House Dem Leader Lashes Out at GOP as Tennessee Taliban

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The Republican vision for women in Tennessee?
  • The Republican vision for women in Tennessee?
Rep. Mike Turner says extremists have seized control of the state GOP and are trying to turn Tennessee into another Afghanistan.

“They’re preoccupied with sex up here,” the House’s No. 2 Democrat told reporters at his party’s weekly availability. “They’re got a real thing with sex. We’re about ready to put the turbans on, I think, and put the women in burkas here if we keep going at this rate.”

It’s the end of a bizarre week at the Capitol—even for this legislature—with sex education, abortion, the Ten Commandments, guns and creationism all on the agenda. And when Republicans weren’t pandering to their nutty base, they were passing laws to lift the ceiling on special-interest political contributions and giving hugs and fist-bumps to a party member who had just been released from jail on charges of beating up his wife.

“There are some things coming through that just make you think, good Lord! We’re making national news on all these crazy things. It’s just not good for the state of Tennessee. It’s not good for economics here. It’s embarrassing, it really is,” Turner said.

“The social conservatives have control of the Republican Party. It seems like they’re against everything. When you win elections, no matter what party you’re from, you have to stop playing politics. When you’re in the minority you play politics to get into the majority. That’s what they did for a number of years. But now they’re not governing. When you actually win elections, at some point you have to try to govern. That’s making hard decisions. I don’t think they’re ready to govern yet, and that’s part of the problem.”

We asked Turner whether House Speaker Beth Harwell deserves any of the blame. Most observers had been counting on Harwell, who has a moderate reputation, to keep the crazy train at the station. But she’s failed miserably at that (assuming she’s even trying). Turner defended Harwell, casting her as a tortured soul beset by lunatics.

“I don’t think she’s a nutjob,” Turner said of the speaker—a ringing endorsement if we’ve ever heard one.

“She’s not told me this but I think she probably lays awake at night and worries about what some of those people are doing,” he added. “I have Republican friends who are embarrassed by what these guys are doing. If I were here, I’d probably lay awake at night worried about that. For Ron Ramsey, though, it’s probably sweet dreams.”

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