Sohn: GOP preaches unity, but slaps Bredesen for it

Sohn: GOP preaches unity, but slaps Bredesen for it

August 8th, 2018 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

Former Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, left, greets GOP Commissioner Sabrena Turner-Smedley and the late former GOP Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey in 2015 when exit 9 on I-75 was named for Bredesen and Ramsey because of their strong bipartisan cooperation to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga and Tennessee.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

If we thought local GOP politics got nasty in the primary, we probably haven't really seen nasty yet.

Witness the dialogue from the Monday's Pachyderm "unity" meeting. It was a come-to-your-Republican-Jesus meeting with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee Sen. Bo Watson, Hamilton County party Chairwoman Marsha Yessick hoisting the "unity" flag and urging the faithful to support with words, action and money — especially money — the GOPers on the ballot in November.

By their own words, they have to help Donald Trump achieve his agenda.

"We've got to hold the House and I'll tell you why: Nancy Pelosi wants to impeach President Trump. Nancy Pelosi can't hold the [speaker's] gavel," said Fleischmann. "The Democrats are so far left they've fallen off the charts."

He also called the Democratic contender for Sen. Bob Corker's seat, popular and two-term former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, "Chuck Schumer's No. 1 recruit."

Then Yessick implored local Pachys to move past the bitter mud-slinging of the past months between Esther Helton and Jonathan Mason for Tennessee House District 30, the seat being vacated by Marc Gravitt who successfully ran for Hamilton County Register of Deeds. Helton won the District 30 seat by 140 votes.

Yessick said she'd been told for 10 years of competing GOP factions on either side of the Tennessee River, the groups commonly referred to as the Hixson and Harrison/Highway 58 mafias, who supported Helton and Mason, respectivly, but, "we're not going to have that; we're going to dam that river and come together and support people on both sides of that river."

Meanwhile, a similar "unity" meeting took place in Nashville on Saturday, where there was a closed-door lunch for a twin choir practice. The media event preceding that lunch featured no speeches from defeated gubernatorial candidates. No questions were taken.

Tennessee Journal Editor Erik Schelzig wrote that "putting a lid on the unsuccessful candidates avoided a repeat of the 2010 event in which losing gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp took some not-so-subtle swipes at the nominee, Bill Haslam. But keeping the defeated candidates from speaking their minds didn't exactly project organic unity building within the ranks."

Fast forward to Monday, when GOP "unity" appeared to be strained again when Bredesen's newest online ad was posted on his website with some of those same GOP cheerleaders chanting the former governor's sense of — well, "unity" — along with other attributes.

The ad's banner states, "What Republicans Are Saying About Phil Bredesen." Watchers see a series of videotaped favorable comments made by Corker, Fleischmann, Republican pundit Scottie Nell Hughes, former state House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart and Bill Phillips, a state lobbyist and consultant who worked for the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and as an assistant manager for operations in the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign.

"Phil Bredesen is a friend of mine, OK," Corker is shown saying in previously reported comments made at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. "I have worked with him for 23 years. We worked together to bring the Titans to our state. When I became a senator, and he was governor, we brought Volkswagen to our state. And he was a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person."

Corker did, in fact, make those comments — and took GOP heat for it. Afterward, he said he is backing Blackburn but won't campaign against his friend Bredesen. At Saturday's "unity" meeting in Nashville, Corker stood beside both Blackburn and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee.

Fleischmann, in the Democratic ad, is shown saying Bredesen as governor "had a very strong fiscal relationship with a lot of the business people in this state, and he did a good job as governor."

Fleischmann, too, has endorsed Blackburn, and charges that he said so in that same comment, but that part was edited out of the Bredesen ad lines. Also edited out, he said, was that Blackburn's values are in line with Tennesseans and she "will stand with the president and with the Republican agenda."

Maggart, in the ad, said Bredesen "did a lot of good things in our state like fix TennCare." The statement was taken from her comments on a weekly WKRN political discussion program, but she said Monday in an email to the Times Free Press that Bredesen's campaign "chopped and spliced my sentence together and my entire point was changed. So much for 'really working across the aisle' when he had to manipulate my point to serve his purpose."

On the other hand, in that same email to the Times Free Press, she said: "He did a lot of good things in our state, but he had a lot of Republican support. I was there, we helped him do the things the Democrats absolutely refused to do like fix TennCare."

Just to recap: Everybody says they want unity. Quite a number Republicans have praised Bredesen for unity. But when Bredesen puts that unity on display, they get all huffy, talk out of the other sides of their mouths, and accuse him of not modeling unity.

There those Pachyderms go again, helping the president with his agenda — the agenda of demonization and discord.

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