Fear not: That's the word on Iraq from 7th District U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn, who has been there. Yes, there would seem to be a great deal of difficulty going on right now, in the eruption of violence from Shiite Islamic mobs that -- added to violence from Sunni Islamic mobs -- has generated death and disruption over there and no small anxiety over here.
But those disturbances, which over the weekend saw four American security contractors massacred in Sunni-controlled Fallujah and a mounting number of combat troops killed in Shiite-dominated areas of Iraq, are essentially indications that "time is running out" for terrorists and loyalists of former dictator Saddam Hussein, said Blackburn, who visited Iraq late last year and reported then that things were on schedule for the development of "freedom" in the beleaguered Middle Eastern country.
Blackburn updated her report Monday night at the newly refurbished Hilton East (formerly the Adams Mark hotel) to an audience of the "Frontline Politics" series, sponsored last year by the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce and co-sponsored this year by the chamber and the Memphis Women's Foundation.
As the first-term conservative Republican -- unopposed this year and a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2006 -- sees it, things are still on schedule. She foresees no impediment to the transfer of power on June 30th from the occupying coalition led by America to an Iraqi interim government. The current turmoil is merely a sign of "desperation" on the part of those opposed to the transfer, Blackburn said.
As for another point of contention -- the question of prewar Iraq's so-far-undiscovered WMDs -- Blackburn is equally untroubled. "As far as I'm concerned," she said, "the biggest weapon of mass destruction of them all" has been accounted for. That would be the aforesaid Saddam Hussein, captured last December.
Blackburn was equally optimistic about the economy. "Listening to the major media, you may not realize that. More Americans than ever have a job -- a job they want," she said. "We think there is a very simple reason underlying this, and it is called tax cuts."
Contending that productivity and manufacturing jobs were at "their best level in 20 years," the Nashville-area native cited both supportive statistics and her own private research. "What I do is go to the mall, and I sit down and I count bags, shopping bags. Down South, we've got a theory: If Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy. And when Mama is happy, Mama goes shopping."
On other issues, Blackburn said that President Bush's suggested five-year timetable for halving the current $512 billion deficit is "too slow." Curtailment of spending, coupled with attention to "waste, fraud, and abuse," could get the job done in four years, "or even three years," she said.
The congressman (that's the title she prefers) said she opposed taxing Internet sales: "That would just set up another federal agency." A better boost to sales figures and tax revenues would come from congressional action to restore the deductibility of state sales taxes, she contended.
Subsequent speakers in the "Frontline Politics" series will be U.S. Representative Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-Ark.) on May 27th and Tennessee state Representative Lois DeBerry on June 8th.
* Last Thursday was the deadline for filing for statewide races. Although there is at least nominal competition in several state House and Senate districts, the most notable races should be the following:
House District 83: Contests for the southeast Memphis seat being vacated by longtime Republican incumbent Joe Kent include Republicans Chuck Bates, Pat Collins, Brian Kelsey, Charles McDonald, Stan Peppenhorst, and Mark White and Democrat Julian Prewitt. Bates, a conservative who gave moderate Kent a tough race two years ago in the GOP primary, seems to have more name recognition, momentum, and available financial resources than his rivals.
House District 87: Democratic incumbent Kathryn Bowers, who doubles as Shelby County Democratic chairman, faces a rematch with Greg Grant, her primary foe of two years ago.
House District 89: Republican Jim Jamieson will be making another try for the seat vacated last year by current City Council member Carol Chumney; his Democratic foe is incumbent Beverly Marrero, who won a special election for the seat last year.
House District 93: A tight race is expected in a fall rematch between longtime Democratic incumbent Mike Kernell and Republican challenger John Pellicciotti, who ran Kernell close in 2002 and will undoubtedly campaign this year against Kernell's current bill seeking a pay raise for state legislators.
Senate District 30: Longtime Democratic incumbent Steve Cohen has three challengers: Republicans Bill Wood and Johnny Hatcher Jr. and independent Mary Taylor Shelby.
In nearby Tipton County, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat who has had a close call or two in recent elections, is being challenged this year for his District 80 seat by Dr. Jesse Cannon, an African-American Republican.