Since I’m older than dirt, there have been occasions over the years when first-term state legislators would ask me if I had any advice for them.
When a major and controversial issue looms study it, decide where you are and let everyone know where you are. In other words, pick a side early, have a reputation for keeping your word, and do not be known as a member who will go where the wind blows.
Make sure you do not get into the group known as the undecideds. You will get hammered by both sides, wooed by both sides and hounded by the media. And finally, do not under any circumstances be the deciding vote. Yours will be the only vote anyone remembers.
You would think someone who has been around as long as Lamar Alexander could avoid this trap. But not so. In the impeachment trial of President Trump, he got the label undecided, he was then hounded by the media and hammered by both sides over whether he would march in lockstep with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or whether he would vote to call more witnesses as the Democrats wanted.
And horror of horrors, he was the deciding vote and the only one that will be remembered. When he announced how he would vote the “more witnesses” movement collapsed.
Alexander now finds himself being excoriated by both sides. The Trump supporters will never forget his failure to fall in line and salute. The anti-Trumpers are expressing their disappointment.
I’ve never been a Lamar fan. But I would like to make the case that he did exactly the right thing and he expressed the position of the majority of his Republican colleagues. He, and anyone who has been paying attention, says Trump did what he was accused of and what he did was wrong – inappropriate. But it did not rise to the level of removing him from office. There was no point in listening to additional witnesses and dragging things out. Everyone knew he was guilty. But if Trump is to be removed from office, let the voters do it.
If you believe that Trump didn’t hold up aid to Ukraine or that he didn’t ask them to investigate Joe Biden you have surrendered your critical faculties or you haven’t been paying attention.
Joe and Hunter Biden should be investigated. By the FBI. I understand Trump’s frustration that the mainstream media could not be counted on to investigate what should be disqualifying information about Biden’s presidential run. (In the media’s defense, Trump’s kids are also trading off their father’s position.) Trump’s problem is that instead of turning to the FBI he turned the problem over to Rudy Giuliani and a couple of his questionable associates, otherwise known as the “Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
I doubt you could find 10 Republican senators who, in their heart of hearts, didn’t agree with Lamar’s position. Many have echoed his argument. But it will be Lamar who will take the heat.
TVA governance: It’s great news that former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell is nominated for the TVA board. Harwell has extensive experience in public policy and one would hope she will express horror at the idea that a TVA board chair can buy expensive airplanes or negotiate golden parachutes that are sickening in their excess. Perhaps the board might reconsider being a rubber stamp that exercises no governance over an out-of-control bloat of overpaid management.
What’s the minimum? There are bills to raise the state’s minimum wage rate and the issue often arises in political campaigns. You should remember that Tennessee does not have a minimum wage to be raised. There is no minimum wage under state law. By default, the minimum wage is whatever the federal minimum wage is, as defined by Congress, currently $7.25 per hour. If Tennessee wants to raise the minimum raise, it will first have to establish a minimum wage.
Frank Cagle is a former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.