated with a no-tax-increase budget -- would be impossible.

    Budget chairman Cleo Kirk indicated after the meeting that he foresaw a compromise based on the 10 percent figure, accompanied by a property tax increase that could run as high as 30 cents and possible concessions on issues such as rural school bonds.

     

    Wednesday, July 2, 2003

    POLITICS

    The stateÕs presidential primary could end up making a difference for 2004.

    Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    TENNESSEE'S GOT GAME NASHVILLE -- Events of the last several days have greatly improved the outlook -- at least in Tennessee -- for two of the Democratic contenders vying for the right to challenge President Bush in next year’s presidential election. Those two are Florida senator Bob Graham, who was in Nashville Saturday night to deliver the keynote address at Tennessee Democrats’ annual Jackson Day dinner; and ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose recent rise in the polls has been accompanied by a surprisingly strong fund-raising surge. The state’s two leading Democratic spokesman -- party chairman Randy Button and Democratic state executive director Jim Hester -- agreed after Graham’s generally well-received address on a pecking order of viables that would rank the Floridian with four other “top tier” names: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry; North Carolina Senator John Edwards; Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt; and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Missing from this provisional list of viables was Dean -- but Hester hedged with an important proviso that ended up, as of Monday, being eminently invokeable. “His viability depends on whether he can get a grass-roots movement going, and what his receipts are for the quarter just ending,” had said Hester. “Grass roots” can be defined any of several different ways. If it means neighborhood meetings, like an earnest but spottily attended and somewhat raggedy one which occurred in Memphis recently, Dean’outlook in Tennessee might be seen as marginal; if, however, it means bottom-line responses like last week’s MoveOn.org internet poll that supposedly vaulted him to the top of the pack among the kinds of yellow dog Democrats who respond to such things, Dean has been doing very well indeed. And, speaking of bottom lines, Dean’s 2nd quarter fund-raising of $6 million is right up there with any of his better-known rivals’ best showings during a financial-disclosure period. At that rate, Dean could be a match for anybody save Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, who skewered Dean Sunday before last with prosecutorial zeal on questions relating to Dean’s positions and met several of his answers with unmasked scorn. The general consensus was that Russert had gone -- in almost the World-War-I sense of the term -- over the top, but organization Democrats, especially in southern states like Tennessee, are made nervous by such facts, all probed by Russert, as Dean’s 1-Y draft status during Vietnam, his unfamiliarity with current enlistment numbers in the armed services, and his legal recognition, while governor, of civil unions involving gays and lesbians. In the game of political scrabble, the word they’re looking to complete is “govern,” not “McGovern.” Still, Dean has summoned up some real hot-bloodedness, both in himself and in a growing number of supporters from what he calls the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” -- that wing which is less interested in coming to terms with the positions of the current president of the United States than in coming to grips with them, and with him. Seen in that light, the previously unheralded Graham acquires a new luster -- one that he reflected, however modestly, Saturday night. Though he came off as somewhat stiff, even staid, even a bit stuffy (and probably every other “st --” modifier one could think off), Graham was no pussy-footer on such key positions as George W. Bush’s tax cuts -- “catastrophic,” he called them -- and the late war with Iraq, which Graham noted that he had voted against on the solidly patriotic -- and highly arguable -- grounds that it was a red herring undermining the War Against Terror. Though, on the evidence of his speech Saturday night, Graham is not an exciting presence, his manner of being stolid (yet another “st-” word) is in line both with his party’s past traditions and with its present need to pose a difference. He is also, as he reminded the audience, undefeated in several elections in the state of Florida, and, as everybody surely remembers, that Republican-leaning state is where the last Democratic presidential nominee, fairly or not, met his Waterloo. Aside from all else, Graham is on everybody’s list for vice president -- the hangover from that fateful 2000 Florida countdown being one good reason. Moreover, Graham has managed, as Button noted, to recruit a Tennessee staff containing several veterans of past political combat in the state. So have the other contenders in his and and Hester’s basic list of five. The outcome in Tennessee could be close -- and complicated by the apparent rise of Dean. Button, Hester, and other Democratic cadres in the state can barely conceal their excitement at the prospect that Tennessee, which moved its presidential primary up to February 10th, in the immediate wake of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, could play a decisive role in determining the Democratic nominee. One fly in the ointment: South Carolina, which has subsequently moved its presidential-preference event to February 3rd, just after New Hampshire, giving it a chance to become the barometric Southern state instead of Tennessee. Button and Hester both express concern, but each has an answer to the worry. Button says, “For one thing, for them to have a primary would cost $3 million, and South Carolina can’t afford that. Nor would a caucus be nearly as significant.” Hester concurs, and adds, “South Carolina’s a Republican state, not like Tennessee, which has always been evenly divided. People will be watching the results in Tennessee a lot closer.” Maybe so In any case, key Democrats in the Volunteer State are convinced that Tennessee’s got game -- unless the Palmetto state manages somehow to muck things up.

    RADIO ADDRESS BY REP. HAROLD FORD

    Delivered as the Democrats' official response to President Bush's weekly radio address, 6-29-03

    Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    (The following was broadcast nationwide on Saturday, June 28th, as the official Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address. In response, the Flyer publsihed an editorial, which is appended.) Good morning. This is Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee. This week the Supreme Court reaffirmed our commitment to diversity and progress. Because of this enduring commitment, our military is more cohesive and effective. Our businesses are more dynamic and competitive. And our colleges and universities are educating and enriching more people. In short, the American family is stronger today than it was a generation ago. All of this is good. In the majority opinion in the Michigan case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed her hope that 25 years from now affirmative action would not be needed. We all look forward to that day. Our vision is an America where all children can grow up truly believing they can achieve whatever they want -- an America where the only thing that determines how far you go is your ambition and hard work. This week, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and the Congressional Black Caucus welcomed hundreds of business, political and academic leaders to Washington to chart a course for a better America. You know, part of the American tradition is for each generation to make life better for the next. So the question is, how do we make it better for our children? Let's be honest, there are challenges and opportunities ahead of us that must be met with leadership that inspires and invests in America's future. We must realize that our future will only be as bright as the decisions we make today allow it to be. As optimistic as I am about the future, we can't be afraid to try new approaches. We can't have the same response to every economic challenge. Over the past three years, 3 million jobs have been lost. One million more people don't have health insurance. And states are shutting down things and raising taxes just to balance their books. Some people in Washington spend a lot of energy complaining about politics. That same energy could be better spent fully funding the Leave No Child Behind Act, so when school starts back in the Fall, principals, teachers, and parents can all do their jobs better. Anyone who has been in a school knows teachers have it hard enough as it is. We can also do better when it comes to national security. Instead of complaining about politics, people in Washington could spend their time better by reforming and strengthening our intelligence gathering. I voted for the use of force in Iraq. We are safer without Saddam in power. But our continued security depends on our intelligence being accurate and trusted. We must ensure that it is. We can also do better by our seniors. The prescription drug bill that the House of Representatives passed this week will privatize Medicare before the end of the decade. The better plan would not force seniors to leave Medicare to get prescription drug coverage. That is the plan my party supports. This week we celebrate the Fourth of July. We mark the occasion by saluting the veterans and patriots who have defended our freedom. Their courage made America better for us. And it's now time for this generation to make it better for the next. This is Congressman Harold Ford. Thank you again for listening.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2003

    TWO MEMPHIANS NAMED TO LOTTERY BOARD

    TWO MEMPHIANS NAMED TO LOTTERY BOARD

    Posted By on Tue, Jul 1, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    Former Shelby County Commissioner Morris Fair and local industrialist Marvell Mitchell have been named as two of seven members of the newly created Lottery Board for the state of Tennessee. The announcements were made in Nashville Monday afternoon by Governor Phil Bredesen. The board will set policy and otherwise maintain oversight in conformity with legislation passed in this year's General Assembly. Here are the descriptions of Fair and Mitchell included in Bredesen's official announcement: "Fair is currently employed as a public finance consultant by Duncan Williams, Inc., an investment banking company based in Memphis. He is a founding member of the investment firm UMIC, Inc., Memphis. He served as chairman and CEO of the firm when it was sold to Union Planters Bank in 1988, where he worked until 1996. The company served as financial advisers to the City of Memphis, as well as a host of cities and jurisdictions surrounding Memphis. He is currently serving as chairman of the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Fair served on the Shelby County Board of Commissioners from 1996 to 2002, including a term as chairman from 2001 to 2002. Fair, 73, is a native of Tyronza, Ark., who has lived in Memphis for more than 40 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. . . "Mitchell is the managing partner of Mitchell Technology Group LLC, a Memphis firm that installs computer networks for businesses and distributes computer hardware and software. Before establishing Mitchell Technology Group, he served as district sales manager for Digital Equipment Corporation in Memphis from 1986 to 1995. Prior to that time, Mitchell worked at IBM Corporation, where his most recent position was marketing manager. Mitchell is chairman of the Black Business Association of Memphis, and a board member of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce, where he chairs the Minority Business Development Committee. He also serves on the board of the Southwest Tennessee Community College Foundation. Mitchell, 48, is a Memphis native. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Memphis State University." Fair, a former chairman of the Shelby County Commission, was defeated in the Republican primary last year by current Commissioner John Willingham -- a circumstance noted as an "irony" by State Senator Steve Cohen, the longtime lottery backer who did most to secure passage of a lottery referendum last year and was a majro player in developing the lottery establishment package in this year's General Assembly. As Cohen noted, Willingham has made a major cause of another gaming concept -- that of a casino for the The Pyramid, an idea which he hopes to get political and legal clearance for. The senator said he was pleased with the appointments of both Fair and Mitchell, as well was with that of Nashvillian Denny Bottorf, another board member with whom Cohen said he was well acquainted. Fair said he was "surprised" to be considered for the lottery and had been sounded out about his willingness to serve by House Republican Leader Tre Hargett of Bartlett, who evidently passed Fair's name on to the governor as a recommendee. Though there were some speculation from the camp of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton that the rival Ford political clan had pushed for Mitchell's appointment, another possible sponsor was Democratic state representative Larry Miller, who has always been politically equidistant from the two main local Democratic factions. And, of course, it is just possible that Bredesen did what he said he was going to do -- make decisions based totally on credentials.
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