VOL. 133 | NO. 183 | Friday, September 14, 2018
Bredesen Defends Wait-And-See Stand on Kavanaugh Nomination
By Bill Dries
Democratic U.S. Senate contender Phil Bredesen met a crowd of 500 at Rhodes College Thursday, Sept. 13, that consisted mostly of supporters on what was originally planned as a debate with Republican rival Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn bowed out of the debate.
What became and was billed as a “Memphis Matters” forum featured Bredesen taking a few jabs at Blackburn and her absence and a few challenges from the audience to Bredesen’s centrist positions on some issues.
The most recent being President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court which is awaiting Senate confirmation.
The question from the audience was the last of the hour long forum before a standing room only crowd and drew the loudest applause.
Bredesen’s biggest applause line was when he defined the top issue of the statewide race as “the inability of Washington to get anything constructive done.”
He went into more detail Thursday on the Kavanaugh nomination after initially saying he was undecided the nomination, which has drawn vocal opposition from the Democratic minority in the Senate.
“I believe that the role of the Senate is not to replay previous election,” Bredesen began. “Elections have consequences and I believe that if someone is elected president -- whether it’s Barack Obama or Donald Trump or anyone else -- they have the right to appoint people to these judgeships. The role of the Senate is to advise and consent to find out if those people are qualified for that position.”
Just before the forum at Rhodes, Blackburn challenged Bredesen’s position that he is still undecided.
Blackburn, in the written statement, termed Kavanaugh “eminently qualified.”
“And there is no question he will uphold the rule of law. His extensive record speaks for itself,” she said in the statement. “There is nothing left to be determined – the facts are on the table.”
She accused Bredesen of “dodging making a commitment” and following advice from Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer to “stay neutral as long as they can.”
“Obviously, Phil Bredesen will not make that commitment to Tennesseans because he’ll only vote when and how Chuck Schumer tells him,” she said.
From the outset of the race for the Senate seat on the Nov. 6 ballot, Blackburn has accused Bredesen of being in league with Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
Bredesen has pointed to his vocal differences as Governor with the Affordable Care Act of the Obama administration and the criticism he faced when he cut the rolls of the TennCare program during his two terms in Nashville.
Bredesen criticized Blackburn’s approach to the nomination as part of the problem he sees with the Senate’s debate and review of Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“To my mind, in a nutshell, we need to get back to the days where the Senate is passing on the qualifications, the temperament and the ethics of the person and not simply reacting instantaneously to the party affiliation,” he told the Rhodes audience. “That difference has been evident in this campaign where my opponent within about six hours of his nomination said, ‘I’m for him. We don’t need hearings. We don’t need research. We don’t need anything else.’ I’ve just tried to take sort of a much more careful view of this, of saying I want to see what he’s about and then I’ll make a decision.”
Bredesen acknowledged the criticism he has taken from Democrats in some quarters in the last week for his wait and see attitude.
“There is no right answer there, whichever one I give half of the people that are for me are going to be opposed to the answer and there’s no good answer there,” he said. “But I think I owe that to them.”
He cited other controversies during his two terms as governor as he contrasted his experience as governor and, before that, as Nashville mayor to Blackburn’s political career as first a Tennessee legislator and then a member of Congress.
“When I ran for re-election after some really tough stuff – that’s when I made I made all of those TennCare changes and made a lot of people mad on both sides of the aisle and everything else – that was the election in which I became the first governor to win every county in the state,” Bredesen said.
“That happened not because of anything I said. It happened because of what I did,” he said. “And I think it’s really important to get people on all levels of government who actually got that experience of being where the rubber meets the road and know how to actually do things and make things work in the real world. That’s one where frankly I think I’ve got an enormous advantage over my opponent in this case.”
The forum was moderated by Memphis Branch NAACP president and former Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone with questions submitted in writing and read by those at the forum and Malone reading questions submitted by Twitter.