Cook: Fifty-one words of nothing

Cook: Fifty-one words of nothing

February 15th, 2013 by David Cook in Opinion Cartoons

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Fifty-one words.

When asked -- a dozen times -- for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander's office to produce any substantial explanation why he refused to renominate Dr. Marilyn Brown -- one of the most decorated energy experts in the land -- to the TVA board, we, the people, get little more than scraps from the table.

Fifty-one words of nothing.

"I certainly respect Dr. Brown's academic credentials, but I encouraged the president to send the Senate a different nominee better suited to membership on the board of directors of the nation's largest public utility," Alexander's official statement said.

"The Senate approved four other TVA nominees who in my judgment are well-qualified for board membership."

Menus are longer than this. Mimes? More talkative.

The casual neglect and insulting shortness of this 51-word explanation refuses to recognize that a real answer is indeed expected, justified and part of that social contract that comes with being elected.

How does a woman who won the Nobel Prize for her work on climate change, managed multimillion-dollar budgets at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and has a plan to save the South billions in energy costs not qualify for the TVA board, on which she has already served for two years?

How exactly, senator, is she not suited?

Since January, I've written eight emails and made four phone calls to Alexander's office. At least.

Their response? Haikus say more.

"Sen. Alexander has made his statement on the matter," emailed Jim Jeffries.

(He's the senator's communications director, of all things).

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who also refused to renominate Brown, gave a lengthier statement after nine environmental groups pressed.

"I believe every board member must have an abiding appreciation of TVA's important economic development role and impact on the well-being of Valley residents," Corker said. "Unfortunately, Dr. Brown does not share that point of view."

By silencing the most knowledgeable voice on energy, you reduce the board to something less diverse, more myopic: the only lens an economic one.

"In my discussions with Dr. Brown, she did not seem to share the concern of employers in our state that TVA's power rates are becoming less competitive," Corker said.

Wait a minute.

"I voted every time ... not to raise rates," Brown said Thursday.

Brown won't say much, but for different reasons than Alexander.

"I am still hopeful I will be renominated," she said. "If I am, I look forward to perhaps a more open discussion on these issues."

I'll start. Three words, directed to Sen. Alexander.

Please explain yourself.