Marsha, Marsha! 

In a campaign oddity, Blackburn emerges as a new feminist hero

In a campaign oddity, Blackburn emerges as a new feminist hero

When John McCain went looking for Republicans to defend his running mate against the "liberal media," Marsha Blackburn suddenly morphed into a well-coiffed Norma Rae.

This, mind you, is the Brentwood image-consultant -turned- conservative-firebrand whose feminist consciousness is so underdeveloped she wants to be called "congressman." Only six weeks ago, she voted against legislation to help stop sex discrimination in job pay.

Now she's popping up on all the cable gabfests to proudly fight for Sarah Palin—and oppressed women everywhere—as a member of the McCain-Palin Truth Squad. Blackburn is even finding much to admire about Hillary Clinton, her new role model.

On CNN's Larry King Live last week, she painted Barack Obama as a sexist pig for making that lipstick-on-a-pig remark.

King: All right, where are we going to go, congresswoman, with this—with this lipstick and pig thing?

Blackburn: I think what has happened with this is that women are looking at a pattern of behavior.

That pattern of sexism, she asserted, includes a moment early in the campaign when Obama called a pushy TV reporter "sweetie." Plus, Obama passed over Clinton and other "good women" for VP. "I think it's a pattern of conduct that the American women are responding to," said Blackburn.

She was especially combative in a brief, almost farcical performance at the Republican National Convention, taunting the media and sticking up for "all the great new gals" out there in TV land.

"Now all of the gray suits in the booths up here who have their backs turned facing Washington instead of watching the future on this stage...I tell you—and listen up now boys; I want all you guys to listen up—as a wife, a mother, a businesswoman and public servant, neither Gov. Palin nor I need you to tell us what our limitations are or when we might have taken on too much or when we might have reached too far."

Earlier at the convention, she joined other Republican women at a press conference to accuse the media of smears against Palin. The same women spoke reverentially of Hillary Clinton, said she'd too been the victim of sexist attacks, and denounced reporters for failing to defend her.

Why didn't Blackburn take up the Clinton cause during the primary? one reporter asked. "Had we been more vocal, you all would have chosen not to report it," she snapped.

To other reporters, Blackburn waxed philosophical about women's rights. "Working women have the common experience of being passed over for a younger, less experienced male who was supposed to be the great new talent," she mused. "They now see Obama's choice of Biden over Clinton through that lens and, I suspect, resent it. The same perspective gives working women a unique appreciation for McCain's choice of Palin."

It's all too much for Tennessee Democrats, who point out that conservatives like Blackburn say they support working moms but reject policies to make their lives better. In the latest example, on July 31, Blackburn voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes allowing employers to discriminate against women. Now that's striking a blow for the sisterhood! The National Association of Manufacturers vowed to withhold campaign contributions from those who favored the bill, and the White House is threatening a veto.

A key provision would bar employers from retaliating against women who share salary information with co-workers. The bill also would lift caps on lawsuit damages.

"Marsha Blackburn," says state Democratic Party spokesman Wade Munday, "is someone who has been silent on women's issues until now, who refers to herself as 'congressman' and likely relishes her quotidian stance against women's equal work for equal pay. She seems a tad bit disingenuous in her current defense of Sarah Palin.  Just a tad."

Not quite corrupt enough
Speaking of Blackburn, she didn't make the list of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress last week. For "her repeated failure to properly report campaign receipts and expenditures, including payments to a family-owned business," she merely earned a dishonorable mention from the liberal-leaning watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Had the group factored in hypocrisy, we believe our hometown hero could have landed a Top 20 spot. Better luck next year, Marsha.

Sarah Palin=Pontius Pilate? Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen and state GOP chair Robin Smith hopped into the sandbox last week to gouge each other's eyes and provide new reasons not to vote in November.

Cohen fired the first volley with these comments on the House floor: "The parties have differences but, if you want change, you want the Democratic Party. Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus...Pontius Pilate was a governor."

Smith immediately demanded an apology in a fit of faux outrage.

"Frankly, we're shocked that Rep. Cohen, a Memphis Democrat who was targeted by vicious anti-Jewish slurs and bigotry during his two successful runs for Congress, would make such idiotic and offensive comments," she said. "Comparing Gov. Palin to the killer of Christ is simply beyond the pale. Gov. Palin's strong Christian life and faith are self-evident."

The only tangible effect of the spit-spat: The state's political blogosphere erupted into intriguing new arguments over who really killed Christ.

Who needs voting rights?
State Sen. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) has come up with a novel way to increase voter participation. Her idea: If you skip a couple of presidential elections, then the government should strip away your voting rights.

"If you haven't voted in two of the past three presidential races," she told a radio show, "then I think we ought to say we're taking your right away."

Her Democratic opponent, Jim Hawkins, called Black's idea insulting. "I reject her politics of division," he said.

Black said she was only joking.

English-Only Eric never says die
Eric Crafton, lending new meaning to the term xenophobia, is rounding up signatures again—this time to put his English Only initiative up for a special election.

The Metro Council member is casting himself as a mere servant of the people who, he insists, are demanding the right to vote on this vital issue. And if he fails again, will he finally give up? Not a chance.

"If every Hispanic immigrant in Nashville got their Ph.D. and submitted their English dissertation, it's not going to satisfy their true motives," councilman Mike Jameson says.

In case you haven't been following this soap opera, last year the council passed Crafton's English-as-Metro's-official-language bill, but then-Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed it. Undeterred, Crafton decided to put the question on the November ballot.

But the law department under Mayor Karl Dean decided the Metro Charter only allows for petition-driven amendments every two years.

The previous amendment, one that requires voter approval of property tax increases, passed Nov. 7, 2006. This year's election is on Nov. 4, meaning "English Only" didn't clear the two-year waiting period by three days. The courts agreed with the mayor's interpretation, so now we're faced with the prospect of a $350,000 tab for a special election.

In a twisted bit of logic, Crafton says it's all Dean's fault. "We tried to be fiscally responsible, and they fought it," he tells the Scene. "It couldn't be anybody's fault but theirs. We're just trying to make sure the people's voice isn't silenced on this matter."


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