After Reelection, Haslam Mulls Operation to Reinsert Spine
Such an action would likely set him up for titanic clashes with Republican right-wingers, who are quite pleased with the compassion-ectomies they had done upon finally seizing control of both chambers of the state legislature in 2008.
During Haslam’s first term, he used his spine primarily as a flagpole, running issue flags up it to see which way the political winds were blowing. But Haslam last week acknowledged that he was considering the spinal procedure.
“To pursue my Insure Tennessee plan to expand health insurance availability to poor Tennesseans, I may need a spine to overcome the obstinate and unconscionable opposition of my fellow Republicans, who, I want to point out, are wonderful folks despite their not wanting poor people to have insurance,” he said.
If Haslam moves forward with the spine re-implantation, the Knoxville native will depend on a surprising source to assist with the delicate procedure: the few Democrats remaining in the Tennessee General Assembly.
“Since I can’t rely on my fellow Republicans in this important task, I must lean on the common sense and compassion of our friendly opposition,” Haslam explained.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says Democrats are “favorably postured” to get behind Haslam’s reverse spine-ectomy, while adding an asterisk to their aid.
“This is a critical matter for the governor and the people of Tennessee, so we would like to help make the operation a success,” Fitzhugh said. “But he must promise to use his backbone to stand up for Tennesseans and not as a crutch for furthering his own political aspirations.”
Fitzhugh added that Democrats’ willingness to help Gov. Haslam “has nothing to do with the fact that it gives us usually impotent Democrats a rare occasion to appear strong to our constituencies and relevant to a statewide audience, an opportunity to hold something over the governor and a chance to poke Republicans in the eye with a sharp stick. It has nothing to do with that at all.”
Lt. Gov. (AKA Real Gov.) and Spine Specialist Ron Ramsey warned that Gov.-In-Name-Only Haslam could face unforeseen complications and side-effects from a backbone reinsertion, such as finding himself in a position in which he can’t bend when he should on certain issues.
“Things can go wrong,” Ramsey explained. “You get your backbone back, and you may find that on things you were once more pliable, you can't bend at all. So it's a very risky procedure in my opinion.”
Ramsey used as an example of such risks the governor appearing with President Obama recently to tout his idea for two years of free community college tuition for graduating high school seniors, which is based on Haslam’s Tennessee Plan.
“Just the prospect of having his spine back gave Mr. Haslam the nerve to foolishly appear with that president guy, which endangers the governor’s thinly disguised plan for Medicaid expansion, AKA Obamacare,” Ramsey explained. “He should have spinelessly declined the appearance because the Tennessee GOP Caucus hates the current Oval Office occupier so much, we're willing to withhold health care from hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans just to punish the governor for being seen with him.”
While Real Gov. and Senate Speaker Ramsey has talked big about Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion, thus far, neither he nor his counterpart in the House, Speaker Beth Harwell, have had enough backbone to oppose it outright. Instead, each has tried to pawn launching the legislation off on the others’ chamber, a legislative ping-pong game that was ongoing as the legislature broke for the long MLK Day weekend.
Still, Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville, who normally carries bills in the governor’s legislative agenda, echoed Ramsey’s warnings.
Norris, who has not yet agreed to sponsor the Insure Tennessee bill, said that the governor getting his backbone back would force Republican legislators to “show some backbone right back at him.”
“What’s going to happen is, if Gov. Haslam grows a spine, then all of us Republicans will have to get our backbones up in opposition to him,” he explained. “If that happens, it’s going to be a real ruckus, a shouting match so loud you won’t be able to hear yourself think. I mean, the volume will be turned up to 11.”
After a moment’s pause, Norris said this column had best end there, before he was forced to make any more bad “Spinal Tap” puns.
— Scott McNutt, Mocksville Reporter