Come see Tennessee on Lee — Gov. Bill Lee, that is.
On camera, Lee quips, "Man, I'm getting chills," sitting on a stage with country singing superstar Brad Paisley and rewriting Paisley's Tennessee tourism ad ditty. Instead of Paisley's "Come see Tennessee on me," lyrics, the Gov wants him to sing, "Come see Tennessee on Governor Lee."
Good, Gov, keep your chills. You should stick to making goofy commercials and stop spending $2.8 million of our tax dollars in ill-founded ideas like handing out $250-a-whack travel vouchers to pay the air fare for tourists who book two nights in Tennessee hotels.
But in the spirit of the fun that The Goofy Gov mimes in the commercial as he tries to one-up Peyton Manning's damage to Paisley's songs, let's offer Lee just a handful of better "Tennessee on me" ideas. (Lee's full version is "Come See Tennessee on Governor Lee, and not on Brad PaisLee.")
As bad as Lee's retooled lyrics are, his state leadership is worse.
(Sure a recent poll of likely GOP primary voters gave Lee an 85% approval rate, a near "Trumpian" level compared to their 90% favorable opinion of the former president. But hasn't anyone noticed that Trump lost? That he wasn't re-elected in 2020? We digress.)
Gov, here are five better Tennessee-on-taxpayers suggestions for you.
1) A $250 voucher to buy back the guns flooding the state after you pushed, got passed and signed your ridiculous and dangerous "permitless carry" gun law.
2) A $250 reward for anyone finding the unicorn of a trans-gender student athlete to ban from competing in a sport designated for a gender "other than the one listed on the student's birth certificate."
3) A $250 prize for student artists who draw their own most encouraging kid-vaccine posters to take home and show their parents after you capitulated to the extremists of your GOP party recently to walk back our state health department's clever posters promoting the vaccination of teens and tweens against COVID-19.
4) A $250 reinstatement for another week of the $300-a-week federally funded coronavirus pandemic unemployment boosts — the ones you halted early on July 3 for thousands of Tennesseans who lost their jobs as the virus swept the state and the country.
But here's our favorite.
5) How about you offer $250 shot vouchers to get more — any and all — Tennesseans to roll up their sleeves for a COVID vaccination? That would mean 11,200 more people vaccinated in a state where only every other adult has received at least one dose, and you didn't use the occasion of getting your own shot as an example for your fellow Tennesseans.
Friends helping us bat these ideas around Wednesday noted that Tennesseans are "cheaper" than that in a state with no minimum wage. Actually you could offer $100-a-shot gift cards and double the vaccinated number to more than 22,000.
One friend noted that you could probably offer a Pabst Blue Ribbon voucher and send the Volunteer State way over the nation's 70%-vaccinated goal. (We and most of the rest of the South are currently at 53%, while the national average is about 67%.)
We began this essay in the spirit of lighthearted fun, but we come to its end in disgust and sadness.
Gov. Bill Lee is at best naive and tone deaf with this travel voucher — aimed at bringing people into our half-vaccinated state as the Delta variant of COVID-19 thunders toward our people and our hospitals. On June 26, our state was seeing 60 new cases a day. On Tuesday, July 6, we registered 228 new cases. There's no flattened curve here.
At worst, Lee is demonstrating once again — as he did by reopening Tennessee too soon after a scant month of "safer at home" advice, never mandating masks and initially fighting cities and counties that did — that he is not fit to be anyone's governor.