Former 7th District congressman Ed Bryant, now a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, predicted Saturday that the current ethics scandal in Washington centering around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "is going to spread."
Speaking to attendees of the monthly Dutch Treat Luncheon at the Picadilly Restaurant in East Memphis, Bryant said, "I hear that as many as 20 members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, could be involved, as well as staffers." In an aside, Bryant took note of the current legislative special session on ethics in Tennessee and expressed astonishment that the state had "so few laws" governing ethics, "in contrast to how many we have at the federal level."
As he had in previous stump speeches, the former congressman expressed a desire to join the Senate Judiciary Committee if elected. He promised to "get on the television shows" and counter prominent Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. He said he would also use his committee membership to "take on the anti-gun people lying in the weeds up there."
A U.S. attorney for Western Tennessee before entering Congress in 1995, Bryant heaped praise on current Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and said that, "after Alito, we [Republicans] will need one more to ensure long-term control of the Court."
Bryant praised proposals for a national sales tax and endorsed, with reservations, the idea of term limits on congressional service. But he declined, when pressed by members of the predominantly conservative Dutch Treat audience, to condemn the United Nations or to oppose continued "most favored nation" treatment for China.
"We'll get better progress with China on all fronts if we keep them as a member of the world community," Bryant said. "After all, we've got Amway in China!"
Pledging to stem the tide of illegal immigration, Bryant also took issue with President Bush's amnesty proposals for migrant workers. "The joke is that Republicans want them for their labor and Democrats want them for their votes," he said.
Bryant is opposed in the GOP Senate primary by former mayor Bob Corker of Chattanooga and former 7th District congressman Van Hilleary.
Among those supporters summoned to Nashville by Governor Phil Bredesen last weekend for a summit meeting on the governor's reelection plans was a sizable group of Memphians, including Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, Jim Strickland, Calvin Anderson, Greg Duckett, Sidney Chism, John Bratcher, and Bobby Lanier.
Shelby County commissioner John Willingham, who had flirted with the thought of running for county mayor, has rethought his strategy and reaffirmed his intention to run instead for reelection to his District 1, Position 3 commission seat. (He is opposed in the Republican primary by GOP consultant Mike Carpenter.)
A proponent of a payroll tax, Willingham says he now is hopeful that incumbent mayor Wharton might end up giving useful support for such a tax.
Willingham said further that his interpretation of state law is that only "municipalities" and not counties are enjoined from imposing such taxes without prior legislative approval. He called for renewed examination of the issue by county legal officers.
Who is this man and where will he point next? In February 2004, on the eve of that year's Tennessee preference primary, erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore spoke from the stage of the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, where, alongside all his party's active presidential hopefuls, he famously thundered about President Bush, "He betrayed this country!" This somewhat out-of-focus shot chronicles the very moment when those provocative words -- aimed at the president's Iraq policy -- escaped the former vice president's lips. Gore is still being provocative, but his means of doing so has changed somewhat. See Viewpoint, page 13.