Lord Almighty, the governor's race has been so hilariously bizarre lately that I honestly keep waiting for McWherter and Haslam to rip off their faces and reveal that they are actually Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O, and that this whole campaign season has been an elaborate promotion for Jackass 3-D.
First, we've got Haslam with some kind of weird fixation on Ned McWherter. Folks, seriously, if we all took a shot every time Haslam mentioned Big Poppa McWherter, we'd be feeling no pain from here on into next year. And there'd be a certain kind of poetic justice in having Mr. "I Lowered the Cost of Health Care When I Was Mayor" causing us all to need new livers. (While we're sober, let's agree that we will not also take a shot every time Haslam mentions having been mayor. I know some of us are experienced drinkers, but it's just unsafe to advocate taking that many shots.) But it's strange. I mean, I know everyone loves dear old Ned, but at this point, it's starting to feel like Haslam's the kid in school who is always going to tell your dad on you.
And Mike McWherter ... where to even start?
Here's the thing. Regardless of what you think of McWherter as a politician, he is, by all accounts, a genuinely and disarmingly nice guy. Just does not seem to have a mean bone in his body.
So it's odd that his political strategy lately seems to be, "Act like an asshole." I mean, did the person who came up with this strategy not see that McWherter might be many things, but he's not an asshole? I mean, yeah, everyone's having a good laugh at McWherter attempting to link Haslam to Iran, but part of why it's funny is that you just can't believe McWherter actually means it.
You can see him making the plays. First he says that weird crap about how "certain people shouldn't be in certain neighborhoods," when it comes to the Murfreesboro mosque, signaling that he understands the "Muslim Menace" here in Tennessee. Then he links Haslam to a Muslim with some actual menace towards America (see this handy chart by Sean Braisted) and I guess we're all supposed to be screaming through the streets of Tennessee. Maybe picketing Pilots?
Except who actually thinks McWherter believes this is actually something that speaks to Haslam's character? No one thinks his heart is in it.
And, bless his heart, when he announced Haslam did business with a company in Luxembourg, I turned to the person next to me and asked, "Who knew that Godwin's Law applied to gubernatorial campaigns? Doesn't a mention of Nazis mean the debate is automatically over?"
"Oh, come on," my companion said. "How do you get from a mention of 'Luxembourg' to Nazis?"
At that moment, only through blogger's intuition. But Evonik Industries? The same big bad company that supposedly makes Haslam best buddies with Iran? They used to make Zyklon B for the Nazis.
Okay, that's bad.
But who used to make cars for the Nazis? Oh, yeah, folks we really, really need to make cars here — Volkswagen.
So I get it. McWherter's camp was hoping that someone would ask, "So, what's the deal with Luxembourg?" and bring this all out. But I reiterate — are we not grateful that Volkswagen is here?
Do any of us actually believe that McWherter can make some nuanced argument about why Haslam's Nazi ties are a problem but Chattanooga's aren't? No, of course not.
But that's actually beside the point.
Here's the problem. McWherter's campaign does need to go negative. They probably needed to go negative a long time ago. But for sure now. And hard. They need to make it seem like a vote for Haslam is a vote for Satan's BFF. But someone over there needs to take a long hard look at their candidate and realize that they're not running an asshole.
McWherter's a good guy. When he acts like an asshole, it seems disingenuous and, yes, all politicians are disingenuous. But no one wants to vote for a politician who seems so blatantly disingenuous.
Someone else in the campaign needs to step up and be the asshole who makes it his or her job to hammer home that if these are the easy-to-find skeletons in Haslam's closet, what do folks think he's not disclosing?
But it can't be Mike.
Is there no one over there who can see that?
Yes, the buck stops with McWherter. If his campaign is being poorly managed, it's on him.
But one wonders if any of the many Dr. Frankensteins who have cobbled together this campaign — who were supposed to be advising this poor guy — will have any moment's pause about how poorly they've served him?