Shelby County Democrats managed a hearty turnout at last Saturday's annual Kennedy Dinner at the Central Avenue Holiday Inn. Principal speaker was former Georgia senator Max Cleland, who roused the crowd of some 300 with lines like this one, comparing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's service in Vietnam with President Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq: "John Kerry knows how to save lives in war; George Bush knows how to lose them."
Other speakers included actor David Keith, considered a likely candidate for statewide office at some point; state representative Kathryn Bowers, the local party chairman; state chairman Randy Button; and U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. (toasted by various other speakers as a future president of the United States). Present were Tennessee Lt. Governor John Wilder and several state constitutional officers.
Recipient of the first William "Bill" Farris Award for meritorious political service was state senator Steve Cohen. Longtime activist John Freeman received the annual Chairman's Award for service to the party.
· It is the Republicans' time to muster ranks this week. On Saturday night, the East Shelby County Republican Club will hold its annual Master Meal at Appling Manor in Cordova. Featured will be impressionist Paul Shanklin, whose recorded takeoffs on politicians (mainly Democrats) have been a staple of Rush Limbaugh's syndicated radio talk show. Tickets, at $40 a head, cover dinner, reception, and a silent auction.
· Syndicated columnist Robert Novak reports disquiet among Senate Republicans concerning the leadership of Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. A grain of salt: Novak was one of the diehard defenders of former GOP leader Trent Lott, whom Frist helped shove aside after Lott's careless remarks in late 2002 seeming to praise the segregationist past of former (and now deceased) Senator Strom Thurmond.
· Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford is regarded as a likely candidate to succeed his nephew in the 9th District seat if Representative Ford makes a U.S. Senate run in 2006. Other names that have received some play are those of Calvin Anderson, a state election commissioner and lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and state representative Lois DeBerry of Memphis, longtime speaker pro tem in the state House of Representatives.
· Though it could end up having only token importance, a write-in challenge to District 92 state representative Henri Brooks is emerging in the person of former state representative D. Jack Smith.
Smith, who served in the legislature as a Democrat in the 1960s, is hoping to get enough votes from Republicans on August 5th (five percent of the total primary vote) to become the official GOP opponent in November for Democrat Brooks. He is being assisted by former legislator and county commissioner Ed Williams, who owns the largely honorific title of county historian. ·
Next week: a preview of the August 5th election ballot. Also next week on the Flyer Web site (MemphisFlyer.com), a running blog from the Democratic convention in Boston.
What Ford Really Said
U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. has objected to this sentence from last week's report on his June 10th appearance before the Germantown Democratic Club as inaccurate: "Moreover, Bush had 'done nothing' since to ensure that the country would be able to withstand another crisis like that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks."
Upon reviewing the tape I made of those remarks, I must concur. Here, in a portion of his remarks reviewing the current state of the nation's security under President Bush, is what he actually said (including one of the longest and most complicated sentences this side of Henry James):
"It was this president who in many ways moved forward and, we've learned now, acted on faulty intelligence that has done, I dare say and should say, in all honesty and credibility I can muster, has done nothing to ensure that the next time we are faced with these kinds of threats that we are faced with today, in North Korea and Iran, we're faced with today as we try to prevent countries in Africa from becoming havens and training grounds for al-Qaeda and all its subsidiaries, we're faced with today as we try to convince our friends around the world, even those who don't like us and didn't like us before, to join us in an effort to fight back those who would disrupt and cause violence and pose violence in our country."
Got it? That was followed by this simple and straightforward line: "As strong and powerful as we are, we are despised around the world."
Ford, who has recanted his October 2002 vote for a War Powers resolution authorizing military action in Iraq, said Saturday night at the Democrats' Kennedy Dinner in Memphis that "I was one who was snookered." -- J.B.