Roger L. Simon

Blackburn Scores Big in First Tennessee Senatorial Debate

Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn speaks at the 2018 Tennessee U.S. Senate Debate against Democratic candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen at Cumberland University Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Lebanon, Tenn. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)

Marsha Blackburn may have scored an early knockout in her battle with Phil Bredesen at the first debate (of two) in the closely watched 2018 Tennessee senatorial race.

At least that’s what I thought, viewing the Cumberland University proceedings on the CBS affiliate here in Nashville.  But I’m biased.  I wanted Marsha to win.

I hasten to add that all reporters or pundits are biased, especially the ones who pretend otherwise.  They’re the ones to watch out for.

But back to the debate.  The terms were set in the candidates’ opening statements.  Blackburn said that no matter what Bredesen claimed about his independence he was bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer and would act accordingly in the Senate.  Bredesen, who had anticipated this attack, had already insisted it was otherwise.  He was his own man and would, of course, behave in that manner in D.C., courageously calling ’em as he saw ’em..

The former Tennessee governor went on to rail in conventional fashion about the dysfunctionality of our politics, how Tennesseans were frustrated that “nothing ever gets done” in Washington and he would be the man to fix that. That was the key point he kept hammering.

Say what?  Where has Bredesen been — living in a manhole in Outer Mongolia?  Like it or not, more has been accomplished  in the first two years of the Trump administration than just about any time since World War II, maybe earlier.  It’s been a virtual whirlwind of deregulation, tax reform, judicial appointments, foreign policy improvements like outreach to North Korea, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and the now heavy sanctioning of Iran and Russia.  (Bredesen went on, again in the most conventional fashion, about Russia, Russia, Russia, hinting, or was it dog-whistling, that Trump is somehow still in collusion with them. Maybe he’s watching too much CNN.)

Meanwhile, from Wall Street to Main Street, all economic indicators are going through the proverbial roof, including the lowest unemployment numbers ever for blacks and Hispanics.

We’re living in boom times but Bredesen kept insisting Tennesseans are suffering in some diffuse sense. How, he never explained, except, oh, tariffs.  Actually, as Blackburn pointed out, the state is leading the Southeast in economic revival and was fifth nationally. Not too shabby. (You ask yourself: why would anyone want to change that?)

And speaking of tariffs, this is the one area on which Marsha and Phil seemed to agree.  They’re against them, obviously trying to appeal to the local farmers. Actually, probably in the dark night of their souls, they know what everyone has to know, if they’re honest about it.  If you want to see China change its trade and intellectual property policies, what other way is there except at least threatening and probably imposing tariffs?  You never find that question asked on cable news because, as history has shown, the answer is painfully obvious: none.

Most of all Bredesen equivocated.  He was for some things Trump supports and against others, threading needles the entire time. To me, experienced as he is, he looked nervous.

Marsha was confident and forthright straight through the entire debate.  She has a record in Congress to run on and stuck with it.  She’s very strong on defense and highly supportive of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, is for the border wall, is against sanctuary cities and states, is a deficit hawk (wishes she were even stronger on that), and is for the Second Amendment with an “A” rating from the NRA.  Bredesen gets a “D” from the same organization.  (He made a huge blunder by claiming an “A” in a commercial a couple of weeks ago.  I thought Marsha would mention that, but evidently she decided not to, probably a wise move.  It would have seemed like kicking a man when he’s down.)

In truth, I felt a bit sorry for Bredesen. I’m willing to accept local talk that he was a decent mayor and governor. I think he actually believes he can “make a difference” in a party that, for some time now, has been running off the partisan rails. But watching the lockstep near Stalin-like behavior of the Democrats at the Kavanauagh hearings, you realize joining that crew thinking you could change them is like joining the Politburo in the Thirties for the same reason.  That’s how people got shot.

Okay, that won’t happen here (I hope), but you know what I mean.  When Schumer pays your campaign, he expects the vote.

Oh, by the way, Marsha supports Brett.  Phil is waiting to see.

Roger L. Simon – co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media – is an award-winning author and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.  He has recently moved to Nashville and is having fun observing the local political scene, a far cry from his previous residence in California.