The fact is, however, that politics -- local, statewide, national -- is headed in the opposite direction from cool. It's hot and will get hotter:
It seems clear that the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that Bill Frist is vacating next year will pile on the hot coals, rhetorically.
Three GOP Senate hopefuls were on hand for the annual Shelby County Republican Party picnic Monday at the conference grounds on Cherry Road. And all -- former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker -- cooked up some red meat.
Bryant began by saying that at election time in Tennessee there are "no moderate Republicans and no liberal Democrats." And not only did he lay out the litany of standard Republican issues -- traditional marriage, abortion, the Pledge of Allegiance, federal judges, the Second Amendment -- he went to the right of President George W. Bush on one issue, that of "illegal immigration and border security."
"I think he's misjudged on this one," said Bryant of what he considered Bush's over-lenient immigration proposals.
Hilleary, who finished a close second to Democrat Phil Bredesen in the 2002 governor's race, noted frankly that, among Republicans anyhow, "Everybody will be making the same speech, saying the same thing." He emphasized the need for a "conservative, sincere Republican," stressed his background as a Desert Storm pilot, blasted "wobbly-kneed Republicans," gay marriage, and the federal judiciary as "the last bastion of liberalism."
Corker came off as the relative moderate, focusing on his background as construction executive, provider of low-income housing, and mayor. But he began with this catechism: "I believe in free markets, limited government, low taxes, balanced budgets, the entrepreneurial spirit, the power of prayer, and the importance of faith." And he too took issue with "judicial activism."
Absent from the picnic was state representative Beth Harwell of Nashville, another prospective Senate candidate. One of the attendees, however, flashed a bumper sticker (reportedly provided by Chattanooga-area state representative Chris Clem) that read, "Harwell/Governor."
Even as two of the three GOP Senate candidates chose at this year’s party picnic to reference some variant of the gay issue, a test case of sorts was under way at a camp being run by the group Love in Action at a former church site on Yale Road in Raleigh.
Demonstrators turned up last week and this to protest against the camp's attempts to convert gay youths to a heterosexual lifestyle. (See also Viewpoint, page 13.)
Then, of course, there was the arraignment last week of Bowers and others arrested in the recent FBI sting -- including state senator John Ford, who in a post-arraignment press conference suggested that the fact and timing of his indictment might have something to do with A) nephew Harold Ford Jr.'s formal announcement for the U.S. Senate; and B) governor Phil Bredesen's paring of the TennCare rolls, which Ford had opposed.
In other words, Ford plans a political defense -- one not calculated, need we note, to lower local temperatures.