U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann must feel like the luckiest guy in the world. He doesn't have to say a word but looks better in the public's eyes because his opponent in the upcoming Republican congressional primary just shelled out $37,000 for a splashy recreational vehicle that will be his mobile headquarters and then was revealed to have secretly recorded a conversation about the campaign with a former opponent.
Not many 20-somethings like Weston Wamp can peel off $37,000 for a 7-ton RV that he says will be part mobile headquarters, part meeting space and part hotel-on-wheels in the run-up to the 3rd Congressional District primary race in August.
To be sure, there's nothing wrong with 20-somethings having the money for an RV or for the idea to use it to visit people in the spacious district's 11 counties. But in a ever-so- slowly improving economy, fancy RVs that get 11 miles per gallon and cost nearly $40,000 don't endear him to people struggling to make ends meet.
Lamar Alexander's walk across Tennessee in a red plaid shirt during his successful 1978 gubernatorial race and Fred Thompson's cross-state trek in a red pickup truck during his 1994 U.S. Senate race, campaign strategies both, probably connected better with the average Tennessean.
But maybe 2014's pickup truck is a tricked-out RV.
The secret recording by Wamp of former dairy executive Scottie Mayfield is another thing. While Wamp said he recorded the conversation -- in which he tried to talk Mayfield out of supporting Fleischmann -- for his protection, secret recordings never go over very well.
They're better left to action movies and the Nixon White House.
Wamp, whose sister, Coty, secretly recorded Mayfield before a group of college students during the 2012 Republican primary in which Wamp was involved and posted the video to YouTube, should know better.
Neither the RV nor the secret recording are deadly, but to have a chance the energetic, engaging challenger should stick to whatever issues he believes can topple the low-key incumbent, who failed to get a majority of primary voters in either the 2010 or 2012 primary campaigns.
A 10-year-old Tennessee student was asked last October to write about the person she admired most. She chose God, and her teacher chose to ask the girl to write about someone else. More than five months later, a bill is on Gov. Haslam's desk that would protect her right to write on a religious topic.
To hear the left tell it, the bill would encourage bullying, foster hate of homosexuals and worse.
The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed the state House 90-2 and the state Senate 32-0, allows students to express their religious beliefs in their homework, artwork and written and oral assignments without punishment or discrimination. It also allows students to organize student prayer groups -- Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, what have you -- and other religious gatherings on a level playing field with non-curricular activities or groups already protected under the U.S. Constitution. It further permits students to speak from a religious perspective at graduation ceremonies or public events, stating that "student expression ... may not be excluded from the limited public forum because the subject is expressed from a religious viewpoint."
Similar laws have passed in recent years in Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. In Texas, the law passed after, among other incidents, a school prohibited students from wishing troops overseas a "Merry Christmas" and after a first-grader was reprimanded for using the name and image of Jesus when asked what she thinks of when she thinks of Easter.
The ACLU, naturally, complains that public schools will turn into "Sunday schools" and that students will be "required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs." The New Civil Rights Movement website, meanwhile, posted a story about the bill with the headline "Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing LGBT Students To Be Bullied In The Name Of 'Religious Freedom.'"
It's a shame laws have to be passed to ensure what should be First Amendment rights. But when one side only wants laws to ensure its approved "speech," and not anything with which it disagrees, legislation such as the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act is born.