Way back when Tennessee Republicans first won the supermajority, a Republican operative told me that Republicans knew they were going to win. They even knew they were going to win big. But they had no idea they were going to win so big. And it meant they'd run into an unexpected problem — too many jobs to fill, not enough Republican folks to fill them.
Supposedly, it got to the point where, if you could be counted on to consistently argue conservative politics at the coffee shop in the morning, chances are someone was going to call you and ask you to be deputy chief of this or community outreach person of that, because there just weren't enough even remotely qualified warm bodies to go around.
At the time, I thought this was a joke, an exaggeration. After all, there are some pretty high level Republicans who didn't get jobs with the new regime. What, for instance, has Robin Smith been doing lately?
But a couple of stories I read over the weekend have me wondering if there's not more truth in that tale than I'd realized at the time.
First, Cari Wade Gervin over at MetroPulse has a story about the colorful history of former Bradley County Sheriff and former East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble, whom Haslam has appointed to the state Board of Parole:
In February, Gobble resigned from his position after a string of malfeasances, including abusing the city's Facebook page; hiring a 19-year-old friend from church he referred to as his "Jedi Knight" as the city's communications director at $35,000 a year and then, when realizing that the appointment violated city code, deleting the code from the website in the hopes that no one would find out; threatening and suspending a court clerk over a case Gobble's daughter was involved in; and even using his city credit card to pay for regular trips to Baskin Robbins as a "justifiable business expense."
He was reportedly fired from his position in the Secret Service and forced to resign from his position as director of the Bradley County Emergency Agency for violations of the Hatch Act — i.e., the law that prevents people using their offices to conduct campaign activities on the job. (Similar violations had previously forced him off the Cleveland City Council.)
Then, just before Gobble left his job as Bradley County Sheriff, the jail almost lost its certification with the Tennessee Corrections Institute for overcrowding, mold in the kitchen, and standing water in at least one cell.
This is the best Haslam can do when searching around the state for someone to be on the Parole Board? There's not one single person with similar qualifications in this state who isn't almost comically corrupt? If I were a Republican, I might be insulted by that implication.
But it gets better. And by "better," I mean "more hilarious."
NewsChannel5 had a story about whether Gov. Haslam has violated campaign finance laws through his employment of Tom Ingram in all his various jobs. Deep in that story is this:
Other emails reveal that in a September 2012 discussion with the subject line "planning session," Ingram told Mark Cate we "also needs [sic] to discuss super PAC."
Haslam's office said Cate did not know what the "super PAC" reference meant.
Traditionally, the term refers to a political action committee that helps to support a candidate's campaign — although it normally cannot coordinate with that candidate or his campaign.
Mark Cate is Gov. Haslam's chief of staff. Let this sink in. In the best-case scenario, we're supposed to believe that the governor's chief of staff had no idea which super PAC Tom Ingram might be referring to in an email. In the worst, Cate didn't know what a super PAC was?
The mind boggles. I can understand how a regular person not caught up in the world of politics might not "know what the 'Super PAC' meant," but the governor's own chief of staff? In real life, wouldn't that make him utterly unqualified for his job?
Are these the best options Haslam has? Here's the thing. I pick on Republicans mercilessly. And for good reason. But I refuse to believe that, even if Haslam only looks to conservatives to do things around the state, his best options are people who are corrupt or people who are morons. The Tennessee Republicans simply cannot be this hard up for people to fill positions.
Or can they? If this is the cream of the crop, Republicans have some serious problems.