Pity Bill Haslam. Our friendly governor has been casting about looking for relevance in an increasingly hostile political environment. He is constantly beset with bitter opponents who disagree with his ideology and his most deeply held beliefs. They counter him at every turn in an attempt to undermine an agenda they frequently find so unacceptable.
And that’s just the Republicans in the legislature.
But now Haslam has lost his most effective friend in the General Assembly. Someone who could also be his most implacable enemy – Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Ramsey announced last week he is retiring from the senate. To say he will be missed is an understatement.
Ramsey at first treated Haslam like a brother – trying to accommodate Bill when possible while also trying to teach him about the legislative process. Ramsey’s first rule: don’t ever try to force the legislature to go somewhere they don’t want to go (i.e., Common Core, Insure TN, etc.). But like many kid brothers, Haslam could not break away from the shadow of the older more experienced, more effective political sibling.
Time after time, despite Ramsey’s attempts to guide and counsel him, Haslam tried to impose an agenda out of step with the conservative Republicans who increasingly dominate the caucus. And despite his affable demeanor, Billy “the Kid” Haslam could not resist throwing a hissy fit when he didn’t get his way. Case in point: Haslam’s disastrous attempt to elect allies and defeat incumbent Republican legislators in the 2014 primaries through his Jobs4TN PAC and the infamous Advance TN PAC set up by his chief-of-staff, Mark “Booger” Cate. Ramsey stayed out of the fracas that focused primarily on the House, watching with amusement while conservatives in that chamber gave Haslam the political equivalent of a “swirly” (look it up – it involves someone’s head in a toilet.)
Haslam could never seem to measure up to brother Ron, even when the clues were all around him. Ron pushed the Refugee Resettlement lawsuit resolution through the Senate by a 27-5 margin. Then Bill came out after the fact and declared he had a problem with it, even though the House GOP caucus had weighed in with a petition to pass the Senate resolution with over 70 signatures on it.
Ramsey has not been shy about exploiting Haslam’s shortcomings, particularly when he could get a “two-fer” by outmaneuvering both the governor and the Speaker of the House at the same time:
In case after case in recent years, Ramsey — and the Senate — prevailed over the wishes of Haslam and Harwell, most notably in 2011, when Ramsey insisted on attaching the abolition of collective bargaining to the governor’s education-reform package. — MemphisFlyer 5/9/2013
Yep, like the older brother who moves away, Bill Haslam is sure going to miss Ron.
After all, who is going to give the governor a “noogie” when he’s got it coming?