Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN): The Political Cost for Democrats of this Spending is Going to be Huge

Editorial Note by Gregory Hilton: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged today that Republicans could win back control of the House of Representatives. If he wants to know why a backlash has developed, an excellent person to consult is retiring Governor Phil Bredesen (D-TN).
Below are excerpts from his recent interviews with The Washington Post and National Public Radio. He is leaving office after two terms, and the GOP is expected to reclaim the Governor’s Mansion.
Republicans also have excellent prospects for gaining two additional Congressional seats in Tennessee. The seat of retiring Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) is already listed as “Safe Republican” by the various rating agencies.
Governor Bredesen believes the super majority the Democrats obtained in the House and Senate in the 2008 election was actually detrimental to the party. He says this led to many missed opportunities, and in hindsight it would have been far better if Democrats had worked with Republicans rather than narrowly jamming through their own agenda.
He says health care reform is a major example of this problem. Bredesen worked with a bipartisan group of governors who offered a comprehensive health care plan acceptable to both parties, but it was ignored by the Democratic Congress. The Governor has expanded charter schools, tied teacher pay to student test scores and changed the state’s higher-education funding formula to reward colleges for graduating more students. Bredesen took office in 2002 and has a powerful message that no other Democratic Governor can deliver. He clearly demonstrates a pro-business environment leads to positive results.
During his tenure 2,889 companies, including Nissan and International Paper, significantly expanded or moved to Tennessee. The result has been $12.8 billion in new business investment for the state, and well over 100,000 new jobs. Bredesen was re-elected in 2006 with 69% of the vote.

The Political Cost for Democrats of this Spending is Going to be Huge by Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN)
We have put a lot of Democratic policies in the hands of committees and committee chairs who are not New Democrats. I don’t think we’ve done particularly well in the tryout, and I think it’s going to hurt us.
It’s certainly hurting Democrats in Tennessee. And I wish we could get back to the middle of the road. We need to get the party out of the control of people who are pushing us in a very different direction.
These deficits are nothing more than mortgaging the future productivity of the country.
You can’t possibly sustain doing it at the level we’re at. The Congress and the administration have been very aggressive about spending money and I think it’s made easy by the fact that we’re so far off the norm at the moment that it’s easy to add a little more. The political cost of this spending for the Democrats is huge.
You have an election, and then you spend your time trying to add to that — keep the ones you have and try to find new ways to bring in other kinds of people. I don’t think we’re doing that very well right now as a party.
I’m not sure of President Obama’s ideology. I know when I talked to him during the campaign, he came across to me as fairly centrist on things. But I have to say that has not happened so far, he is certainly well to the left of independents in the country.

What Did Liberals Say About Gov. Bredesen’s Health Care Reforms?
In late 2008 and early 2009 there was considerable speculation Obama planned to make Bredesen his Secretary of Health and Human Services. The job eventually went to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS). Bredesen was eliminated because of his enthusiasm for deficit reduction and entitlement reform.
His nomination was publicly opposed by liberal activists Erza Klein, Jonathan Cohn, Families USA, Healthcare for America Now and MoveOn.org. Bredesen does not support the current health care bill and below are statements prominent liberals made in 2009 in opposition to Bredesen’s rumored HHS candidacy.

  • Bredesen seems like a particularly poor candidate for the job. He presided over massive cuts to Tennessee’s Medicaid program and, by all appearances, relished fighting with advocates for the poor more than the advocates of the cuts. He made his fortune in the for-profit health insurance industry, raising questions about the sensibility he’d bring–to say nothing of the political message he’d sen. – Jonathan Cohn, The American Prospect
  • Gov. Bredesen presided over the largest public health cutback in the history of our nation so it would cause enormous difficulty for President Obama if Gov. Bredesen joined the health reform team because he represents the antithesis of what the president is trying to achieve. – Ron Pollack, FamiliesUSA
  • Many of the sources I’ve spoken to say he’s one of the top contenders. But it’s hard to imagine why. I can’t overstate the opposition his nomination would engender in the health advocacy community. – Erza Klein, The Washington Post
  • A lot of elected officials are in bed with the insurance industry, but Phil Bredesen doesn’t stop there. He let them pay to redecorate his mansion. We can’t think of anyone more wrong for health care reform or more wrong for America.
    This is a guy whose single greatest health care achievement is stripping 200,000 people of health care coverage in Tennessee – a move that was not only bad policy but an unconscionable act. – Jacki Schechner, Health Care for America Now.
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