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Bill Haslam, the Teflon Governor?

Andrea Zelinski has a rambling review of Gov. Bill Haslam’s gubernatorial performance, starting with the proposition that he’ has the “Teflon-like qualities” of Bill Clinton and proceeding through quoted commentary from folks including a Democratic operative (it’s not Teflon, it’s an “oil slick”), Zach Wamp, Tom Ingram and Haslam himself.
Excerpts:
Haslam’s colleagues say he researches almost every decision he has to make and seeks out opinions from people in those fields before coming to a conclusion. But other times, those strategies open him up to criticism for being indecisive, lacking backbone or for testing the political waters before making a call.
“I’m sure a lot of people go, ‘Just make up your mind, buddy.’ Or, ‘You’re trying to wait to see where the wind blows,’ etc.,” Haslam told The City Paper.
“I don’t take this job lightly, in the sense I realize it does come with a lot of weight. Sometimes I have the very final say, but oftentimes I can carry a very influential point, and I want to make certain that I’ve thought through that well before we decide where we’re going to push,” he said.
Haslam often takes so much time to decide issues that the controversy has died down and a different issue is front and center, said Ben Cunningham, a spokesman for Tennessee Tax Revolt and an activist with the Nashville Tea Party. While members of his faction are happy with the governor cutting taxes like those on groceries, inheritances and investments, Cunningham said he would like to see the governor be more decisive on issues like opposing Medicaid expansion.
“It’s pretty difficult to really tie him down, because he doesn’t anchor himself down,” Cunningham said. “He does not really inspire great feelings one way or the other, because he doesn’t express great feelings one way or the other.”
…”I would caution anybody who tries to mix issues of the allegations against Pilot right now and the governor. That is a colossal stretch for anyone to try,” said Tom Ingram, a private political consultant for the governor, and also for Jimmy Haslam as he navigates the company through the FBI investigation.
“It energizes people who are looking for something to talk about,” he said. “I think the relevant point a challenger should look at is the governor’s popularity, is the governor’s record, and this governor’s ability, and issues as they specifically relate to this governor. That’s a pretty formidable set of assets going into a campaign.”
…While the question of whether there is more than a tangential tie between the governor and the alleged wrongdoing at Pilot is still unanswered, the investigation is restarting debate about the governor’s refusal to reveal details about how much he has invested in his family’s company.
“I don’t think that Gov. Haslam has anything to do with, personally, the Pilot Oil problems,” said Wamp, who said he has no plans to run for the governor’s office again. “But at the same time, I think people want to know what their executive leaders are involved in financially.”
Haslam’s decision to withhold his income tax returns during his campaign, despite fervent calls from his opponents to show exactly how much he earns from Pilot, didn’t hurt his ability to take the governor’s seat. But Wamp said transparency is still an issue the public needs to think about. The Democratic Party is also beginning to call for the governor to reveal his Pilot-related income.
“In politics, you can overcome a lot of liabilities if you do a good job and if you’re straight with the people,” said Wamp. “I think we’d all like to see more transparency, but I think Gov. Haslam is a very honorable man who is serving our state well.”