The editorial reviews are piling up on this week's coup d'état in the House and, so far, they're not all that favorable for any of our lovable lawmakers in the low comedy otherwise known as the Tennessee General Assembly. A few newspapers--including the Tennessean
(surprisingly)--have been harshly critical of Democrats in particular. But mostly, editorial writers have scolded members of both parties for their juvenile antics. Excerpts from the editorials follow the jump.
Update: Kingsport paper toes
the Republican Party line. "Williams betrayed party, constituents and himself."
Knoxville News Sentinel:
What is there to make of all of this, other than to say: Your state Legislature hard at work? ... There will be enough drama in cutting a state budget that will be short on revenue and long on services, including funding for kindergarten-12th grade education and higher education. The opening act showed that politicians will do whatever it takes to grasp or hold power. In the weeks ahead, they need to show they also can put the public's interest first.
The Oak Ridger:
Tuesday's political fun and games opened the 106th General Assembly, supposedly made up of political "leaders" who have been elected by the people of Tennessee to help resolve an already challenging 2009 agenda marked by a statewide financial crisis, budget cuts, etc. Regarding this week's "coup" by the Democrats, we believe that by all means -- or is it "by any means"? -- the spoils belong to the victor. But while that's all well and good, we still have to question if our state lawmakers, with everything else they have to contend with and answer for during this vital legislative session, really needed the additional intrigue of what is essentially a bunch of grown-ups playing King of the Hill.
Chattanooga Times Free Press:
Well, that's hardball politics. But no one suggests the game is over. Some Republicans are insisting that Rep. Williams should run in the future as a Democrat or an independent, not as a Republican. And in the days just ahead, many votes in the Tennessee House of Representatives surely will be determined by partisan politics rather than just the merits of the issues.
Tennessee's legislative Democrats have succeeded in "putting one over" on the supposed new Republican majority -- for now. But it will be very interesting to see how all of this eventually plays out when the legislators get down to their primary responsibility of doing business for the best interests of all the people of Tennessee.
Hardball politics is not new in the legislature, so in many ways the stunning vote Tuesday should not surprise Tennesseans. But the fallout is potentially destructive, unless the state can see some genuine leadership and level-headed lawmaking in the follow-through.
Gov. Phil Bredesen expressed as much after the vote Tuesday when he issued a statement asking legislators to join him in serving the best interests of the people in the aftermath of the drama. Every legislator should make a commitment to get beyond the partisan environment, rise above the storm, and work in ways that help Tennesseans. The job is to serve the people, not engage in team sports.
The real losers in all this are the people of Tennessee who aren't being served by the partisan bickering and political gamesmanship. But then, the people were the furthest thing from the Democrats' mind in their rush to goad the Republicans. And it will be the people who will be hurt as this political drama plays itself out during the legislative year.
Murfreesboro Daily News Journal:
Tennessee's General Assembly is infamous for its battles to control the House and Senate each session. Democrats and Republicans have both been trying to snooker each other for years to run the Legislature.
Unfortunately, these activities don't do anything but create mistrust between legislators and the public, which is growing tired of backroom deals on Capitol Hill.