So last night was both disappointing and eventful.
First, I would like to echo the sentiments of Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney, about the Adrienne Pakis-Gillon campaign. She worked her butt off without much visible support from the establishment powers outside of Shelby Co. and deserves kudos for running a clean campaign against an opponent whose actions and legislative record literally begs for mudslinging.
Speaking of State Senator Finney, there was some interesting news in his neck of the woods last night that has taken the state by storm.
As if you didn’t already know, Rep. John Tanner (D-TN08), a founder of the Blue Dog Coalition announced his retirement after several media outlets reported his impending retirement based on an anonymous source.
This led to a weird series of events that started out with a whole lot of speculation on who would run for the seat and ended up with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Roy Herron, dropping out of the Governor’s race to run for TN-08.
Herron’s decision to run isn’t all that surprising. While he has been successful at winning straw polls all over the state, and is to be commended for out organizing his primary opponents at said straw polls, REAL polls suggest that his candidacy wasn’t really getting the reach required to overcome the presumed front runner in the race, Mike McWherter, who hails from the same area. For Herron, the political math made sense, and he did his math quickly dropping out of the race less than four hours after the first report hit Tennessee media.
Despite Herron’s early jump into the TN-08 race, several other elected and former officials have expressed interest in the seat or at least been mentioned, including; Phillip Pinion of Union City (burnout?), Mark Maddox (He’s more likely to run for Roy’s State Senate seat), and Lowe Finney (who is up for re-election in the State Senate in 2010).
In the mean time, Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Herron as an Obama lovin’ gay sympathizing socialist, which is funny on several levels. Herron has a pretty solid moderate to conservative voting record. Painting him as a wide eyed liberal is not just a stretch, but pure bull. As I said on twitter earlier today
If the GOP thinks Roy Herron is a “libural”, then I guess those (R) state legislators that voted for an unconstitutional gun law are too!
We’ll see how this pans out in the coming weeks, but unless Herron really screws up, he’s in pretty good shape to win the primary in August despite not being able to use the funds he’s already collected for his Gubernatorial bid, as noted by Goldni and Braisted.
There are lots of other good posts about this out there, but I have a show to load out. Back in Memphis tomorrow. Thank God!
The filing deadline in Tennessee has come and gone, and now we know who’s running, and in some cases, who’s not. The Tennessee Bush Dogs are on their way to re-election, some with less opposition than others. Lincoln Davis has drawn a Democratic Primary opponent. I’ll be keeping an eye on that race. Jim Cooper and Bart Gordon face some opposition in the general, but nothing insurmountable. John Tanner is the luckiest, drawing no opponent period.
Way to send a message TN-08. I guess that’s one safe “Democratic” seat in Tennessee.
Tanner’s lack of an opponent is annoying, but not surprising. He’s relatively popular in the 8th. He’s never had much opposition EVER. I guess that means he can use his reported $1.2m on getting other Democrats elected. I hope that’s what he does with it.
I read this editorial last week while I was on the road, and thankfully though about it this afternoon to complete my trifecta of posts for the day.
The editorial details a question posed to Rep. John Tanner (TN-08) concerning Pakistan. From the Editorial:
Whom should we side with in the ongoing confrontation in Pakistan between the autocratic government of Pervez Musharraf and ostensible democratic reformer Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister freshly returned from exile? Not an easy question, and Tanner, after ruminating out loud over the pros and cons of the matter, finally came down, reluctantly but decisively, on the side of the status quo. What’s at stake in the region is stability, the congressman said, and that’s especially needful in the case of Pakistan, not only a de facto ally in the so-called war on terror but a country in possession of a decent-sized nuclear arsenal.
There are several things about the statement that Tanner and I can agree on, with some clarification. 1. Certainly stability is preferable to instability in Pakistan, unfortunately that stability should be rooted in Democratic institutions, not a government that rose to power as the result of a military coup. 2. Pakistan is an ally, though a reluctant one in the war on terror. Musharraf’s insistence on making peace treaties with Islamic militants on the Afghan border to concentrate power should be very concerning to the US. 3. Pakistan most certainly possesses nuclear weapons, and we should be working with them to put that genie back in the bottle. Acting like it’s not there is not working.
All of these “agreements with conditions” are well and good, but neglect the issue that should be front and center in the assessment; Pakistan should be able to decide their own fate democratically.
The editorial goes on to somehow relate our experience in Iraq to a potential experience in Pakistan:
…our experience in Iraq has surely taught us something about the dangers of overthrowing dictators. Saddam Hussein was no paragon, to say the least. But he was A) secular and B) strong enough to hold the festering parts of that country together against potential (now long since actualized) religious anarchy. Much the same can be said of Musharraf, and it has to be considered, as Tanner indicated, whether the cure for authoritarian regimes (which are surely to be preferred to totalitarian ones) can be worse than the illness.
Musharraf is no Saddam Hussein at this point. That could change at any moment and supporting him only compounds the problem. As we should have learned in our relationship with Saddam in the 80’s, a dictatorial ally for today can be a major dictatorial pain in the rear end tomorrow. Like our relationship with Saddam in the 80’s we had a common enemy. Then it was Iran, today it is the specter of islamofascism, or whatever they’re calling it today. The similarities are disturbing.
While I understand and somewhat support efforts to keep us from the “don’t poop where you eat” politics that have dominated our foreign policy in this administration, I also reject the Reagan error politics of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This policy, started by Republicans and adopted by knee knocking Democrats seeking foreign policy credibility is a mess up of grand proportions. If America is going to be the paragon of all that is “Liberty, Justice, and Freedom” on the planet, then we need to stop propping up dictators who are “Just us” without the Liberty or Freedom. As of this writing, Pakistan is no different, despite their strategic positioning.
It’s time to take the diplomatic high ground. That doesn’t mean icing Pakistan, but talking to them more to get more of what we want (democratic elections, demilitarizing the militants in the north, nuclear drawdown). That means showing them how beneficial a partnership with America can be. Regardless of our current foreign policy strategy (if you can call it that) they still need us more than we need them. Pakistan will make concessions, if it’s beneficial for them, and if they’re asked (I assume they’re not since the Bushies love friendly Dictators). Anything less is a waste of time, and a violation of all that America stands for. We can and should do better.
Yesterday, I wrote this little number on two of Tennessee’s safest Democrats voting against conditional funding for the troops in Iraq. Newscoma brought to my attention a quote from none other than one Representative John Tanner. In response to questions concerning his vote Tanner’s spokesman stated:
“Rep. Tanner had questions about the political viability of the bill because it may not be something that has the possibility of passing and making it all the way,” said Randy Ford, spokesman for Rep. John Tanner (D-TN), who voted against the bill. “He really wants to continue working on it in a bipartisan way, so the House can insert itself not as one party or another but to have an oversight role.”
Sounds like a winning attitude to me.
It takes bold moves to create positive change, and Tanner, like many southern Democrats just doesn’t seem to have the stomach for that. Had Tanner’s been the conventional wisdom in the 60’s, civil rights legislation may have never passed. Had Tanner been in office in the 20’s, women may still not have the right to vote. Not voting for something because it may not pass, is like not saving for retirement because you might lose money, stupid.
This defeatist attitude calls into question not only Tanner’s judgment, but also his leadership. Tenure does not equal leadership, but as a founding member of the conservative Blue Dog coalition, Tanner has the ear of center right Democrats in the House. Thankfully, nearly two-thirds of these Blue Dogs did not follow his lead this time around.
Last year, the Democratic caucus gained enough seats to take over the House, partly as a result of dissatisfaction with the handling of the Iraq military deployment (as I stated yesterday, it is no longer a war, but an occupation that the Congress has allowed to continue). While Tanner saw no real competition in his district, many Democrats around the country fought long and hard to gain or maintain their seats in the face of a rubber stamp Congress that had done nothing to check the power of the Executive.
Using Representative Tanner’s logic, we should use our new majority to “build bi-partisanship” instead of pursuing the agenda that put us in the majority.
This line of reasoning is utter nonsense.
We were entrusted with the majority because we offered something different. The notion that we should cave to pressure from the minority because it will not pass the Senate is the kind of “playing to not lose” garbage that we have come to expect from both the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions. If we want to win, we have to play to win, and that means striking out once in a while, but if we don’t even swing we have no chance.
Representative Tanner, face the facts. You are afraid of the Administration and you are afraid of being in the majority, because being in the majority may bring too much attention to you. You either need to step down, or step it up, because your position of apologist for the Bush Administration is getting tiresome.
Note: This post is in response to, and support of the “Bush Dog” project at Open Left. This, like all the other profiles, is a work in progress. If you have any insight or information to add to this profile, please do so in the comments.
John Tanner TN-08 is the second longest serving Democrat in the Tennessee delegation. First elected in 1988, Tanner has seen scant opposition since his first term. Tanner is anti-abortion, against gay marriage, pro-gun, and for Free Trade. He supports protecting Social Security, opposes the Bush tax cuts, with the exception of the Estate tax, is pro-public health, and supports public education. He voted against making the PATRIOT act permanent, but has a mixed record on other civil liberties issues.
Tanner is a founding member of the Blue Dogs. He votes with the Democratic Party 88% of the time. Tanner has a PPI of 63.19. In the 110th Congress he has voted against the Party twice on key issues and in the 109th he voted against the party 8 times on key votes. He is a member of the House Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs committees. 72% of Tanner’s fundraising effort comes from PAC’s with 90% of that from business.
Any real opposition, be it primary or in the general, is unlikely. Tanner has consistently and soundly defeated just about every opponent since his election to the seat in 1988.
Tennessee’s 8th district is located in the northwest corner of the state. Made up of 19 complete or partial counties, the largest cities in the district are Clarksville (123k), Jackson (59k) and Martin (25k). Millington, TN, just north of Memphis, is the home of a Naval base that handles personnel, and is the only major military installation in Tennessee. In 2004 Kerry lost this district by nearly 6 points. In 2000, Gore narrowly won it. The Cook Political Report lists TN-08 with a D+.1.