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Homeward Bound

For Nashvillians close to Gore, D.C. probably isn't in the cards

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Even though Al Gore’s presidential campaign was based in Nashville, it had very little to do with the city. Most inhabitants of the suburban office-park-style campaign headquarters situated behind Fountain Square had few social, financial, or emotional ties to Music City.

That said, a Gore presidency would have seen a number of Nashvillians suddenly catapulted to very visible positions in Washington, D.C. At the very least, some of the Nashvillians who are already there would have found themselves doing another tour of duty in our nation’s capital. Soon, however, those people will find themselves either moving back to town or unpacking the moving van. They include:

Jean Nelson and Will Martin—Closer to the Gores than almost any Nashvillians, this environmentally minded couple almost certainly would have been offered jobs in a Gore administration. Jean, for her part, wasn’t often mentioned as being part of the Gore inner circle, but it is fair to say that few were more wired into the campaign than she was.

Bill Ivey—The celebrated chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts probably would have been offered another term of duty. Instead, Ivey, former head of the Country Music Foundation, may soon face the pink slip under a GOP presidency. (Some, however, are calling for Bush to re-up Ivey.)

Charles Burson—Gore’s vice-presidential chief of staff had a critical role in the campaign. In a Gore administration, he probably would have been Gore’s closest legal mind.

Skila Harris—Now a director at TVA, Harris was close to many Gore aides. She probably will remain in Washington, although her clout will be significantly reduced in a Republican administration.

Jim Cheek—Many predicted this Bass Berry & Sims attorney would run the Securities and Exchange Commission in a Gore administration. It looks like you’ll still be seeing him in the Arcade downtown.

Henry Walker—The local attorney and media critic was long rumored as a potential Democratic appointee to a low-level regulatory commission on issues related to transportation or telecommunications. It doesn’t look like he’ll be getting anything now. Washington is safe.

Ned McWherter and Jim Neal—It’s unlikely either man would have relished the thought of a daunting job, but it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t have received some sort of plum assignment: ambassadorship, commission membership, or something along those lines.

Jane Eskind—This former Public Service Commission member and generous contributor to Democratic causes probably could have been a cabinet-level or undersecretary appointee dealing with regulatory issues.

Beyond spin

Political operatives and the journalists who write about them share an understanding: There’s always a spin factor. Both know and understand that sometimes party officials have to paint pretty pictures of otherwise cold, hard realities. Journalists generally just dutifully record the sometimes farfetched comments and consider them part of the party officials’ job.

But spin can be over-the-top, then unraveled, and when it is, the talking head loses some credibility. Case in point: In a recent story about Republican U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s political future, the Chattanooga Times & Free Press reported that Tennessee Democratic Party executive director Greg Wanderman “does not think Sen. Thompson would win a governor’s race.”

Even Democrats know that such a comment is absurd on its face. Until Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Frist surpassed him in the Nov. 7 election, Thompson held the standing record for garnering more votes in a Tennessee statewide election than any other political candidate in the state’s history.

He is widely regarded—by both parties—as the ultimate question mark in the 2002 gubernatorial election. Were he to declare his candidacy for the race, gubernatorial wannabes of both parties would be jumping ship from the race faster than you can say Red October.

Even Republican U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, who desperately wants his party’s nomination for governor, told the newspaper, “I think whatever Fred Thompson chooses to do, he will be the easy winner.”

Opposing views

Last week’s analysis that Vice President Al Gore’s post-election behavior is at least marginally reminiscent of his late father’s last political stand—in which Al Gore Sr. lacked “the kind of humility and grace” the younger Gore can’t seem to muster now—provoked significant response.

In all fairness, sympathizers of the senior Gore say that his 1970 U.S. Senate defeat to Republican Bill Brock didn’t completely leave him without grace and humility, as the Scene described last week. They report his spirited and warm comments to supporters—both privately and publicly—as evidence of his graciousness.

Actually, both analyses are correct. The history books don’t remember Gore Sr. as being the picture of a Southern gentleman toward Brock, an opponent who had admittedly pulled some dirty campaign stunts, including pandering to racial animosities. Gore did not so much as mention Brock’s name during his concession speech, and he initially resisted making the traditional telephone call to concede.

That’s not to say Gore wasn’t both grateful and humble in the midst of his supporters that night.

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