by Jeff Woods
on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 10:25 AM
Even as lawmakers were knocking back their first cocktails last night at various watering holes around the Capitol, the state GOP was peddling the above video to the media and starting this "A Speaker Not a Puppet" facebook. It's for "Tennessee Republicans who are committed to working for the election of a Republican majority in the state legislature in 2010 and the election of a true Republican Speaker of the House." There's already 130 members.
Watch for another GOP-produced video, coming to an email box near you, showing new speaker Kent Williams' rather fumbling start as speaker yesterday. He didn't seem to know the rules.
And this, of course, is only the initial phase of the Vilification of Kent Williams. The Republican echo chamber will pick apart everything he says and does. If it'll help demonize him, they'll dig into his private life too, no problem.
Which leads us to this question: Whatever happened to Tennessee's much-vaunted political civility? Forever, politicians of all stripes have raised high Tennessee as a shining example of democracy in action. Election campaigns were sometimes a little rough, that's true. But once the elections were over, lawmakers generally tried to chill. After what happened yesterday, it wouldn't surprise me if they start throwing spit wads at each other on the House floor.
Here's a rich little irony. Yesterday morning, when Jason Mumpower thought he was about to make history, he told a GOP House caucus meeting, "You have my word, not just today, but let's make the key word for this session respect, respect for everyone."
R-E-S-P-E-C-T went out the window once Jimmy Naifeh finished outfoxing the Republicans once again.
It was so chaotic that highway patrolmen went into the chamber to guard the new speaker. "You are a disgrace to the state!" a red-faced Rep. Gerald McCormick shouted at Williams at one point. Williams said at least three lawmakers hurled "the f-word" at him. There were jeers and shouts of "traitor" from the House gallery.
State GOP chair Robin Smith thinks it's all OK. "I think when you heard the calls of traitor come from the gallery when he made his vote for himself, rather than a leadership, I think that was very appropriate," she said.
Williams, in turn, thinks Smith "is the worst thing that has ever happened to the Republican Party" in Tennessee because she pushes Republicans to march in "lockstep" with extremist views. Williams said Smith was "trying to lead us (Republican legislators) around by a nose ring."
"I am not going to be led by a nose ring," he said.
Howard Baker would roll over in his grave if he knew Republicans were behaving in such a rude manner. Wait, Baker's not dead yet.