In this week's cover story, Jackson Baker reports from the campaign trail in Tennessee's 8th Congressional District. The race features three Republicans who are vying for the GOP nomination — Stephen Fincher, George Flinn, and Ron Kirkland — and one Democrat, Roy Herron.
If you've seen any of the Republicans' ads, you've seen them all. Each candidate is running on a platform of repealing health-care reform, balancing the budget, cutting taxes, and generally standing up to the GOP's designated bogeywoman, the evil House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
It's Tea Party rhetoric-lite: Throw out the bums in Washington, D.C., and get Congress back in the hands of real Americans! Never mind that two of the three Republicans are millionaire physicians and the third is a prominent farmer and land-owner, these guys are going to take back the country from those tax-and-spend Democrats who are the cause of all our troubles.
This is rabble-rousing duplicity and revisionist history on a staggering scale. When Democrat Bill Clinton left office in 2000, there was a budget surplus. The country was not at war. There was no financial crisis that required a trillion-dollar TARP bailout. Oil companies were regulated by a watchdog federal agency. Much stricter environmental policies were in place. In short, there was peace and prosperity.
The Bush administration relaxed financial regulations, let the oil companies write energy policy in secret, and set up lobbyists to administer the agencies controlling our natural resources and the environment. They instigated an unneccessary war in Iraq that cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. That administration set all-time records for budget deficits, was plagued by one scandal after another (Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, Walter Reed, Halliburton, Blackwater, ad nauseum) and instigated the TARP bailout plan to rescue financial institutions that had bilked millions of investors with phony mortgage securities.
This is the mess that President Obama inherited. Make no mistake: It was created by President George W. Bush and the Republicans who controlled both houses of Congress. Yes, the current administration and Congress have made their own share of blunders, but this hue and cry from Republicans about the horrors of Washington is disingenuous in the extreme. We're still cleaning up the mess from the last GOP administration. If Republicans want to point fingers, they should do so while standing in front of a mirror.
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...