Thursday, July 1, 2010

Governor Reveals Odd Choice for Role Model: RFK

Posted By on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 8:31 AM

Gov. Phil Bredesen is often criticized (at least here) for governing like an android, refusing to take risks or to care passionately about much of anything. In his two terms as governor, with the exception of his dismantling of TennCare, he has rarely tried to do something that wasn't already widely popular. Oddly, for exactly those qualities he so lacks, he cites Bobby Kennedy as his political role model.

"I was always a huge admirer of Robert Kennedy. Not so much JFK. Robert Kennedy was one of the last really passionate men who was willing to risk real things in politics. He has been, in absentia, a kind of a mentor for the way I've tried to approach things."

OK, that's weird. Our governor's self-image seems a little distorted. All this time, while everyone else was wondering why he ran for governor in the first place if he didn't want to do anything, did he picture himself as dashing, complex and charismatic? A better role model for Bredesen would have been Jimmy Carter the technocrat. But by comparison, Carter was a fiery guy.

Bredesen bared his soul in a speech to the Girls State program at Lipscomb. Erik Schelzig has the report. The governor also said:

He's not interested in running for the Senate: "I can't think of anything in politics that I would like to do less than that. Because I think so much of the really interesting stuff that's going on in our country is happening in the states and locally."

He learned about hardball politics in his first campaign for mayor: "The other side was planting all these rampant rumors that when we came to town we were homeless; that I showered and changed in the Shoney's; and that my wife 'walked the streets.' And once you've been through that, there's not much someone can say in a political ad that causes you too much difficulty."

He ran for governor because Ned McWherter told him to: "He called me in and sat me down and told me to run for governor. I had never met a governor in my lifetime, so when one sits you down and tells you run for it you certainly think about it seriously."

He caught a lot of grief from Democrats when he tossed all those sick people off the TennCare rolls: "I heard from Democrats around the state basically explaining to me that I was a footnote, that not only was I not going to be re-elected as governor, but that I would probably not win the Democratic primary. Interestingly the public in general ... were much more commonsensical. I said, 'If that's the case, so be it.' And you know, a year later, I came back and became the first governor in over a century to win every county in the state."

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