Say this for Lee Harris: The man gathers no moss. The University of Memphis law professor and state senator-elect from District 29 is still keeping his City Council seat warm, a participant in every significant debate and hands-on in every decision reached there. And, though he doesn't formally begin his new job as state Senate Democratic leader until January, Harris has already begun to exercise his authority on the statewide scene.
On Tuesday, as Presdent Obama was on his way to Nashville for a speech on the immigration issue, Harris issued a statement of greeting: "As people of a state known for its Southern hospitality, we could not be more proud to welcome those immigrants who choose to make Tennessee their home, and to welcome President Obama here today. We thank those immigrants for their many contributions to our state, just as we thank the president for sharing his views and addressing this very important issue."
and — most importantly — forthright on a sensitive issue regarding
which too few public officials, either Democratic or Republican, had much useful to say during the recent election season.
As anyone who has observed City Council proceedings over the past four years knows, Harris is seldom at a loss for words. He is even prone — to tell it like it is — to jump the gun on an issue once in a while. In this case, and, we trust, in many more to come, these tendencies (which, like all other human attributes, have both a high side and a low side) will serve Harris and his constituents well, for political rhetoric in Tennessee, once a haven for redoubtable orators, has taken a distinct turn for the worse — toward the mealy-mouthed or the spiteful, depending on which side of an issue was being taken.
Witness: U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-6th) accused the president of having "chosen Nashville as a destination to publicly thumb his nose at the American electorate that just rebuked him in the last election" and said, further,"The Obama presidency has been a disaster and can't end soon enough." State Represntative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) said: "Enjoy your stay, and we soon hope to see you in court soon." By comparison, the often vitriolic U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-7th) was almost courtly: "I share in the frustration Americans have with this president and will continue to do everything in my power to stop his executive amnesty. Enough is enough."
All this as a response to a presidential executive order that cracks down on the hiring of undocumented workers and strengthens border security, while it provides a path to "earned citizenship" with numerous legal hoops for serious and productive immigrants to jump through.
As for the chorus of Democratic defenders of Mr. Obama... Congressmen Jim Cooper of Nashville and Steve Cohen of our own bailiwick accompanied Obama on his trip to Tennessee. Otherwise, vocal Democratic support of the president is about as non-evident as it was during the recent fall campaign. But at least Harris didn't keep us waiting for his appropriate and on-point remarks. Keep it up, Mr. Harris. We could use a few more politicians willing to shoot straight.