Tennessean columnist Keel Hunt opines that the “Durham Affair” is no longer just about allegations of the misbehavior of one legislator and instead has become “a broader tale of institutional malfeasance, the reaches of the buddy system, and the failure of leaders to lead with speed.”
The circle widened last Monday to touch the top three Republican leaders. Word now is these leaders knew of harassment complaints months ago.
That is a specific echo of Watergate — of Sen. Howard Baker’s simple but devastating question in 1973: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Today, what did the House leadership know about this current trouble, and when did they first know it?
This legislature is a labyrinth with many layers. The place can be confusing to the outsider, baffling to the visitor who is unschooled in its mysterious ways. Its proprietors claim they are open for inspection, but they are not. Insiders claim the sun shines there, but it doesn’t.
To the mere citizen’s eye, the General Assembly is a bewilderment of back stairs and subcommittees, overlaid with a mossy structure of revered seniority and pecking order.
Forget what you learned in high school about “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” This place is about politics, pure and simple, and some days of the meanest sort.
Granted, the state Capitol and Legislative Plaza have always been shaped by politics — that much is fair game — but today they are characterized more by anger, envy and fog.
…The Durham mess is creepy and alarming — allegations that young women were subjected to shabby and shameful treatment by one or more men feeling entitled, abusing their power. On top of that, it appears the leaders of the House failed to take charge of it all, at the proper time, possibly hoping the ugly stain would fade away.
That is how this labyrinth works — plenty of procedures and traditions to hide behind to escape responsibility. Plenty of hallways to private offices where the door can be closed and nobody can find you.
…House leaders are not powerless. What about censure? What about ouster or expulsion? How about, tomorrow morning, you set the record straight about what you were told and when?