Monday, June 06, 2005


"Tennessee Waltz" drawing diverse reactions

In an embarrassing display of arrogance and political naivete, Senator Ward Crutchfield has informed Senate Ethics Chair Ron Ramsey that he wishes to continue in his leadership position (ignoring the cries from The Tennessean) despite his indictment under the FBI operation known as "Tennessee Waltz." While this is delaying the inevitable (but accomplishes some good because it will test Lt. Gov. Wilder's strained connections to this world as to whether he strips Crutchfield of his post), it shows that Crutchfield isn't quite ready for primetime politics. Crutchfield should have taken a page out of Trent Lott's book and made every effort to fade to the background, allowing Kathryn Bowers to continue taking bullets for the indicted. Lott faced a mutiny after his Strom Thurmond comments and, realizing that he didn't have the votes to stay as Senate Majority Leader, stepped down from his leadership post. Several years later, Lott has returned as a major power player in Congress - all because he knew how to swallow his pride and pick his battles. Crutchfield could have followed Lott's lead and salvaged some portion of his political power down the road - assuming that he survives the charges levied against him. Fellow indictee Chris Newton seems to know that his best chance at survival is laying low and recognizing attempts to help him.

Matt White and Bill Hobbs weigh in on Bredesen's grandstanding on the ethics issue. Unless the General Assembly is set on heavily increasing criminal penalties associated with bribery and extortion and revoking the pensions of legislators convicted of crimes related to their duties in office, I don't see the point in a special session. After all, the Feds won't be here all the time to bail us out by arresting our crooked elected officials. If the purpose of the special session is to pass meaningless ethics reform that results in no real penalties for violations and to take credit for acting in the wake of the "Tennessee Waltz" scandal, I would rather the General Assembly not waste our time.

Finally, one of the most outrageous reports comes from Sunday's Commercial Appeal in the form of a story by Aimee Edmondson. Interviews with Senator John Ford's supporters (who want to picket and boycott because their crooked senator was caught red-handed) make a strong case for minimum voting standards, with several strange quotes thrown in for good measure. My favorites come from Vanderbilt law and political science professor Carol Swain, one of which reads as follows:

"It always pays to holler racism. Race matters and let's not pretend it doesn't."

No, Ms. Swain, it doesn't matter here - at least it didn't matter in Ford being indicted. All that mattered was that he was involved in criminal behavior. Now Ford's race may matter in the trial when his defense attorney tries to paint the FBI agents who risk their lives keeping this country safe by enforcing its laws as racist bigots who targeted black Tennessee legislators and only arrested the two white East Tennessee gentlemen to cover their tracks, but we can discuss that at the trial. I hate to characterize someone from the titles of their body of work, but when looking at Ms. Swain's published works (including Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism in America, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration, "Does White American Owe Black America An Apology?"), it's easy to see why so many of Vandy's law grads continue to stray from the ideal color-blind society that Dr. King envisioned.

Of course, I'm sure that the report from the Attorney General on Ford's dealings with TennCare contractors is also racially-motivated. Doral Dental, OmniCare, Attorney General Paul Summers - I'm sure they are delivering damning information against Mr. Ford because of his race. After all, if I didn't think that, I would be "pretending it doesn't matter," right, Ms. Swain? Since Ms. Swain has apparently never authored anything that wasn't centered on race, it becomes quite clear that Ms. Edmondson wrote this piece with an outcome in mind. Her bias is subtle but unmistakable in her choice of Ms. Swain as her primary witness of whether race was a factor in Ford's indictment. It's just another sad chapter in a long series of political degradation that is John Ford's role in "Tennessee Waltz."

"it's easy to see why so many of Vandy's law grads continue to stray from the ideal color-blind society that Dr. King envisioned."

hey- completely agree with your take on Swain, but lets not get carried away characterizing large segments of the student body. love your blog but doubt you have any clue as to the racial attitudes of the vandy law population.

anyway, would love to see you do a little more investigation into Swain's qualifications as a Vandy law professsor. it's interesting that she lectures and grades hundreds of bright young people pursuing a j.d. without having a j.d. herself.

vandy law student 06

you also have to love someone who quotes themself on the impact of their own book. isn't it standard procedure to get a few nice lines from someone else?

vandy law student 06
Vandy Law Student 06 -

I apologize for the sweeping generalization. I admit that I have been soured to your school based on combative contacts with a few alumni (who, by the way, still live in Nashville and will remain nameless). And you are right - I don't know the racial attitudes of current Vandy law students, only Vandy undergrads and alumni. I do apologize, though, because I tend to chastise others for generalizations and then I commit that same wrong myself.

I, too, was curious as to how Swain is employed as a law professor without a J.D. Yes, the MSL from Yale has something to do with the law (more than her Associates Degree in Business Merchandising from Virginia Western Community College), but I can't honestly recall any of my law professors that didn't have a J.D. Very interesting...


" Swain is employed as a law professor without a J.D."

Can you say "diversity hire"?

Sure you can.
I will soon be moving to Tennessee so have been keeping up with Memphis area news. This astounds me!! What does a Senator's color have to do with taking bribes from the FBI. It would seem that excuses them for some reason! This Senator Ford seems to be morally bankrupt as well as a cheat and embarassment. Do white people there cower when they scream Racism? Will that fly?

HELLO -- I thought he was white at first!

I don't know if I'm going to like this move at all.
Your read of Professor Swain is a bit off. Her point is that Ford can score points in the media by playing the race card.

Take a look at her website. She's against Affirmative Action, doesn't like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, doesn't favor reparations, and doesn't think leaders ought to be classified as black leaders or white leaders.

She's quite conservative, and I think you'll find that she's probably on your side of this argument.

just wondering where you found swain's stances on her website. i didn't see anything other than this summary of her book.

"Professor Carol M. Swain of Vanderbilt University Law School writes about the new white nationalism movement. It is not the older racist right of the Ku Klux Klan or the American Nazi Party. The new white nationalists have jettisoned the tactics of those organizations and are smarter, more sophisticated, and more politically adroit. Their members are not blue-collar rednecks but are likely to be college-educated, financially secure, middle-class Americans. With slick, packaged politics, they have concealed the radicalism of their views and are gaining ground in mainstream America."

For someone who doesn't like to classify as black or white she certainly uses the word white alot. Also not sure what to make of the reference to "blue collar redencks".

vandy law
Take, for instance, this profile of her in TIME:

Swain, who is rapidly establishing herself as one of the leaders of a new, increasingly vocal neoconservative brand of black political analysis that rejects affirmative action and reparations for slavery and holds blacks responsible for their own uplift. Until recently, most left-leaning black theorists derided her as a hopeless optimist.

Or check out her interview on Fox News: here. That's where I got the information in my last comment.
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