Tennesseans in the Action at the RNC 

Tennesseans at the Republican National Convention are getting their share of attention, though there have been a few disappointments.

7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn (that's the title she prefers), was -- for reasons not yet disclosed -- bumped from a planned spot in the speaking rotation on Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, but others fared better. Former senator Fred Thompson had first dibs on prime time TV with a rousing and highly partisan address on behalf of his longtime bud, nominee-very-shortly-to-be John McCain.

As if providing a transition from the convention's early, Hurricane Gustav-influenced posture of "rising above party," Thompson initiated what might become a pattern of damning with faint praise and then just plain damning.

The former Tennessee senator and failed candidate for president put to use some of the show-biz timing he learned as an actor in countless films and the long-running TV series, "Law and Order," when he characterized Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as "a history-making nominee for president," then followed that up with "history-making because he's the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee ever."

That was Thompson's best applause line of several in a performance that constituted something of a comeback.

The same note was struck by another GOP presidential runner-up, former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, himself a natural performer who in remarks to the Tennessee delegation at breakfast on Wednesday, made a point of celebrating the fact that someone like Obama had "come so far" before pronouncing - thousand-one, thousand-two -- that "considering his views, he's gone far enough."

Huckabee shared time at the breakfast with both of Tennessee's sitting senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, just back from a tour of war-torn Georgia. In a brief interview before his remarks, Corker said it was evident to him that Russian military forces had made a point of committing "unnecessary" damage to the former Soviet Republic's infrastructure and to its civilian population.

Former Senator Bill Frist, the subject of numerous conversations among state Republicans as the 800-pound elephant among potential gubernatorial candidates for 2010, has made several brief cameo appearances at delegation functions but has so far not appeared on the dais.

Frist is scheduled to be the featured speaker at Thursday morning's breakfast, however. Meanwhile he appeared at two foreign-policy seminars held under private auspices Wednesday in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Tennesseans are sharing hotel space at the Ramada Mall of America with the GOP delegation from Alaska, and the breakfast meetings of both state delegations have been held in adjoining meeting rooms divided by a partition. At a certain point in proceedings each day, the partition is folded back to create the environment for a joint meeting.

Given this state of affairs, the Tennesseans had nursed real hopes for an early look at surprise vice-presidential nominee-to-be Sarah Palin, and early in the week the word was passed that she might address a joint meeting of the two delegations on Wednesday. That didn't happen for several reasons, including a reportedly tighter rein being exercised on her appearances by the McCain campaign because of continued controversy over her family problems.

Every indication so far is that Republicans are not backing off from Palin but are rising to her defense. In his remarks Wednesday morning, Huckabee said bluntly that the media was "in the tank" for the Democrats on the matter - an echo of Thompson's reference on Tuesday night to "the Democrats and their liberal friends in the media."

An unexpected hit at the delegation's breakfast meeting Wednesday was Mark Shriver, head of national programs for the Save the Children organization, which had been designated as an official state service project by the Tennessee Republican Party in conjunction with joint response efforts related to Hurricane Gustav.

Shriver, brother of Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger and nephew of Senator Ted Kennedy and other well-known members of the illustrious political family, made predictable jokes about his famous relatives and made mock apologies for appearing in lieu of one of them or of his brother-in-law, California governor Arnold Schwarzengger, the one notable Republican in the clan.


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