State Senator also swipes at Rep. Ford for hoping to "do nothing, except at a higher level."


State Senator Steve Cohen upped the ante in his ongoing verbal combat with Governor Phil Bredesen Sunday, accusing Bredesen of waging “a Katrina, a war, for political expediency, on poor people” by his paring of the TennCare rolls, a process which, said Cohen, would “deprive 200,000 people of health care and cost many of them their lives.”

Speaking at a seminar on “Rethinking the War on Drugs” sponsored by the Public Issues Forum of Memphis, the Midtown Democrat also took an indirect swipe at U.S. Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr., the Memphis congressman whom Cohen unsuccessfully opposed in the 1996 Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District seat.

Cohen noted that no Tennessee congressman had voted for a bill in Congress that would have prevented federal law enforcement authorities from arresting medical-marijuana users in states where they were entitled to use marijuana by law. “And I submit to you that it’d be a popular thing for one of our congressmen to do, because it would say to the state of Tennessee that we had a congressman who had a brain and who had a vision and who had a heart and was trying to make a difference and not just to promote themselves to another office to do nothing except at a higher level.”

Said Cohen: "There’s a purpose to being in office and that’s to try to do things to make your society better and not just to advance yourself. Basically what I’ve seen in my life, most politicians are just there for the next office. They’re there for the next fundraiser, for the next round, for the next whatever. And I see it when I look to Nashville, and I see it when I look to the 9th District. And it’s very, very disheartening."

The full context of Cohen's remarks about Bredesen went this way: “The people are so far ahead of the politicians on so many issues, it’s a shame, and you don’t see a whole lot of politicians put their neck out on issues to make society better.I have a lot of despair right now…when I look at our president. To be honest, when I look at our governor, who is bringing about a Katrina in Tennessee. It’s just that the 200,000 people he’s depriving of health care aren’t put in front of The Pyramid for the public to see it. They’re spread out throughout this state. That is a Katrina – a war, for political expediency on poor people who can’t afford health care themselves and for the political agenda of a multi-millionaire who wants to be something else in life rather than the provider and giver of health care and a better, more progressive society, but wants to advance himself.

“He’s going to deprive 200,000 people of health care and cost many of them their lives. That’s cruel, and it’s Katrina in Tennessee, and it’s happening now at our governor’s level.”

Cohen, the sponsor of pending legislation that would legalize medical marijuana use for specified classes of patients, appeared at the Forum meeting along with Dr. Ethan Nadleman, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the federal “War on Drugs” as both a wrong-headed policy and a failure.

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