Herenton Admits He’s Not Fit to Be Dog Catcher

June 10, 2010 3 comments

It’s not every day that a candidate for major office comes right out and says that they aren’t fit to be dog catcher, but that’s exactly what former Mayor Willie Herenton did at his free-for-all press conference yesterday.

At one point, after [WREG’s Mike] Matthews had pressed Herenton hard, and properly so, on his cavalier attitude toward scandals in his last mayoral term at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center — MSARC — and at the Memphis Animal Shelter, Herenton made a peculiarly tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of having “dropped the ball” because “I just want to make you happy.”

Herenton played that one for laughs, and it was almost possible to forget how contemptuous he had been in stating his indifference to what had been genuinely tragic circumstances at both MSARC and the Animal Shelter.

Who gives a damn about those peripheral issues?” Herenton had thundered. “I say it’s trivial. I never made one visit. I didn’t even know where MSARC was located until you guys covered it.” He went so far as to condemn his mayoral successor, A C Wharton, whom earlier he had called a “disaster,” for turning up at the Animal Shelter to actually see what was going on there.

For a man who would go on to boast that he had been “the best mayor Memphis ever had,” that was rather an odd way to go about defining the quality of his stewardship.

[Jackson Baker]

As Maya Angelou famously said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

Herenton also said he did not “give a damn” about the problems that emerged during investigations involving animal abuse at the Memphis Animal Shelter and poor supervision at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center that led to delays in treatment for victims. He called them “peripheral issues” that represented an “infinitesimal” portion of the city he said he ran more successfully than any mayor in the city’s history.

Who gives a damn what happened in MSARC and the dog shelter?” Herenton said, adding that he did not know where MSARC was located and had never been to the animal shelter.

[Commercial Appeal]

I wonder who Emily’s List will endorse this time around, eh?

It’s difficult to imagine a more reprehensible statement coming out of the mouth of a former city executive, but I suppose he deserves some applause for his candor. After all, how often do you actually hear a politician come right out and confirm what everyone has already long suspected? It’s an event on the order of Pat Buchanan casually remarking to Rachel Maddow, “Yeah, I never really liked blacks or Jews all that much in the first place.”

On the basis of their comparatively small cost when weighed against the whole of the city budget, Herenton claims that MSARC and the Animal Shelter “ain’t important in the whole scheme of things.” By that measure, neither is his pension from the city.

It might be instructive to recall, for a moment, what originally prompted these statements.

Herenton says this isn’t an issue of debates only under his terms. “I don’t know the questions you’ll ask,” he said. He did admit, he had no idea what questions either Brewer or Sanford would askl, but says “they would get involved with a lot of trivialities.”

Herenton says he might let local reporters ask anything they want of him at a news conference in a few weeks, to end all this talk about, using his words, “trivialities.” “They want to talk to me about MSARC, (the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center) or the dog pound situation.

There have been investigations into both the animal shelter and the rape crisis center, but the former Mayor says the issues don’t make sense in a congressional campaign.

[Mike Matthews]

Herenton was speaking to reporters, not voters, when he declared his nonchalance regarding the two scandals, and this is exactly where his media strategy begins to fall apart. Absent the fundraising and campaign operation needed to make his appeal directly to the voters, Herenton is left to rely on the media to get his message out —  the same media whose questions he finds irrelevant. The result is a mess of his own making, a soiling of his own nest. He’s painted himself into a corner and it’s difficult to see any way out for him.

Not to quarrel with Steve Ross, but this isn’t an example of Herenton being crazy like a fox. This is just plain crazy. Herenton has outsmarted no one but himself. He never would have sent out campaign literature declaring that he doesn’t give a damn about MSARC or the Animal Shelter. However, by placing his candidacy at the mercy of an antagonistic media determined to ask pointed questions about the scandals that occurred under his watch, he has let slip his true feelings without any campaign operation to correct the damage.

Thankfully, we now have a mayor who actually does give a damn about stray animals and victims of sexual assault.

During a previously scheduled meeting Thursday with The Commercial Appeal’s editorial board, Wharton was asked about Herenton’s comments. He said: “It does not serve the city well for me to even attempt to respond to that kind of volley.”

But Wharton said he wanted the city to understand perfectly clear that he believes the rape crisis center and the animal shelter play a “pivotal role” for the city.

“Government is supposed to be an embodiment of the values that a society wants,” Wharton said. “A value of a much higher order is the respect for a woman’s personhood and it is government’s paramount obligation to make sure in every way possible the powers of the government are used to insure the integrity of one’s personhood.

“And if you know anything about rape victims, you know they are not white women from out east somewhere who got touched. They are little black girls and it’s mama’s boyfriend or the stepdaddy having sex with them and, ‘I dare you to tell because I’m gonna put your momma out if you do.'”

[Commercial Appeal]

The contrast between the two mayors could not be more stark. Herenton really stepped in it this time.

Watch the entire 95 minute press conference here.

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This Election Could Be Almost as Good as the Last One

April 11, 2010 1 comment

It looks like Sidney Chism did some opposition research and thinks he’s found himself some dirt on Steve Cohen.

The way County Commissioner and Willie Herenton campaign manager Sidney Chism sees it, the $396,000 budgetary earmark that Congressman Steve Cohen has recommended for a foundation honoring the work of famed Memphis photographer Ernest Withers “does not pass the smell test.”

Cohen calls the letter Chism says has been mailed to media outlets and law enforcement agencies across the country “absolutely insane” for insinuating that Cohen’s office would arrange to reward a son of the late photographer for running against Chism by directing taxpayer dollars to the Ernest C. Withers Historical Foundation.

Andrew “Rome” Withers is the only opponent Chism is facing in the May 4 county Democratic primary for the District 3, Position 2 seat. Rome Withers is also listed as the executive director of the foundation that stands to receive the $396,000 if a congressional budget committee approves the request. A similar request in 2008 from Cohen’s office to build a museum, archives and research center on Beale Street was not approved, although Chism’s letter describes the request as an “allocation.”

The letter also alleges that Cohen’s district director, prominent Shelby County Sheriff candidate Randy Wade, last year assured Chism in a telephone conversation “that he was going to make sure that I had opposition … to make sure that I was ‘busy’ — in hopes, I assume, to reduce my level of involvement in Dr. Herenton’s campaign.”

[Zack McMillin]

Sidney Chism has made a lot of enemies in his career. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone propose running a primary challenge against him, I could probably afford a nice meal downtown, or maybe even some Grizzlies tickets. To be fair to the Commissioner, I’d be sitting in the nosebleed section, but the point stands. Privately, I even proposed the idea myself shortly after the Ballotgate incident, but the idea fell apart for want of a candidate who lived in the district. Apparently, to my surprise and delight, there actually is one.

That’s just the thing that makes this so perfectly sweet: Rome Winters hasn’t really been on the radar up to this point. I had no idea he was even running. This is the first time he’s been in the news in the context of his run for the County Commission, and for a district race like his, there really isn’t a large enough budget to put together much of a media strategy. You just have to knock on doors, put up signs, and wear out the soles of your shoes. Earned media is priceless in a County Commission race.

Out on street corners campaigning Saturday, Withers says members of the community have encouraged him to challenge Chism, but said neither Wade, Cohen nor anyone connected to them played a role. “False, false, false,” he said, describing the entire scenario. “Untrue, untrue, untrue.”

Nikki Tinker, Cohen’s last opponent (who was endorsed by Chism), focused most of her campaign on winning Whitehaven. That is where the majority of her yard signs were posted, that is where she knocked on the most doors, and that is the demographic she tried to court with her ridiculous and insulting commercial about sitting on the porch waiting on a check from the government. She still lost overwhelmingly, and if memory serves, Cohen won every single precinct in Whitehaven and Boxtown, both of which, when combined, just happen to also encompass Sidney Chism’s home district.

Do you now see why I am looking forward to this election? In much the same way that Reginald French is a proxy for Herenton, Sidney Chism just tied his own opponent to Steve Cohen in a way that the congressman never intended to do himself.

Cohen specifically denied ever recruiting Withers, directly or indirectly, and emphasized the he would have supported the earmark no matter the political dynamics. He stressed that the only two local candidates receiving his direct support are Wade in the sheriff’s race and County Trustee Regina Morrison Newman.

“I haven’t been involved in his campaign, and I assure you if I were trying to beat Sidney Chism you would know it…,” Cohen said. “Now, do I think Sidney Chism should be beaten because he’s not been a good public official? Sure I do.”

Cohen never endorsed Withers, but by concocting a conspiracy theory using nothing but circumstantial evidence, Chism just effectively associated the two men with one another in the public’s mind. If there is anybody in Shelby County District 3 who has never heard of Rome Withers before, Sidney Chism just told them who he was, and what’s more, tied him to a congressman who is demonstrably popular in Chism’s own district.

In 2006 we elected Cohen, took back both houses of Congress, and began the long, arduous task of steering this country back in the right direction. In 2008, we passed a host of intelligent ballot reforms, made gains in Congress, and elected our first black president. There’s no telling how things will turn out nationally this year, but here in Memphis, it looks like we’ve got something to look forward to. We could give a hearty send-off to both Herenton and Chism in the same election.

Sidney Chism just did Rome Withers a huge favor. And for that, we should all thank him.

P.S. If you have no idea who Ernest Withers is, you’re probably already familiar with his work.

Overwhelming Tragedy

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

There really isn’t much to say about this.

I never thought I’d be writing anything like this, ever. The Polish president and a long long list of top Polish officials died in an airplane crash near Smolensk in western Russia. This is a turning point in Poland’s history, one of its biggest tragedies.

Whatever people’s thought of President Lech Kaczynski, regardless of whether someone agreed or disagreed, the nation, I’m sure, will be united in its shock and pain now that the president and so many others have been killed, and so tragically.

[Marcin Sobczyk]

What a terrible, horrific day for Poland. There really are no words.

If you want to express your condolences, you can write a message to the office of the President of Poland at this link.

UPDATE: Here is a partial list of the deceased. The entire leadership of Poland just got wiped out. The leaders of all four branches of their military, the head of the Polish central bank, opposition leaders, the former president-in-exile, members of parliament, even the head of the Olympic committee are among the dead.

The only way I can understand this is by considering if Flight 93 had reached its intended destination. That is the closest I can approach to comprehending a tragedy of this magnitude. It is just unspeakable.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Moment of Zen

April 8, 2010 Leave a comment

I don’t think I’d strike with nuclear weapons if they hacked into my computer, no.

– Pat Buchanan

[Huffington Post]

Categories: Zen

Feel Good Friday: See and Say Edition

April 2, 2010 Leave a comment

If Susan Boyle was an androgynous Filipino raccoon from outer space who swallowed whole barnyard animals for breakfast each morning, she might sound something like this.

Skip to 1:30 if you don’t feel like sitting through the whole thing.

Categories: Feel Good Friday

“Tim McVeigh Wannabes”

April 1, 2010 1 comment

What do you say about something like this?

I’m sure this is going to get parsed to death in the coming days, and we’ll hear the usual weak apologias repeated ad nauseam from all the usual people that this was some version of conservative humor that is somehow lost on the rest of us.

To that I say: okay. I’ll finally accept that explanation, since I’ve heard it repeated each and every time Hannity or Limbaugh or Savage or any of the rest of those clowns say something like this. It probably actually is some weird joke that we all don’t get.

Conservatives apparently think domestic terrorism is funny and cool, and we’re all just going to have to get used to it.

UPDATE: Here’s the whole cut. He actually said that. Context makes it pretty clear what he meant. Here is a reminder, in case anyone needed it, of why Tim McVeigh was a despicable person and a failure as a human being.

Hitler Reacts to Health Care Reform

March 23, 2010 1 comment
Categories: Health Care, Republicans