Thursday, June 24, 2010

GOP Clarifies Position on 'Donkey Punch' Article

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 2:11 PM

We guess they didn't read this week's Scene cover story, "Donkey Punch," that closely today at state GOP headquarters before they emailed it to supporters and recommended that all red-blooded Republicans read it for a really good belly laugh at the Democrats' expense. Whoopsies!

Now, party chairman Chris Devaney has been forced to send another email pointing out that he doesn't agree with everything we wrote. He doesn't say exactly what he's talking about, but we think he's probably referring to all the ridicule of Republicans in the article.

"I know the folks that read the material we send can judge for themselves what news is factual and what is liberal propaganda," Devaney writes, "but I did want to clarify my position so there were no misconceptions."

So let's get this straight. When we wrote that Tennessee Democrats are on the verge of extinction "like some pathetic species of vanishing wildlife," that was factual. But when we called Republicans "wacked-out" and referenced the "Obama birthers, Tea Party frothers, gun freaks, and all the rest of that far-out gang of right-wing loons" who are running the legislature, that was liberal propaganda. Is that what Devaney means? Here's his email:

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Ramsey Sends Love Letter to Gun Nuts

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Ramseys gun mailer opens with this
  • Ramsey's gun mailer opens with this
Did you know Ron Ramsey is the only candidate for governor who carries a sportsman lifetime hunting and fishing license and the only one with a handgun carry permit? He's the guy who will "always stand on the side of law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves, their families and their property from dangerous criminals." That's Ramsey's message in a mail piece to Tennessee gun freaks.

Ramsey thinks the gun crowd will propel him to victory in the GOP primary. Or at least that's one of the arguments he's making to voters. There are roughly 300,000 handgun carry permit holders, he says, and 600,000 Republicans are expected to vote in the primary. At this point in his stump speech, Ramsey pauses and raises his eyebrows, as if the conclusion is so obvious there's no need to state it.

It seems a little far-fetched that paranoid gun nuts could actually choose the GOP nominee. (Will they vote in a block for one candidate based solely on the gun issue?) But then they do already run the legislature. So we guess anything's possible.

A Nut to Remember: Watch for Mr. Peanut on the Cover of Sunday's NY Times Book Review

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Margaret Renkl at broke what by now is the worst-kept secret in town: that Sunday's New York Times Book Review will feature what is evidently a rave review of Mr. Peanut, Nashville author Adam Ross' first novel. It comes on the heels of Michiko Kakutani's Times review last Monday — a mild pan ("doesn’t seem terribly concerned with logic or plausibility") until you sift through Kakutani's tea leaves, at which point it looks like a cautiously hedged rave ("a dark, dazzling and deeply flawed novel that announces the debut of an enormously talented writer").

This nugget comes from the lead graph of Renkl's excellent Q&A with Ross online: "Jonathan Cape, a Random House UK imprint, leaked word via Twitter that none other than Scott Turow will sing the book's praises in the Sunday New York Times Book Review, apparently calling it 'a brillant [sic] powerful memorable book.' " We'll put up a link to the review once it's available. As for the print version, we understand you'll have a hard time missing it.

In the meantime, we're serious: go check out Renkl's piece right now — even if, as a friend said at Tuesday night's book signing at Davis-Kidd, "I've already read more about this book than any other book I've ever read." It's very funny, sharply insightful, reads like a streak, and gives a better sense of Ross' spirit of play than most anything else I've read on the book.

And while you're there, take some time to explore the Chapter 16 site, a project of Humanities Tennessee, where Renkl and her staff of contributors wage war daily on behalf of Tennessee authors and the South's entire literary tradition. Fighting the million-headed hydra of viral media, Renkl and Chapter 16 stand up for the virtues of in-depth reading, considered interviews and substance over snark, showing fellowship to virtually anyone who bucks the odds to complete and bring to the public a book. Stay awhile.

UPDATE: Here's Turow's review, which gets the cover. A particularly sharp passage: "It is only because of the book’s unflinching honesty about the perils of marriage that we can celebrate and credit the hope it eventually offers. All three husbands ultimately recognize a pathway to marital happiness. 'If he could feel her want,' one reasons, 'if he could prove to her that he’d always be there to feel it, then they’d be complete.' It is no small thing that Ross has dedicated this novel to his wife."

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Are Tennessee Democrats Doomed to Oblivion?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 10:29 AM

This week's Scene examines the distressing status of Tennessee Democrats. The once-dominant party of Andy Jackson is headed for political Siberia unless a miracle happens and Republicans somehow manage to blow their big opportunity in the fall elections.

OK, so Tennessee Democrats are unprincipled and bumbling. But their plight isn't entirely their own fault, as party officials point out in the article:

David Harper, the party's Middle Tennessee regional vice chairman, holds out hope for an economic upswing to blunt some of the antipathy toward Obama and improve Democrats' prospects this fall. But he acknowledges the party is fighting deeply held racist attitudes among white voters.

"My wife and I were just talking about it this morning," says Harper, a retired business executive in Hartsville. "We lost longtime friends over the fact that we voted for an N-word. OK? I'm not going to say what they really say. We live in the woods out here and you cannot imagine how bad it is. They still refer to Martin Luther King Day as the N-day. They are just very belligerent about it. It's unfortunate. I don't think we're going to be able to change that real quick."

"It's out there," agrees another party executive committee member, Dennis Gregg of Crossville. "I'll tell you one comment I heard during the '08 election from a longtime Democrat. She just said she couldn't stand the idea of Michelle Obama as the first lady. That was just offensive to her, the idea that there's a black woman in charge of the White House. So it's out there, and that was from a Democrat."

And so we ask you, dear Pith reader: Can Democrats overcome the Obama Fear Factor to win back the state House this fall and avoid oblivion? Or are they doomed to an irrelevant, second-class status like Democrats in Mississippi and Alabama? Should we even care?

Molly Secours in HuffPo: Why Did McChrystal Talk?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 10:27 AM

From Nashville columnist Molly Secours' commentary in the Huffington Post, posted yesterday shortly before Gen. Stanley McChrystal's ouster as commander in Afghanistan:

What is more interesting than McChrystal's ego tirade is the question: what would allow him to believe that he could publicly disrespect and denigrate the President (his Commander in Chief) — which flies in the face of military protocol — without consequence?

Why did he feel it was acceptable to speak in such a demeaning way about his boss and not compromise his credibility or jeopardize his position?

And one can't help but wonder if Barack Obama were white, would McChrystal have made the assumption that he could defy military protocol by undermining the Commander in Chief and remain above the fray? Surely he understands better than most the significance of at least "presenting" a united front to the world.

Even if you don't swallow Secours' suggestion that McChrystal's lapse in judgment was racially motivated, she does raise the question I've wondered ever since the story broke: Why would a general with McChrystal's career-bred awareness of military protocol speak that openly to a reporter?

The truth is, if you read the Rolling Stone article — which is terrific and enormously troubling, especially on the question of the counterinsurgency's effectiveness — it's not at all clear that he did. The author, Michael Hastings, praises the general's unusual candor, but direct quotes on policy from McChrystal are few: the most damning information (e.g., that President Obama was ill-prepared and intimidated by the military brass) is relayed by sources present at meetings or familiar with his thoughts.

Even so, those details survived the fact-checking process. Which leaves the question: Was this a costly blunder on McChrystal's part, or a strategic exit?

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Media Run Wild with Gore Sex Story

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 8:35 AM

In the month since Al and Tipper Gore announced their separation, they've become tabloid stars. There was gossip, quickly shot down as "complete crap," that Al had an affair, and another story that Al is gay. Now, after a National Enquirer report yesterday, we have learned that a masseuse claims she was "subjected to unwanted sexual touching" by the former vice president at a Portland, Ore., hotel in 2006. This story made it into the mainstream media today after the Portland police released a 73-page "confidential special report" on the masseuse's accusations.

No charges were ever brought, or apparently even contemplated, against Gore. There's no indication that he was ever contacted by the authorities. The case was closed for insufficient evidence after the woman initially refused to cooperate. Inexplicably in 2009, she returned and wanted to be interviewed by investigators. The police "confidential special report" is almost entirely her long statement. The DA's office didn't even know about this follow-up statement until yesterday. The police apparently didn't think it was important enough to forward to prosecutors. The Portland Tribune had the story two years ago but chose not to report it because it didn't meet the newspaper's standards for publication.

But all over the world today, there are headlines that make it sound like Gore is a sex-fiend criminal.
Woman accused Gore of unwanted sexual contact ... Gore mauled me, says masseuse ... Gore in sex probe ... Gore Accuser Paints Picture of Erratic, Forceful Man

We couldn't find this headline: Gore Reputation Smeared by Wild Media Reports of Woman's Unsubstantiated Claims.

Update: The masseuse originally told police she didn't want to complain because she was afraid her reputation would be destroyed. But then this month, she asked for a copy of her statement and said she was taking it to the media. She reportedly was thinking about suing Gore before going to the National Enquirer and asking for $1 million for her story.

Tin-Foil Hat Time: Are the Democrats Throwing the Governor's Race?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 5:27 AM

Everyone I know who knows Mike McWherter finds him to be a thoughtful, engaging person who is deeply concerned about the future of the state of Tennessee. So one wonders why his campaign seems determined to treat him like Sloth from The Goonies, keeping him locked away from the public eye while his dad goes out and collects on old political debts to ensure that the right people say vaguely nice things about Mike.

Pith wonders if we should send a rescue party or some kind of hostage negotiation team to free Mike from a bunch of folks who seem more intent on securing their own legacies than winning the race.

Take the most recent dispatch from the TNDP. This is a press release about Gov. Phil Bredesen endorsing McWherter. As usual, it starts with Chip Forrester having some sort of thought or feeling about some Republicans. In this case, Forrester thinks they are "flawed" and in "big trouble." Okay, fine, we all have come to accept that every TNDP press release is going to focus at least some on Forrester's feelings.

But then, in a press release about a lame-duck governor endorsing the Democratic gubernatorial candidate — a candidate, moreover, who's recognizable mostly for his name and not much more — the sitting governor merits two paragraphs devoted to how great he and his many accomplishments are.

McWherter's greatness and qualifications get exactly 20 words.

That's all the TNDP can muster for the Democratic candidate — "Mike McWherter's success as a small-business owner and his experience at creating jobs will resonate with voters in November."

Um, if that's all you've got? No it won't.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bredesen Endorsement 'Kiss of Death,' Steve Gill Says

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 7:44 PM

McWherter: 'I Feel Pretty Good About Where I Am'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Yarbro Hits Henry on Abortion, the Environment and Health Care

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 1:35 PM

Now, this is how you do it. Mike McWherter could take a cue from Jeff Yarbro. While McWherter wasted an opportunity today to explain why voters should pick him instead of Haslam or Wamp or Ramsey to be the next governor, Yarbro is drawing a sharp contrast with Sen. Douglas Henry in their primary campaign. Yesterday, Yarbro challenged Henry to a series of debates. Today, he told why he thinks debates are important:

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