The Perfect Enemy | Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 22, 2022
August 17, 2022

Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 22, 2022

Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 22, 2022  News Channel 5 Nashville

Read Time:17 Minute

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

July 22, 2022

THE HEAT IS REALLY ON; WHAT THE DEFINITION IS; ALL THE MAJOR GOP 5th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES ARE UNDER ATTACK AS EARLY VOTING BEGINS AND NEW FUNDRAISING TOTALS ARE RELEASED; THE FIGHT AND CONTROVERSY OVER REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS CONTINUES; CONGRESSMAN JOHN ROSE ON INSIDE POLITICS; THE PRESIDENT GETS COVID WHILE DR. FAUCI TO RETIRE; CLEANING UP THE GARBAGE ISSUE; ANOTHER JANUARY 6th HEARING WITH MORE TO COME; IT IS PERHAPS THE MOST BIZARRE CRIMINAL CASE IN NASHVILLE HISTORY

THE HEAT IS REALLY ON

I have said before I really try to limit talking about the weather in this column.

But the prolonged heat wave and other extreme weather we are experiencing here in Nashville, across the country and around the world, is rather disturbing. I think puts an end to questions if climate change is real?

The National Weather Service says Nashville has experienced the second hottest summer on record so far in 2022 with the dog days of August and September still to come. We’ve had temperatures above 100 degrees for the first time in a decade and we just saw the 5th longest streak of 90-degree-plus weather (28 days in a row). That ended on Monday, but the very next day a new streak began. Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings seem to be issued almost every other day with the combined temperature and humidity combining to make it feel like 110-115 degrees.

As an urban heat island, Nashville/Davidson County is hotter than its surrounding counties. To better assess the impacts of that, our city has been chosen, along with 13 others, for an urban heat mapping study.

There was one final weather oddity this week in Tennessee. It was a storm that struck the Knoxville area Wednesday night into Thursday and didn’t move through! There was also damage from a storm that struck the Jamestown area.

Across the nation, there are similar stories about heat advisories and excessive heat warnings being issued. In fact, at one time this week, more than 100 million people were being impacted.

Around the world, there is similar extreme weather with the United Kingdom experiencing its highest temperatures ever for a single day and the rest of Western and Central Europe also now being hard hit. Spain and Portugal have suffered 1,900 people killed due to the heat and resulting wildfires.

Extreme weather is also impacting China with both record heat and record rainfall, along with severe flooding.

With his efforts to combat climate change still stymied in Congress, President Joe Biden says he is taking executive action, although his plans are already being criticized for not going far enough.

Western Europe is considered the world leader in addressing climate change issues. But despite these efforts, that part of the world has not been spared in this latest outbreak of extreme weather. Climate change does not recognize countries, continents or any other borders.

WHAT THE DEFINITION IS

The seemingly never- ending controversy over the despicable comments about public school teachers made by Dr. Larry Arnn, Governor Bill Lee’s education advisor from Hillsdale College in Michigan, took some new strange turns this week.

Dr. Arnn claims teachers are the products of “the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.” Calling a group of hardworking professionals dumb, sure sounds insulting, and it is a very direct comment. But Dr. Arnn says he is using a different definition of the word “dumb” than what you think.

Say what? So, don’t believe your own eyes and ears when you’ve seen and heard Dr. Arnn say that public school teachers and the schools they graduate from are dumb?

Changing the subject or the context of this controversy has happened before. Governor Lee says Dr. Arnn didn’t mean Tennessee teachers when he made his “dumb” comments. But Dr. Arnn has never made that distinction in any of his comments I have seen reported. And I have never seen him articulate his very different definition of “dumb,” when he has made his insulting remarks, so people know in what context he is speaking. Of course, he hasn’t. He and the Governor are in full damage control mode (and not doing a very good job of it).

Governor Lee has never called out, or asked, Dr. Arnn to say definitively that he isn’t talking about Tennessee teachers being dumb. He also hasn’t articulated Dr. Arnn’s off-beat definition of dumb himself. In fact, the Governor sat mute on stage when Dr. Arnn made his comments and has never spoken out in any way about what he has said.

On Wednesday of this week, Governor Lee put his own strange twist to this controversy. After putting Hillsdale College and its curriculum in the spotlight last January in his annual State of the State address, now the Governor tells NEWSCHANNEL5’s Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams that his one-time highly touted “partnership” with the Michigan school to operate 50 to 100 charter schools in Tennessee is now “not my vision.”

Well, you sure could have fooled me.

Meanwhile, plenty of educational leaders in Tennessee are already way ahead of where the Governor says he is now. They are speaking out and taking a stand against Hillsdale and Larry Arnn. Three school boards across the state this week, two in Middle Tennessee (Rutherford and Clarksville-Montgomery Counties) and one in East Tennessee (Hamilton County), have rejected allowing Dr. Arnn’s Hillsdale College to operate charter schools in their districts. State legislative leaders, in both houses of the General Assembly, and from both parties, now say they want nothing to do with Governor Lee’s proposal to have Dr. Arnn’s school run 50-100 charter schools across Tennessee.

The charter school decisions regarding Hillsdale College, are likely to be appealed by supporters and may well be reversed by a state review board. But that does not mean the opposition to Dr. Arnn, his views on teacher’s mental capabilities, and Hillsdale’s charter school curriculum, that seems to belittle the Civil Rights movement, will go away, no matter how you define the word dumb.

In another education-related move, in near record time, the Tennessee Department of Education began taking applications this week, for parents in Memphis and Nashville to seek educational vouchers so they can use taxpayers’ dollars to help pay for their children’s private school education. It’s a very quick turn as the new school year begins in about two weeks.

Opponents of the pilot voucher program are continuing legal action to stop the effort.

ALL THE MAJOR GOP 5th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES ARE UNDER ATTACK AS EARLY VOTING BEGINS AND NEW FUNDRAISING TOTALS ARE RELEASED

As voters started going to the polls to early vote this week, all three of the major GOP candidates for the 5th District congressional nomination are under attack. But none of them are attacking each other.

Instead, the spots are being paid for by outside PAC groups.

The assaults began with an ad a couple of weeks ago going after former Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and retired Tennessee National Guard General Kurt Winstead for being “too liberal for Tennessee.”

That ad would seem to aid Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles. Not to be left out, this week an outside group began to attack him over taxes. Here is one of the ads.

The other attack ad on Ogles says he opposes raising taxes when his is running for office but has supported some of them while mayor.

The attack ad on Harwell goes after her for voting for a bill to allow immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, something she later opposed after 9/11 (which the attack ad doesn’t mention). Harwell has talked a lot about the border in her ads. In one of her recent ads, she plays up her vote to deny licenses to immigrants while going strong against President Biden, as all the GOP candidates are.

The other attack ad on Harwell for being “too liberal” criticizes her vote for raising the state gas tax and for being endorsed for governor in 2018 by the Tennessee Education Association, normally a group that leans toward Democrats. Harwell finished fourth in the GOP primary that year.

As for Winstead and the attack on him being a liberal, the candidate said in an Associated Press article that he never planned to run for Congress and he wasn’t as involved as he should have been before 2010 (while he also gave money to Democratic candidates and voted in Democratic primaries).

Winstead says that began to change under the Obama and Biden administrations. He added: “In the Army, we were taught the importance of owning up to your mistakes. Voting in the wrong primary and contributing to the wrong candidates fits into that category.”

Perhaps trying to also make up his past political mistakes, Winstead opened one of his latest TV ads by saying he is proud to say he has “voted four times for Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States.”

Ogles has gone to court, filing a lawsuit against the Tennessee Conservatives PAC running the attack ads against him.

This week also saw the latest round of campaign financial disclosures, the last to be released before the August 4 election. Here you can see a lot of money has raised and spent, who did and for what.

For Mayor Andy Ogles, there could be a problem. His campaign did not file his finance report on time last Friday. It is unclear if it has yet been filed. He could face a fine. Ogles is also catching heat from his fellow commissioners in Maury County. This week they overwhelmingly voted to override his veto of a tax increase, some saying he is playing election politics and being fiscally irresponsible the issue. News reports say Ogles was not present to defend his action when the veto override occurred.

THE FIGHT AND CONTROVERSY OVER REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS CONTINUES

On both the local and national level, the fallout from the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion, remains in the news.

Here in Nashville, the Metro Council, without dissent Tuesday night, approved a resolution requesting the city’s Employee Benefit Board to study and extend health coverage for Metro employees to include reimbursement to obtain out-of-state medical procedures unavailable in Tennessee. That would apparently include abortions. The benefit would include transportation, accommodations, and related costs. This could impact up to 15,000 city workers.

It should be noted that federal law does not allow the use of tax dollars for abortion purposes. It is not believed there is a similar ban in Tennessee on the use of state and local taxes for abortion. It does seem likely that the Tennessee General Assembly might soon implement such a restriction given this potential action by the Council even though the measure does not appropriate any funds.

At its last meeting, the Council also approved, again without dissent, a resolution requesting Nashville Police make criminal enforcement, arrest, and investigation of abortions its lowest priority. The resolution also requests the Cooper administration to restrict city funds and city staff from being used to investigate, catalog or report suspected abortions.

On the national level, U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland this week threatened to sue states over abortion access, a move that could further widen the conflict between the Biden administration and states (such as Tennessee) with laws that greatly restrict or ban abortion.

In the House of Representatives, the fight over reproductive rights moved to contraception, with the lower chamber on Thursday passing a bill to safeguard access to birth control. All the House Democrats voted yes along with eight Republicans. Two other GOP members did not vote.

Also in the wake of Justice Clarence Thomas’ recent written opinion in the Dobbs abortion case, House Democrats this week, along with a surprising 47 Republicans, passed a bill to codify the right to same-sex marriage, which the Justice thinks, like contraception, should be repealed by the Supreme Court .

Does either bill have a chance to pass the Senate and become law? Probably not, although at least 3-4 GOP Senators say they will support the same sex marriage proposal and 2-3 others say they are keeping an open mind about the bill. Therefore, it at least has a chance. Maybe.

CONGRESSMAN JOHN ROSE ON INSIDE POLITICS

The dead of summer is usually a relatively quiet time in Washington.

But in this mid-term election year, things are busy inside the Beltway with Congress back from its July 4th recess.

To talk about many of the issues facing the nation, our guest this week on INSIDE POLITICS is Tennessee 6th District Republican Congressman John Rose.

We are happy for the Congressman to join us in studio. We thank him for taking the time.

I am also pleased to report that this week’s INSIDE POLITICS program will air at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening on the main channel of NEWSCHANNEL5. Tune in!

That’s in addition to our regular weekly schedule on NEWCHANNEL PLUS.

Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday.

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don’t work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted early in the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week here on my own Facebook page, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.

THE PRESIDENT GETS COVID WHILE DR. FAUCI TO RETIRE

The virus rages on.

This week it was announced that President Biden has contracted COVID-19. Fortunately, he has “very mild symptoms.” This week as well, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the face and voice of wisdom and guidance during the pandemic, revealed he will be retiring by the end of the President’s term in January 2025. Already a public health icon for his work in the early days of the AIDs epidemic, he is truly an American hero.

On a personal level, I think I know more people, including relatives, who have the virus right now, than at any other time during the past two-plus years. Even though you can get this latest version of the disease, while being vaccinated, and even double-boosted, most folks are no longer wearing masks or taking precautions. I am going to try and stay safe and wear a mask in crowded areas or if I am around people I don’t know. I have come too far and worked diligently to avoid COVID-19, I sure don’t want to get it now, because you can’t count on getting a case with mild symptoms. And besides who wants to get sick for any reason. Let’s also pray that, when the weather gets colder, there will not be another winter surge.

CLEANING UP THE GARBAGE ISSUE

For the last several months, Metro government has been scrambling to pick up the trash every week.

Caught in the lurch due to the bankruptcy of its major outside contractor, the Cooper administration had to suspend monthly curbside recycling pickups and hire emergency help to get enough resources to do the job.

Now after Tuesday’s Metro Council meeting, a new group is in place to help the city carry out its trash, even though the Council had to suspend its rules to pass one final piece of needed legislation.

The final legislation assigns the contract of the Red River firm, (which has been in bankruptcy and has created the major collection issues for Metro) to the Platform Waste Solutions firm. They will take over 75 routes now that the resolution is approved. The contract has about 29 months left.

Tuesday night, the Council also approved a 5-year, $7.5 million contract with Waste Pro of Tennessee, Inc. That company will provide Metro with once per week, Monday through Friday, solid waste collection for a total of 20 routes per week. Service is anticipated to begin by September 1, 2022.

These two new firms are joining Waste Management, Inc. of Tennessee, which was given a similar trash collection contract back in May.

You can be sure that the Council and the Cooper administration hope this is the end of their trash problems for good, or at least until after next year’s Metro elections.

But maybe this is not the end of Metro’s trash woes, as late this week, the operators of Nashville’s construction waste landfill say they will stop taking waste from Davidson County at the end of August.

ANOTHER JANUARY 6th HEARING WITH MORE TO COME

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th takeover of the U.S. Capitol, held its second prime-time public hearing Thursday night.

The session was expected to be perhaps its last. But committee leaders say their probe continues to receive so much additional potentially significant information, they are going to take the month of August to review what they have, and schedule more public hearings in September.

The Thursday nationally televised hearing again delivered new revelations and details, this time in an hour-by-hour examination of what then-President Donald Trump did (and didn’t do) on the afternoon of January 6, 2021 when his supporters violently took over the Capitol building trying to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. They also presented testimony about what the President was doing in the days just after the Capitol riot.

If these hearings were a summer replacement TV show, they would get high marks for creating drama and consistently unveiling new information. But did they accomplish their goal to engage the public and change minds about the serious importance of what happened, and how what occurred did, and still could, endanger our democracy? A recent new poll (taken before Thursday’s session) says that answer is not clear cut and breaks down on party lines.

One other major thing the Select Committee must do, to finish its work, is a final report of recommendations. One recommendation already coming from a group of Senators is to change the law that governs the certification process to elect a president. One big change would be to make it crystal clear that Vice President has no power to hold up or modify the electoral vote reports that come from the states. Former President Trump and his lawyers pushed a strategy that the Vice President had those powers. It appears the only thing that stopped this hair-brained scheme from working was the courage and unwillingness of the Vice President on January 6, Mike Pence, not to do it.

Maybe by the time the January 6 committee resumes hearings in September we will learn more about the “erased” text messages of the Secret Service from period around January 6. I am not an expert, but I do know that law firms and other agencies have developed a real expertise in recovering lost electronic communications that have come into play in divorce cases and other matters.

Now with Secret Service being asked to curb its probe while a federal criminal investigation is underway, and some in the agency are seeking private counsel, who knows when we might learn the truth.

IT IS PERHAPS THE MOST BIZARRE CRIMINAL CASE IN NASHVILLE HISTORY

Late Thursday, a Davidson County jury returned a guilty verdict in a felony case involving the vandalism of the new Metro Jail even before it opened.

Alex Friedmann, a well-known criminal justice reform advocate of all things, was also found guilty of planting weapons inside the new corrections facility to aid a potential insurrection by inmates after the jail opened.

Friedmann did all his nefarious work by posing as a construction worker and gaining access to the work site.

Remember, this is not fiction. It actually occurred!

What happened is not a made-for-TV movie script or a novel.

Friedmann’s lawyers admitted that it did, but argued the damages were not enough to merit a felony.

The affair is also not over for Friedmann. He still faces federal gun charges.