Monday, July 20, 2009

Williams Orders Up Puff Pieces; Newspapers Dutifully Deliver

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 11:05 AM

click to enlarge oie_kentwilliams.jpeg.jpg
House Speaker Kent Williams is a newcomer to the political game, but he's learning fast. Lesson No. 1: The state's newspapers are pushovers. All Williams has to do is snap his fingers and--voila!--headlines across the state suddenly ballyhoo his fabulous leadership abilities.

Williams talked to a few friendly reporters last week, essentially ordering up these articles, and these fierce watchdogs of the Fourth Estate were all more than happy to comply with his wishes. Isn't that nice? And all this time we took Williams for a bumbling backbencher and accused sexual harasser who won power in a corrupt bargain with the Democrats. It turns out, according to these latest reports, he's a wise bipartisan statesman in the mold of Winston Churchill. Here's a sampler of the puffery (and if you believe any of this, Williams will give you a week of his salary):

Johnson City Press: His meteoric rise from second-term representative to speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives was national news. It was a time when he transformed the centuries-old organization of the legislative chamber by allowing both major parties to share power.

At the same time he faced challenges no other speaker had ever faced, resulting in his being kicked out of the Republican Party. Despite the challenges, he led the House to one of its most productive sessions in history.

In addition to all of this, he stood by his mother's side as she suffered a major heart attack and just a short time later suffered with the death of his father.

Knoxville News Sentinel: House Speaker Kent Williams says a growing number of Republican legislators have "really bought into the program" of his leadership after initial resistance.

Williams, of Elizabethton, said his bipartisan approach to legislating avoided gridlock that some expected this year. He said it also led to a record number of bills being approved, including measures on guns and abortion pushed previously by Republicans without success.

He predicts a "very smooth" session next year, perhaps setting the stage for his re-election to another term as speaker - a post he won under circumstances considered to be a one-time fluke.

Chattanooga Times Free Press
: The speaker said he thinks his decision to evenly split membership of committees and subcommitees as well as chairmanships worked well.

He said this strategy did not lead to gridlock as some contended. The General Assembly this year passed 611 bills that became public chapters. His staff provided historical information showing 600 bills became public chapters in 2008, 604 became public chapters in 2007 and 514 became public chapters in 2006.

Memphis Commercial Appeal
: He said he thinks the 2009 session -- which approved long-sought anti-abortion legislation and several gun bills -- vindicated his GOP credentials and his bipartisan approach.

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