Cooper: Glen Casada should exit Tennessee House speaker post

Cooper: Glen Casada should exit Tennessee House speaker post

May 10th, 2019 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, speaks after being sworn in on the opening day of the 111th General Assembly in January in Nashville.

Photo by Mark Humphrey

In 2016, when it was revealed late in the campaign Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had made some crude sexual remarks about women, this page decided it could not in good conscience officially endorse him.

Given Hillary Clinton's position on the issues and her pattern of untruthfulness, we couldn't endorse her either, though she was the prohibitive favorite in the race. So we suggested our readers support the Republican Party as "the best hope for the country," and we supported Republicans throughout the ballot, as was long the tradition of this page.

We have come to feel similarly about the antics of Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada. Although he has just shepherded his super majority of Republicans to what was by all rights a successful legislative session, and although he has apologized for making "inappropriate remarks about women," we feel the state and the party would be better off if he stepped down from his position.

In the past, we have decried the pulling out of the likes of a solitary Facebook post, a single college paper or an off-the-cuff statement and using it to smear an individual. Democrats have become the master of this but are aghast when Republicans attempt to do the same thing to them.

Opinions can change. Attitudes can change. People can change. An individual should not be judged in 2019 solely for something he or she did in 2004 or 1991 or 1983.

For Trump, though, it is a pattern. Although we believe he has done many favorable things for the country since taking office, and condemn the efforts on the left to ruin him because he became president, we still abhor his personal behavior. Not only is he unpresidential and unprofessional in some of the things he does, but he is his own worst enemy — for his policies and for re-election — when he does them.

For the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, it is a pattern. After a spanking in the 1994 mid-term election, Bill Clinton sought to work with a Republican Congress, and together they achieved a balanced budget. But he did not quit a pattern of womanizing, and eventually was impeached in the House for lying about it. Hillary Clinton frequently lied to cover her husband's indiscretions leading up to and after his 1992 election, and she continued that habit through her one term as secretary of state under President Barack Obama and then afterward in the run-up to her 2016 presidential race.

For Casada, similarly, his habits do not suggest the mistake of a one-time text message. Although only several of his ungracious comments have been revealed, he nevertheless was on the receiving end of other sexually explicit messages from his now-resigned chief of staff Cade Cothren. In addition, he also received messages sent to him and to a third party by Cothren that Casada acknowledged included "racial slurs, drug use, and various other inappropriate comments."

But last week, before Cothren resigned, Casada couldn't imagine his aide being involved in such behavior. He said he'd known Cothren for nearly a decade and "never known him to act in a manner in which these emails and texts falsely portray him."

In comments this week, the House speaker said, well, no matter, he didn't read the racist and drug-related texts anyway.

And Bill Clinton didn't inhale.

A first untoward text from Cothren to Casada should have resulted in a warning for Cothren that such texts were inappropriate and would not be tolerated. A second one should have resulted in his firing. Instead, these went on at least from 2014 to 2016, probably beyond.

Having apologized publicly in a written statement and to House members during a conference call, Casada said, "[I]t is not the person I am and it hasn't been the way I have conducted myself as Speaker."

Just before becoming speaker, though, his actions indicate otherwise. In one example, his political action committee sent Chattanooga area voters a distorted mailer in the 2018 District 30 Republican primary between Esther Helton and Jonathan Mason.

On one side, it portrayed Mason, who worked for Unum, holding a digitally altered sign that said "I [heart] big insurance companies." On the other, it portrayed a darkly shaded Mason — many recipients believed the PAC was trying to portray the candidate as black in a largely white district — holding a digitally altered sign showing increasing Chattanooga health insurance costs.

That's not the first allegation of dirty tricks against Casada and his PAC, though. Other charges were made during 2018 and in previous elections.

No, as with Trump and the Clintons, it's a pattern. And it doesn't display the type of leadership Tennesseans deserve in their House speaker. We believe he should step down.

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