A couple of weeks ago, writing about President Bush’s tax cut pursuit, I noted that, in the end, the president was likely to get at least some Democratic support. Describing the Democrats who ultimately would support the Republican plan, I wrote: “Typically, such a Democrat would fit the following profile: lacking in intellectual substance; a craven panderer to easy popular preferences; without guiding principles for determining the good of the country; and having no grip on substantive economic policy.”
In the interest of making me a nicer person and because she thought it was excessively venomous, my editor struck the next sentence from the article: “Obviously, that profile fits Nashville’s own U.S. Rep. Bob Clement perfectly, although there are other Democrats who can be shoehorned into that description as well.”
She should have left it alone.
In what may be one of the opening battles of the 2002 gubernatorial race, Little Bob, as he is known colloquially, voted for the Bush plan. He was one of only 10 Democrats to do so at a time when the party orthodoxy preached that Bush’s tax package favored the wealthy and left average working people in the cold.
To be fair to Clement, the vote on the final bill followed an unsuccessful effort by the Democrats to send it back to committee with instructions to tailor it more along Democratic lines. Clement voted with his party on that procedural motion, while only two Democrats (including Ohio’s sleazy James Trafficant) backed the administration.
It is a common political tactic among legislators to line up on one side during critical procedural votes, then change sides on the final vote once it’s clear the battle is won or lost. That’s so they can be recorded as supporting what they think will be the most popular position. Clement was joined in this strategy by suburban Rep. Bart Gordon, who has not displayed statewide ambitions but frequently has tough Republican challenges.
Watching how Clement and his colleague, Rep. John Tanner of West Tennessee, vote on critical issues is going to be major sport for the next year. Both men are contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor and must strike a balance between what might help them in a gubernatorial campaign and what might help them in the congressional context. Doing what is right for the country may also be a minor part of the calculus. Tanner, who is more of a congressional player than Clement and less certain about his gubernatorial ambitions, has the more difficult task.
Voting in favor of tax cuts is obviously the easier vote in gubernatorial terms. From the standpoint of the ongoing partisan war and the Democratic effort to reshape the bill along more acceptable lines, hanging tough early against Bush was important, and Tanner showed he has much more steel in his spine.
Both men, however, decamped last week on another important piece of early legislationthe Republican effort to repeal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules designed to protect workers from repetitive motion stress injuries. The rules were a major objective of organized labor and a major target of business interests, who contended such worker protections were too expensive and based on half-baked theories.
Both men voted with the majority and went with the business interests, meaning workers can forget about ergonomic relief. The Wall Street Journal cited the administration’s support of the OSHA rules repeal as one of Bush’s first big paybacks to the big-money donors who underwrote his campaign.
Tanner’s vote with the business community was fairly predictable given his rightward leanings. Clement, however, has historically enjoyed steadfast backing from labor, and his betrayal may indicate that he thinks he needs to develop some new channels for campaign fund-raising.
Gordon supported keeping the OSHA rules.
Of course, the Democrats in the congressional delegation are not alone in harboring executive ambitions. Republican Van Hilleary, who represents the sprawling, not-exactly-anyplace 4th District, has set up a campaign committee, recently declaring that if he ran, he would focus as governor on improving education.
“For way too long, we’ve had an education system that lets too many kids fall through the cracks. That’s both unacceptable and horrible because it can be fixed,” Hilleary told The Tennessean.
Hilleary is the presumptive front-runner among Republicans, at least until someone else gets into the raceand maybe after. Whether he’s ready for prime time is another question. After all, when the scrutiny gets serious, he may have to explain how the education problem got so bad when Tennessee has had Republican governorsDon Sundquist and Lamar Alexander, who subsequently became U.S. Secretary of Educationfor 14 of the last 22 years.
Children are not able to bathe themselves, so we expect the parents to bathe them…
Direct quote; The point of the article was to remind readers to take a moment…
Unions make me wet and mess my Captain Kirk jammies!
So what are the egregious sins the unions will be addressing? Not enough strikes?