Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is the "Re-elect Karl Dean" campaign underway or not? And was he the only man who could have saved us from the May flood?

Any political realist will acknowledge that the campaign for mayoral elections never really ends. Nonetheless, the news media seems to require harder proofs for demonstrating campaign mode, like overhead and paying their media corporations advertising revenues that helps journalism float. But sometimes the media hedges bets.

One the one hand, according to one recent Tennessean story, Karl Dean hasn't even begun to fight:
There's been no formal announcement, no full-time campaign staff, no office, no advertising, no Facebook page.

"I've raised some money, but I haven't organized a campaign or done anything," Dean said in an interview last week.

On the other hand, Gail Kerr, in what looks to me like an attempt to soften any perceptions of unpreparedness that come with reluctant candidacy, 24 hours later repackages Michael Cass's reportage:
The obligatory staff, balloon-laden announcement, daily e-mail missives and Facebook page do not yet exist.

Who can blame him? Why bother yet? With the exception of the endless back-and-forth over the state fairgrounds, every thing on Dean's to do list is steady-as-she-goes. Watching Dean's development as a civic leader has been fascinating. He came into office with staffers who were pretty good at getting their guy elected but not necessarily skilled at governing. They go into next year's re-election as a cohesive team that knows how to do both.

Gail Kerr continues to regale us with the legend of grooming the reluctant candidate into the ultimate governator. Accordingly, Mayor Dean may lack a certain savvy that comes with running a campaign, but that also makes him innocent of any cynicism that plagues political decision-making. In Ms. Kerr's narrative he might as well be a Clark Kent character who dons the cape of politics when forced to. And the May floods forced him to:
He has worked through his tendency to act only after a lawyerly exploration of every angle. Dean is still deliberative, but he turned a disaster into triumph with quick action after the flood.

Can you imagine any of the men who lost to Dean leading Nashville through that? The image that comes to mind is a city without drinking water for months. Makes you shiver, doesn't it?

Gail Kerr did not stop with deftly flipping the checkered image of practicing law into an appealing alternative (see: Atticus Finch), but perhaps she strained credulity by planting the ridiculous notion that Karl Dean was the only person who saved us from catastrophic thirst for lack of drinking water. That ignores the good fortune that both Nashville and Mayor Dean enjoyed last May and it minimizes the role that other leaders did and could have played. I distinctly remember witnessing mistakes in flood calculations and seemingly uninspired Metro workers pacing at river's rising edge unsure of what to do next. But history is written by winners, especially those who have story tellers who seem more like Stephen Root playing "Suds" than independent, critically reflective journalists.

It is confusing enough that journalists are waffling and spinning on the question of whether the Dean campaign has actually started. Karl Dean's own e-mail correspondence confuses the issue. He sends out newsletters from the "Office of the Mayor" that are paid for by the "Dean for Mayor" campaign:

Mayor's Office e-mail or Dean re-election campaign e-mail? 

The truth is that the campaign has been going since the last election despite the news media's naked attempts to write Mayor Dean's political aspirations out of the governing equation. While it may not be illegal for the Dean Team to use the mayor@nashville.gov or other resources in the Nashville Mayor's office to help the Mayor get re-elected, they tend to confound the office and the campaign with an opportunism that may not interface with our general welfare.

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