The General Assembly is less than four years removed from the Tennessee Waltz corruption scandal that rocked the state capital in the spring of 2005. These recent events in the House may not rise to that level of criminality, but they are no less deplorable. The sad fact is, some legislators show up for work in Nashville most days with one thing on their minds -- trying to figure out how to pull one over on a member of the opposing party. The citizens of Tennessee deserve better.
Here's the latest: Rep. Brian Kelsey is making excuses for lying at first to the Associated Press about that little text message he sent to Speaker Kent Williams. Kelsey says he didn't recall the reporter asking if he sent "any text message." Oh well, that explains it. Also, he says he assumed "Speaker Williams would not want it to come to light that I was the one making a peace offering to him. I thought he would think it made him look bad, but apparently he thought differently." Apparently so.
More Kelsey: "They are trying to punish the whistleblower for filing the complaint. It's not going to work." House Minority Leader Gary Odom responds: "I think he should resign from the state Legislature and then be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for extortion." Democratic caucus chair Mike Turner: "We're talking to ABC about a reality show up here."
Action Andy Sher calls it a "circus sideshow" and asks the political scientists what they think:
Vanderbilt's John Geer: "It's certainly, from an entertainment point of view, pretty high on the scale. There's certainly some fallout from the consequences of Williams being chosen as speaker. I think people are (miffed) and a few of the gloves are being dropped. ... But they're going to start realizing they've got to get back to governing or otherwise they're all going to face re-election battles they all hadn't planned on because the public won't be patient with this for very long."
MTSU's John Vile: "What a mess! It's an example of getting a short-term political advantage that results in just poisoning the well for the rest of the session. There are 49 people in that body (Republicans) who are absolutely convinced that he (Williams) lied to them and sold them out. Why would he expect that things are going to go smoothly?"