Gov. Bill Haslam and his predecessors — former Govs. Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist — concurred Thursday night during a panel discussion in Knoxville that the lack of dignified civil debate and, animus among politicians and voters has proved toxic in government’s ability to get things done.
Further from the News Sentinel:
The 90-minute panel discussion on “Balancing Civility and Free Expression,” the third of three civility forums across the state, drew an overflow crowd at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus.
Haslam said he has heard pleas of “please solve problems” from people across the state who have tired of the often partisan infighting, both in Tennessee and on the national level, while government grinds to a halt.
“These issues are too big to turn into petty food fights,” said Haslam.
…Sundquist said that being civil is not a sign of weakness.
“Civility is respecting the rights of others to have opinions and expressing those opinions to arrive at solutions,” Sundquist said.
“Is it possible to reduce the meanness? We have to demand it.”
Haslam, whose first political job was opening letters at Baker’s office in 1978, said civility starts with familiarity — something that’s missing all too often these days.
“The principle holds if you get the relationship right, other things tend to work out,” Haslam said.
Bredesen said incivility is nothing new.
“We have had periods in the past that were very uncivil,” Bredesen said. “I think of it more of a symptom of something else in society. What is it about American society today that people are frustrated with? I sense that people’s needs aren’t being met.”
House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh made a pitch for civility in farewell remarks to the House as the 107th adjourned, reports Richard Locker.
Naifeh, 72, a Democrat first elected in 1974 and who served as House speaker longer than anyone in Tennessee history — 18 years — gave a brief farewell to his colleagues and received an ovation on both sides of the aisle. He acknowledged the Republicans’ rise to power, commended Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and encouraged civility.
“It is time for changes because the elections told us two years ago that they wanted this particular leadership in place. The Republicans have the votes and we’re following along best as we can,” he said.
“One thing I’m going to leave you with is, when we’re in committee and we’re debating very hard and you’re upset with each other, make sure you leave it in that room. Especially when you’re up here on the floor and when you get into hot debate, when you walk out this door here, leave it in here. You’ll find it helps a whole lot,” said Naifeh.
Terry Frank has penned an eloquent call for continued loud citizen voices in the political arena that begins with the not-as-eloquent-as-what-follows statement: “If I hear the word civility one more time, I’ll puke.”
Calls for civility are one of the many smokescreens to the continuance of misdeeds–a virtual cloud for cronyism. Such lectures regarding your behavior or speech are not truly intended to raise the level of discourse or provide more forums or roundtables or columns or even new voices for a furthering or expansion of political debate. Nay, those calls for a more civilized body politic are rooted in the political elites self-serving desire to carry on its politics business-as-usual, fully uninterrupted.
Demands for hushed voices and pinkies-up on your teacup are the tools to shadow the merits of our representative republic. There can be no political accountability if the voices of the people are never heard, or if those voices are misrepresented by handpicked pundits. We can’t have representation that works if we are cowed into believing we are too uncivilized–if we are demoralized into believing we are too ignorant–to participate in our own government. If we hear no other voices, we are led to believe we are alone.
A little honesty is order. It’s not the tone or the rhetoric the political class doesn’t like, it’s an American public awakened that is not appreciated.
Whether it’s President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, or even Senator Lamar Alexander and our newly elected Tennessee Speaker Beth Harwell and her call for an end to “bickering”, the message they send is loud and clear: “trust us, there’s nothing to see here; now move on along.”
To avoid nausea, perhaps Terry should avoid reading Otis Sanford’s Sunday column, though it doesn’t actually use the ‘C’ word….much less the press release announcing formation of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, chaired on a bipartisan basis by former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, which does.
From Sanford’s commentary on Gov. Bill Haslam’s call for less heated rhetoric.:
Some lawmakers and their allies don’t give a hoot about decorum or respecting the opposition. Governor or no governor, you’re either in lockstep with them or you’re treated like the enemy.
Since taking office in mid-January, Haslam has tried to be the diplomat between a cantankerous bunch of Republicans, who now enjoy a super-majority in the state legislature, and anyone who opposes their agenda. And all it’s gotten him so far is an unflattering comparison to public TV’s kind-hearted Mister Rogers.
….The poisonous political atmosphere in Nashville already is every bit as bad as it is in Washington. And it didn’t just get that way three weeks ago. Republicans and their supporters aren’t all to blame for it, but they’ve certainly carried it a higher level in recent years.
And there was a previous post on Bill ‘Mister Rogers’ Haslam HERE.
(Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel.)
Gov. Bill Haslam last week declared that he is “never going to be part of the name-calling deal,” which may be seen as turning the other cheek after he had been called a name.
The name was “Mister Rogers.” The calling came from Raymond Baker, a veteran conservative activist from Franklin, during a speech to a tea party gathering at the state capitol last weekend. A direct quote:
“Bill Haslam, where are you? Wisconsin got Scott Walker; Florida got Rick Scott; South Carolina got Nikki Haley; Arizona got Jan Brewer and we got Mister Rogers… You cannot govern Tennessee like it’s Mister Rogers Neighborhood.”
To which an appropriate Haslamic response might have been, “Well, why not?” Instead, our governor chose an indirect response, a plea for more civil discourse.
“We really don’t want to get where Washington is, where good people don’t want to get there to serve,” Haslam said. “If you asked me kind of what my concern is over the past two or three weeks, it would be that.”
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s bipartisan call for lawmakers to tone down their harsh exchanges over education and the Tennessee Education Association seems to be falling on deaf ears, reports Andy Sher.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who last week charged that Democrats are “bought and paid for by the unions,” on Thursday blasted Democratic leaders, saying their language is “getting out of hand.”
“When we saw [House Democratic Caucus Chairman] Mike Turner standing up on the Capitol last week and calling us terrorists because we’re trying to get a quality teacher in every classroom, that has crossed the line,” Ramsey told reporters.
The speaker also accused Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester of calling “us fascists because we passed a bill that simply says you don’t have to be a member of the [teachers] union to serve on the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement system.
“So has the rhetoric gotten out of hand on the other side? Absolutely,” Ramsey said.
Neither Forrester nor Turner is backing off.
“Terrorism’s a political term,” Turner said earlier this week. “If you look it up, it’s violence or intimidation for political purposes. You don’t think they’re trying to intimidate the teachers for supporting Democrats? That’s what this is about.”
Forrester said GOP “efforts to strip teachers of collective bargaining is extremist.” He charged that Republicans are pushing “a whole ream of extremist bills,” singling out for ridicule a resolution from Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, that calls for a legislative study on whether to create a Tennessee currency in case of a Federal Reserve meltdown.
“That’s right-wing conspiracy talk,” Forrester said.
See also Andrea Zelenski at TNReport, which has video. Jeff Woods also wrote up the Ramsey remarks.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday urged lawmakers in both parties to tone down their rhetoric as they prepare to take up a series of education proposals.
The Republican governor told reporters after a speech to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce that he’s been disturbed by the level of discourse at the Capitol in recent few weeks.
“There has been more of a partisan divide, which I don’t think is healthy for solving problems,” he said.
Haslam has proposed bills to make teacher tenure more difficult to obtain and to lift a cap on charter school enrollment. But he has remained neutral on a contentious bill to strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights, which has made him the subject of criticism from both supporters and opponents of the proposal.
“You hear criticism from people on all sides,” he said. “But in the end I’m going to try to solve problems and fix things. That’s why Tennesseans elected me to be governor.”
The governor’s comments came a day after freshman Republican Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson warned teachers in a floor speech that they shouldn’t try to stand in the way of Republican-sponsored changes to public education.
“Make no mistake, the final responsibility is ours –and we are warriors,” said Summerville, who went on to paraphrase a speech from Shakespeare’s “Henry V.”
“We will bend public education to our awe, or break it all to pieces,” he said.”