Sunday, October 29, 2006

Taxing One's Principles

The first time I saw Tennessee state senate candidate Bob Rochelle's commercial in which he confesses that he had been wrong when he advocated a state income tax, I wondered if Billy Graham would make a 30 second ad to say that he had been wrong about God. Or, would Al Gore create a spot to say he was wrong on global warming?

Of course, politicians do change sides for political convenience, and Gore provides a good example. The former vice-president proclaimed himself solidly pro-life when seeking votes in Tennessee, but eventually came out for the pro-choice side when running for national office, all the while claiming that his position had never changed. However, the abortion issue was never a matter of central importance for Gore. A cynical politician can get away with such political expediency on issues on which they never majored. Henry Hyde could have never seamlessly changed course on abortion, and Gore could not easily switch sides on global warming, even if they were so inclined. Bob Rochelle, one would think, can not simply advertise himself away from his history of strongarming leadership in favor of a state income tax.

Would any reporter bother asking Rochelle to explain the changes in his fiscal and economic principles that resulted in his change of mind on the tax? Such a dramatic change of position, if real, does not occur in a vacuum.

In addition, it should be said that the type of politics being practiced by Rochelle only succeeds in making him appear desperate and small. Rochelle was once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, as was shown by his ability, in concert with House speaker Jimmy Naifeh and Governor Don Sundquist, to essentially play a game of chicken with the state budget in order to try to force an income tax through the legislature. Now, he is reduced to having the appearance of an unprincipled and desperate beggar who will promise to perform any sort of work in exchange for a few votes.

I don't much care for Rochelle's politics, but it is for greater concerns that I hope his tactics will not work.


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