Tennessee and Hamilton County residents were forced to stand by and watch some of our leaders make shameful votes on our behalf on Wednesday.
The first abhorrent vote came from 60 Republican members of the House of Representatives, and the other occurred with five Republicans sitting on the Hamilton County Commission dais.
In Congress, two-thirds of House Republicans — and all of the GOP's House leaders — joined every House Democrat in a vote to hand President Donald Trump a 354-60 stinging rebuke for his recent decision to withdraw American forces just inside Syria's border and green-light Turkey to invade. Trump took this knee-jerk action after a phone call with Turkey's president even though our defense and foreign affairs experts had accurately told him several times in recent months that the consequences would be dire. The fallout, he was warned, could well include the slaughter of thousands of Kurds who helped America fight the Islamic State, as well as the release of hundreds of jailed Islamic terrorists. It also would open the door for more control by Russia.
As the magnitude of Trump's mistake became clear and those terrorists did, in fact, begin to be released and thousands of Kurds did, in fact, die, and the only winner emerged to be Russia, the House voted to oppose Trump's acquiescence to the Turkish assault.
And who do you suppose voted with the 60 supporting the president's foolish action?
If you said District 3 Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, you would be correct.
Likewise, among the 60 circling wagons around Trump were District 4 Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, John Rose, R-Cookeville, and Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville. From Georgia, District 14 Rep. Tom Graves, R-Dalton, stuck with Trump.
For heaven's sake, even Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn — normally a staunch Trump supporter — has been sharply critical of Trump's Syrian mistake. She called the violence and human suffering caused by it "abhorrent." And even as she applauded the Trump administration's pledge of $50 million in emergency funds for humanitarian aid to Syria, she added that "those aid dollars will not keep the Kurds protected. It will not prevent ISIS resurgence or protect against Russian or Iranian influence in Syria."
Blackburn, like Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and numerous other Republicans, understood that certainly on this issue they could break with Trump and still not talk about impeachment. In fact, the Turkey/Syria issue gave them an out, of sorts. They could say, see, we're not just Trump rubber stamps.
But not Fleischmann, whose duplicity seems particularly hurtful, given that among his most recent news releases is a statement and video in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001. It begins: "18 years ago today, our nation fell victim to an unthinkable act of terrorism – one that stole the lives of thousands of Americans. "
Never mind that Trump's action just loosed the same type of terrorists again. The last line of the resolution on which Fleischmann voted no reads, in part, that Congress "calls on the White House to present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS."
Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville; Steve Cohen, D-Memphis; David Kustoff, R-Germantown; Phil Roe, R-Jonesborough, and Mark Green, R-Ashland City, voted yes on the resolution and de facto condemnation of Trump's action.
Meanwhile in the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday, commissioners voted 5-3 not to put a $60 annual vehicle or "wheel" tax on the next county ballot to benefit teacher pay.
Put another way, they voted not to give us — Hamilton County residents and taxpayers — a vote on how to spend our money or whether to improve schools.
This abortion of public representation had its beginning just over a week ago when District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe put the resolution on the agenda, hoping to find needed new revenue for schools after the same commissioners earlier this year avoided a yes or no vote on a property tax increase. Sharpe proposed putting the wheel tax referendum question on the March 3, 2020, presidential primary election ballot.
The previous proposal for a property tax increase, which had the support of 61 percent of Hamilton County voters, according to a professional poll, would have funded a 5% raise for teachers and added about 350 additional positions and a laptop for every one of our 44,000 students.
Weeks later when the school board made the required cuts to balance its budget, our commissioners expressed outrage again — this time because one of the things lost was half of that 5% raise for teachers. Teachers would still get a 2.5 percent raise from state money specifically allocated for teacher raises. In addition, the Hamilton County Board of Education would give teachers and full-time school employees a one-time, $1,500 bonus in November. The school board also cut in half the number of new positions it would add.
This week, District 7's Sabrena Smedley, one of the five voting to kill the wheel tax referendum, said "I am sick and tired of the teachers being used as bait and switch."
From our seats, it looks as though it's the commissioners who are doing the baiting and switching.