What will the governor do? He won’t say. “Give me a couple days and I’ll tell you,” he said.
The reporters standing in a little knot around the governor quickly speculated that he will force three board members to quit, then appoint Republicans to replace them. We feel confident about this because there doesn’t seem to be any alternative for Bredesen—unless he wants to try to force three Democrats to lie by claiming they are Republicans. All the board members are believed to be Democrats.
“I’ve tried forcing Republicans to become Democrats and that hasn’t worked,” the governor joked when asked whether he might try that latter tactic.
The law was enacted in 1972 when the Board of Regents system was set up, but nobody ever paid any attention to it. Republicans dug up the law and dusted it off this week as part of their campaign to embarrass Bredesen and the Democrats over the appointment of the governor’s top aide, John Morgan, as chancellor of the Board of Regents.
To choose Morgan, the board had to abandon its practice of requiring chancellor candidates to hold a doctorate degree. The job description seemed written with Morgan in mind, focusing on an ability to work with state leaders and on knowledge of the state's new higher education law. The search committee interviewed only Morgan shortly after the application deadline passed and hired him a week later.
Today, Bredesen defended Morgan again, accusing Republicans of playing politics with higher education and diverting attention from the state’s efforts to improve graduation rates.
“This is an issue no one has cared about for 7 and three-quarters years. Suddenly now an election season is coming up and people are making a big deal out of it. If somebody wants to kick me around a little bit for not knowing [about the law], that’s fine. But I don’t want to lose track of the fact that this completing college is really important. It truly does have bipartisan support. We’ve got really important stuff going on and I hate to see it get diverted by a political sideshow.”