Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Corker Squirms

Here's a heads up for all you non-local political junkies out there. Bob Corker, our increasingly embattled Republican Senatorial candidate, showed up on our local talk radio station last week, and one of the hosts, Robert T. Nash (who, btw, identifies himself as a libertarian, I believe**), really raked him over the coals. If you'd like to listen to the interview, go here and scroll down to "Live & Local" for the audio files. If you've got an aversion to listening to weasels with incredibly nasal voices, you might prefer to read the transcript, which follows after the jump.

UPDATE 1: Egalia is reporting that the GOP 'Freaking Out' Over Ford vs. Corker Race.

UPDATE 2: **my research indicated that Nash is a self-described libertarian. But I picked up a copy of our free local alternative weekly when I was out for lunch and it has an article in which he claims to be a republican. Either way, there's no reason to believe that he is, as Corker claims, "aligned with Harold Ford."

UPDATE 3: check out Rook's coverage on Kos!
9-20-2006 Bob Corker on Chattanooga WGOW's Live and Local with Robert T. Nash and Maryanne Williams

Nash: You weren't hassled by a tall good-looking African American man out in the parking lot who is also running for Senate were you?

Corker: No, he's all talk and no show. It's been an incredible thing to watch the Ford machine misrepresent, act like… I mean, they beat their chest and it's just like, it's just been incredible. But anyway, I'm here and certainly he's not here, so…


N: Mr. Corker let's cut right to the chase. Most people know what this is all about. You want to represent the great state of Tennessee in the United States Senate. You're on the Republican side of the ballot. And I'd like you to start… the slogan during the primary campaign was ‘conservative principles, positive results.' I would like you to articulate what you feel to be the most important conservative principles that you hold dear in this day and age.

C: Well there are four, and I've talked about them for the last couple of years. First of all, making sure that we embrace economic growth, the principles of economic growth, to raise the standard of living for all and create good-paying jobs, something that I tried to do very, very well as Mayor. Certainly making sure that we're safe and secure, kind of the number one responsibility of government. Certainly in this day and time at the federal level something people want to ensure happens. Making sure, thirdly, that we live within our means. The federal government's debt today is $8.5T and we have just sort of lost sight of the fact that these are the good days. The economy is growing rapidly, the baby boomer generation has not yet put pressure of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which is going to be happening in the out years. And we need to really focus on constraining spending.

N: And your fourth principle?

C: Fourth is preserving those great traditions of faith and family. Same four principles I've been talking about for 20 months ad nauseam if you will throughout the course of this race.

N: … We had a number of callers suggest that we ask you about the federal minimum wage and whether or not you believe it's where it needs to be, if it needs to be raised, what sort of timeline you would propose if indeed it needs to be raised, and if you feel like it should be raised, where it should be raised to.

C: Yeah I think whenever we talk about the minimum wage, we ought to hand in hand talk about lessening burdens for small business people who deal with that. So if we can do that hand and hand, certainly I'm open to that. I don't think I've announced what level it ought to be, certainly there are different costs of living issues throughout our country and sometimes its hard to actually establish a minimum wage… New York City is a whole lot different than Chattanooga , Tennessee . But certainly, that's been my position all along.

N: The GAO puts the spending power of people who are making minimum wage at about the level of 1953 or 1954. Would you concede at least at the very minimum that people ought to be doing better in terms of personal spending power here in 2006 than they were doing in 1953 or 1954?

C: Yeah I think the other piece of that, and certainly my whole history has been wanting to make sure that people were paid well, I certainly did that within my own company. Most of the jobs that are filled by minimum wage people really are people who are students or people who are doing in transition, transitionary things. You talk to most people who, lets say operate a convenience stores or something, it's hard to, you can't find people at that wage.

N: Sure, it's not a career quality job.

C: That's exactly right. So, but no doubt, I think that certainly costs have gone up and it's something that needs to be looked at. I think that any time though that we do those kind of things in essence that's a mandate, we ought to also try to offset that with, you know, regulations, taxations, whatever the small businessman deal with to try to make it and I think that that's what's trying to be done right now and certainly I support that.

N: You make a good point, most minimum wage earners are in the early stages of their career. Let's go to the end stages of the career. I had a number of callers ask us to put the question to you about the state of Social Security. You would obviously be instrumental if indeed you are successful in your election bid in formulating a solution there. Can you let our listeners know what you have in mind?

C: Sure I think we need to figure out ways of slowing the growth of Social Security. No doubt, I know that my opponent has said it automatically, automatically raise the retirement age to 70, uh, that concerns me some. I know my opponent has sort of inherited a Congressional seat, went to Ivy League schools, private schools… I don't think he's ever worked out on job sites with people that you know, carry blocks for a living or do roofing and 70 is an awfully old age for people who do that kind of work. So, I think we need to look though at things to slow the growth of social security. One of the things that has been proposed is looking at something called progressive indexing where you actually look at the growth in benefits and look at it as it relates to the cost of living… as it relates to wages, cost of living, not wage increases and what you would do is offset that disproportionately towards the lower income workers so they have more, if you will, when they retire. So there are some things that you can look at in that way that actually slows the growth of social security but actually keeps it solvent.

N: If you're just joining us, its Robert T. Nash, Maryanne Williams, live and local right here on the Talk Monster, Talk Radio WGOW 102.3 FM, joined in the studio by Republican candidate for Senate, U.S. Senate, and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker. Mr. Corker, the invitation to appear on Meet the Press has been out there for 9 months. Simple terms, straight answer, why won't you go on Meet the Press?

C: Well we just felt like it was better to debate, you know we are debating, right here in Chattanooga , Tennessee . And we're debating in Nashville and we're debating in Memphis . I had five debates over the course of the primary. As a matter of fact this will probably be the most debated Senate race in recent history. We just felt like we wanted to spend our time right here in Tennessee and it's another indication of, I mean, you know, Congressman Ford has only raised 31% of his money in state, and it's only natural that he'd like to be on national television and talk with his buddies out in Hollywood and Manhattan and all that. Obviously, 92% of our support has come from within state. We've really tried to make an effort to be right here in the state with Tennesseans, and not hob-knobbing with people around the country in this race. I think the fact that we wanted to debate here in state really, really points out the differences that exist between us again.

N: Maryanne, before you put your first question to Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker, we'd like our listeners to know we are working on seeing if we can make arrangements to broadcast the audio of some of the debates you've referenced. We're thinking we're going to be able to put that together and we're crossing our fingers and hoping we can.

C: Well actually you know the Chattanooga debate will be right here and everybody will be able to listen to it and the Nashville debate is actually going to be broadcast all around the state so that'll be easily done. And I'd love for the Memphis one to….

N: I think the Memphis one is the one for now, but we'll keep our listeners posted on that and go ahead please Maryanne.

Williams: Well, one of the planks of your platform Bob is safety and security and so often times people will make that correlation to immigration. Where will you fall, or, I know you want to build a big fence or at least you've been walking along side a fence in some of your campaign ads, so what exactly do you propose for immigration?

C: Sure there's five points. One is to secure the border and that means, that doesn't mean building a fence everywhere, it just means in some places where there are needs for that, that we do. But there's all kinds of electronic surveillance equipment and unmanned aircraft to be ably to surveil and make sure that our border stays secure. Secondly, I do that we need to make adjustments in what we, we need to allow people to work here only if they are legal. But there's no doubt there is some bureaucracy there that centers around the H2A programs, allow agricultural workers to come back and forth and we need to really look at those things and make those more streamlined and easy to work with. Thirdly though, if people are here illegally, I really do believe that they should return home and come back only through legal channels. Senator Cornyn out of Texas has looked at this issue a great deal and has got some provisions in a bill that he puts forth that I really think makes that workable, makes that not disruptive. It gives people time to do that. Fourthly, I think we need to have an easy and quick way for people to identify whether people here are legal or not and if abusers, uh, if employers abuse that, I think they ought to be punished, I really do. But you go out to so many companies today, and document fraud is such a huge issue that it's hard for people to know whether the people who work for them are legal or not. And then fifthly, I think this really relates to citizenship. If somebody wants to become a citizen here in our country I think they need to learn what it means to be an American and learn the English language. So those are the five pieces. My opponent, actually again another difference, has said publicly, again on one of his national new show there, that he would support a bill that does include amnesty. So we're just real different on that issue also.

N: Doesn't amnesty reflect the real world economics involved? Let's face it, if we were able to round up everybody whose in this country illegally now, whether they are working or not, you know, there'd be a crushing effect on the dynamics of the economy, at all levels in my opinion. I'm not suggesting that I'm in favor of amnesty but I don't see how we can come up with anything that's realistic and workable without an amnesty component. And I mean the construction industry, the food service industry, other industries are really relying on immigrant labor, a lot of which is illegal and undocumented.

C: Well, I think again you ought to look at some of the provisions of the Cornyn bill I cited. I think there is a way to deal with that in a thoughtful manner and in a way that will work and allow people, and actually cause people to do those things legally that they need to do to go back home and come into this country. So I really do believe that, and uh, have purported you know, that's been my position for this entire race.

You know again, it's one of those kinds of things where Congressman Ford is on every side of an issue. That's just what people who have spent ten years in Washington being the most liberal voting Congress member we've had in the state of Tennessee for the last ten years do.

N: Mr. Corker would you be willing to entertain some calls from listeners?

C: Sure, but let me address Henry's call, I happened to tune in just to get a…

N: Please do.

C: He mentioned something about me stating that I had lowered property taxes… I've never stated that in my life. And what happens in these races is people who, like Harold Ford, like to distort other people's records because they're embarrassed about their own say things that just aren't true. I have never, ever, ever, ever said that I lowered property taxes in Chattanooga . What I said was, and it is documented and I think you may have misunderstood what the documents, what the documentation said, was that we controlled spending so that property taxes are the lowest taxes since the 1950s. That's a fact. My fourth budget was only 1% higher than my first budget when I was Mayor. And so when reappraisal came around, and because we had had two billion dollars worth of investment in our city, our property taxes today in Chattanooga are the lowest since the 1950s. That's a fact. And what I've said all along is that we controlled spending, which we did. We cut 250 positions out of the city government. My fourth budget was less than 1% higher that the first, and that's a record that I'm proud of.

N: well, while we're revisiting old business, let's go ahead and cover a couple of things that may be difficult for you. And I'd appreciate it if you would answer me directly and I know you'll answer me truthfully, but I'm curious while you were Mayor of the city of Chattanooga, did you modify, restrict, squelch, limit, access by media, from media to police reports, incident reports, arrest reports….

C: Absolutely not.

N: Did you do it yourself, or through a designate….

C: No. Absolutely not.

N: You did not limit, alter, squelch, modify, or restrict external media's access to Chattanooga Police arrest, incident, investigation…

C: Absolutely not.

N: So there's no substance to that allegation which has been sweeping around for quite a while? That you basically made the comment…

C: No, no, no, I'm just telling you. Absolutely not.

N: … via a designate…

C: Absolutely not.

N: … that we didn't need to be airing our dirty laundry in public. You never said those words or had someone say them on your behalf while you were Mayor of the city of Chattanooga ?

C: To my knowledge that has never happened.

N: Ok, well…

C: I don't know how more clearly I could answer that. And I'd love for somebody to in person… I've not, this is by the way the first time I've ever heard that allegation and so you say that it's been circling around for a while, that's the first time I've heard it.

N: Well my ear is so close to the ground it's full of crickets. Uh how…

C: Well that's one of the things about it you have to watch on these shows…

N: I understand

C: … people are constantly spinning you. And I know that you know that and you're smiling as I, I know the listening audience can't see that big smile on your face, but anyway

N: Well they can see it by virtue of the Big River web cams and here's… I'm smiling because yes, you're right. A lot gets spun. And I believe there's some spinning from both camps here. Ok, let's talk about something that isn't in dispute.

C: Now, are you saying that I just spun you?

N: No, I'm not saying you just spun me…

C: Ok good.

N: …I'm saying that you may try before we get outta here.

C: Ok.

W: That would be part of your job as a politician.

C: No it would not be. I think that one of the things I am known for is being a blunt talking, direct talking individual. And I think as Mayor, you know I probably could have served myself better by using spin and being less direct but I didn't. I always just told people exactly like it was. Every time I've come in this studio I've done that and I'm doing that now.

N: And we appreciate that.

N: Todd Womack is in the studio with you now, you may know that there have been a couple of articles in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that have referenced Mr. Womack's emails concerning the transfer of some property relative to the construction of the Wal-Mart, Eastgate is the term they are using locally. Essentially there was mandatory referral that should have been done by virtue of this… this was a conservation easement… water run of… this should have been subject to the oversight of the planning commission but it wasn't.

C: No, no, no, no, the planning commission wrote us a letter… you know, you're making statements that just are not true. The planning commission wrote us a letter prior to me ever being Mayor, long before, encouraging us to build this Greenway Roadway and help make some of things that, uhh there was a group put together called Envision East gate or something long before I was Mayor. So that's just not the case.

N: This is a letter from your lawyer citing an urgency to close on a related land sale, this is a lawyer representing your interests, James M. Haley. I am wondering if the mandatory referral to the Regional Planning Commission can be avoiding and in fact the city can proceed with the execution of the agreement, lawyer James M. Haley wrote in a November 15, 2002 letter to the City Attorneys' Office. Now, this reporter asserts that Haley got his wish. The city council passed the roadway agreement nine days later without the benefit of the planning commission overseeing it. Are you saying that the reporter got it wrong?

C: I'm saying that the Regional Planning Commission, long before I was Mayor, wrote us a letter about this roadway. I have no knowledge of what took place from the time I took Mayor on, so I couldn't dispute what you are saying, because I have no knowledge of it. I was uninvolved, these things were in a blind trust, and I had no involvement in it whatsoever. So I guess what you'd have to do on that issue, or any other issue relating to what took place while I was in public office, is ask whoever was involved.

N: well, Mr. Womack here sent a lot of the emails… I believe you when you tell me that your assets were in a blind trust. From a structure standpoint. But it seems to me that high placed officials within your administration were basically advocating for, if not sheparding, things that would make life good for you. That's as blunt and reductive as I can put it. And it might be easier to address some of these questions if the record existed. But you and I both know that your emails are gone. There are a lot of documents missing from your tenure with the Sundquist Administration as well.

C: Now wait a minute. I don't know… Robert, you're a little off base here first of all.

N: Tell me where I went wrong sir.

C: Well you know, my understanding is that an email system automatically erase themselves after a period of time. That's what I've been told, ok, that that just occurs. I can't address, uh the fact that there's a disk, uhhh… I read someplace in the paper… I mean, what are you trying to say?... And let me say this, the two files that you are talking about, that I read about too in the Tennessean, somebody checked out in 2001 the documentation around us bringing the Titans to the state of Tennessee . I mean what are you saying? All the other records that had to do with Tenncare and far more difficult issues that I worked on are all there in tact. I would love for the citizens of this state to know what I did as related to the Titans. It was an awesome transaction, where the citizens of our state benefited hugely, and made a huge amount of money off it. And so, you know, I'd love to see those files and by the way I talk about the Titans deal when I'm in Nashville nonstop, So I'm trying to sort of understand what it is you're saying here.

N: I lived in Nashville from 1994, beg your pardon, 1984 to 1996, I'm familiar with the back-story on that. Here's what I'm saying, Mr. Corker. You seem to be a lover of secrecy. You don't want to release your tax returns…

C: I released my tax returns

N: In full?

C: Just like Governor Bredesen, just like Lamar Alexander.

N: Is that in full? Yes or no?

C: Every… my 1040s.

N: You've released the first couple of pages not the schedules where people can see in detail how much money you made and how you made it and what deductions you took.

C: No, No. My, my, my…That is just not true. The 1040 says exactly how much I've made and if you'd like me to I'll send it over here and give you a schedule all the way back to 1976. I don't know of a public official in recent times that has listed what they have made, let's see what would that be… 29 years, cause ‘06 hasn't come out yet, 29 years worth of income tax information. What is it, Robert T. Nash, that you would like to know? In addition to that, I listed how much money I gave to charity, so tell me…

N: And you should be commended for the money you give to charity, it is very significant and I'm aware of it.

C: So what is it that you would like to know?

N: I would like to see your tax returns in full. I believe it would eliminate a lot of questions and you say you have nothing to hide and this is an easy way to establish and verify that.

C: Well, you know, what Governor Bredesen, yesterday, was asked the same question by someone he said, look, he learned a long time ago that when you release all those schedules, nobody understands them, it goes on rabbit trails, and it ends up being something that… Look, I've told people what I've made, I've sold all my assets except for a few, I'm the most non-conflicted Senate candidate you've probably seen in recent times and I just don't know what else you need to know.

N: With that in mind, and this will be my final question, there is a street level buzz, that the deal you have engineered with Henry Luken, which is admittedly complicated, and involves your properties that are currently being held by Henry Luken, reverting to you at some point in the future, whether or not your successful in your Senate bid. Let me ask you the question. Does your deal with Henry Luken involve the sale of real property, the shares in corporations, or both? That's what I'd like to know off the top, from the top.

C: My deal with Henry Luken is absolutely over and done. Period. And I will be paying taxes on that this next April 15th . It is over and done.

N: No provision for getting any of it back?

C: No! Heck no, absolutely not.

N: People talk Mr. Corker, I figured… go to the source

C: No… You and all your conspiracy folks can continue to… look, that's life in the public arena. The reason... listen I know that you had mentioned when I was in here one day, people talking about real estate property transfers taxes or something

N: And I got bumped in the chest for asking.

C: No you didn't.

N: I did, Mr. Corker. There were witnesses. You made your points by thumping me on my right breast three times.

C: Was that offensive to you?

N: It did not offend me, I just want to make sure that your recollection is full and complete.

C: Was there anything about our conversation that was the least bit offensive to you?

N: No sir, you were forthcoming and I appreciate it

C: Why are you trying to mischaracterize? Now let me talk and finish an answer to this question, ok?

N: You just asked me why I am trying to mischaracterize something and I'd like to respond to your question. I'm not trying to mischaracterize anything. For the better part of our listeners, I would like them to know the whole complete response I got from you. I got something that came out of the somewhere other than your mouth, which was physical contact. Let's face it. You have a reputation for having a temper. If its news to you, you haven't been paying attention.

C: Have you ever seen me express my temper ever in my public office, ever?

N: No sir, not in your public office, because the one time I was scheduled to meet with you in the capacity of your office when you were the Mayor of Chattanooga, you had Shirley Pawn call me the morning of the meeting and tell me that you couldn't meet with me and she would be meeting with in your stead.

C: Well, let me just say this.

N: This was in my capacity as citizen taxpayer and property owner and in your capacity as Mayor of Chattanooga.

C: Well obviously you are still harboring the fact that you couldn't have a meeting. Let me go back to…

[Indistinguishable back and forth]

N: You're trading on my character now. Ok? I wanted to talk to you about a bad cop, which you needed to hear by virtue of the FBI sending officers in here to investigate the Chattanooga police department. We've had problems with the Chattanooga police department, some of them which had their origins in your mayoral administration, or at least were going on during your mayoral administration. Would you dispute that?

C: Do you think that I have anything to do with the cadets who join… Can I answer the question you asked me a minute ago? You've obviously got a burr…

N: I hold politicians seeking one of the highest offices in the land to a very high standard of accountability. Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, maybe I'm naïve, but yes Mr. Corker for me it is personal. I don't know any of other way to discharge my obligation. Now you go ahead and respond sir.

C: Well, uh… to the Henry Luken question that you've asked me about.

N: You said there was no provision for reversal. You've already answered that question.

C: You asked me to explain. Apparently you want to be the only talker on this show and if you do I doubt that you'll have many people who want to respond to you.

N: Go ahead sir.

C: The fact is, that the Henry Luken deal, I sold two corporations that owned lots of land. One of them was the Osborne Corporation which came about in the 1930s or 50

N: It's been around a while.

C: And then the Stonefort Land Company that had been created in 1886. So those two transactions were stock and all of the land that was held in those, he got when he bought the stock in those 100%. The other transaction was the James Building , where he bought real property directly. So that's the answer. There absolutely is no reversion and you know, a piece of me went away when it was sold. I was really attached with the people that I worked with there and loved the properties. I'm no longer involved in that, that's the end of that. And I'll be writing a check to… you know, for taxes, because of the transaction.

N: Well, I appreciate your candor and I admire you for being willing to disclose what you have about your finances, but the fact is Mr. Corker is you're a very wealthy man. Basically what you have experience in terms of the good life is beyond most people's kin. And I believe that there is an obligation upon you, since you want to represent these good common everyday folks, salt to the earth, to go above and beyond the minimums required for disclosure.

C: I have done that.

N: I believe it would be in your best interest to release your tax returns in full…

C: I've done that.

N: I believe it would be in your best interests to go on Meet the Press. And I believe it would be in your best interest to see if you could maybe do some work towards scouting up the emails that went missing from your Mayoral Administration.

C: Now how can I do that? How can I possibly…

N: I'm not sure, I would assume that would have been something that you archived. But you didn't?

C: Absolutely not.

N: Ok.

C: Look, again, apparently… you make a lot of statements here I think that are really…. I think sort of over the line. And again, I sit here smiling at you when you do it. Its just hard to, uh… look the only thing that you're required to do when you run for the Senate is fill out the Senate papers. I did that, but on top of that I've released 29 years worth of taxes. And I guess people like you, people like you that are aligned with Harold Ford….

N: I'm not aligned with Harold Ford sir.

C: Well, you are.

N: No I'm not.

C: You're offended by people who start working when they are 13 years old…

N: Sir I got my first job sacking groceries at Willie's when I was 13 and a half.

C: And there's something wrong with a guy who goes out in a pickup truck with $8,000 and builds a business. What I really like about people….

N: Mr. Corker I do not begrudge you your success. It's offensive to me that you would state that, that you would essentially speak for me when you do so little speaking for yourself. The question here is you, Mr. Corker. I'm not running for the U.S. Senate, you are.

C: And I have, as I mentioned, done way beyond, you know, what the call of duty is in releasing your tax returns. A lot more than our sitting governor, who has apparently done the same thing, Senator Alexander… I guess I have a hard time understanding why in this particular case you would single me out…

N: Because you were finance commissioner during the Suntrust, during the Sundquist Administration and essentially I believe there are a lot of questions about your record of public service and unfortunately we can't answer them because the documentation is gone.

C: What are you talking about, the Sundquist Administration?

N: What did you learn in the Sundquist Administration that will translate to your Senate bid?

C: Oh gosh, I learned a lot. I learned… I was there 18 months and agreed to get the Administration started. Told the administration when I was going to leave the day that I started so for 18 months I dealt extensively with health care issues, Tenncare had just been in place a year before that.

N: What kind of shape was the state in financially when you went into the post?

C: Uh, had a huge deficit. A $250M deficit when I came in.

N: We're out of time. What kind of shape was it in when you left?

C: Absolute recurring income, recurring expenditures.

N: Was it a deficit?

C: No, absolutely balanced.

N: Not a deficit?

C: No absolutely not. I received a standing ovation when I left by the General Assembly

N: (To Todd Womack) Go ahead, tell Mr. Corker what he needs to know.

C: I've got several people hand signaling to me since we're going off. I'd like to say you know it's been a pleasure being with you in spite of the axe you have to grind….

N: I don't have an axe to grind Mr. Corker, speaking truth to power is the stock and trade of journalists when they come up against career politicians.

C: Well I'm not… You think I'm a career politician? 5 and a half years?

N: I think you are an aspiring career politician.

C: Ok… well listen. It's been great Mary Anne.


Tim said...

That was almost as good as Clinton vs. Wallace. :)

mesh said...

Nash identifies himself as a "poor but proud East Tennessee Republican." Which makes the confrontation all the more notable.

alice said...

Thanks for the headsup. I picked up a copy of the Pulse at lunch and caught your article about the radio program, so I added a link and update.