Weekly Obsession: Another protective layer between Haslam and state

Monday, July 1, 2013 at 10:05pm

Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam announced he was creating and filling a new job in state government: chief operating officer.

That the “CEO Governor” would hire a COO seems appropriate — scripted even. It’s the next logical step in both the Corporatification of Tennessee and the Coronation of Bill Haslam: the smiling, slick star of the squishy, palatable center of the Tennessee Republican Party.

If Haslam wasn’t managed so perfectly, the news that longtime adviser and GOP kingmaker Tom Ingram was being shifted from his role in the governor’s office to his more familiar role as manager of the governor’s campaign efforts would have been mere coincidence.

Hardly anything, though, Team Haslam does is mere coincidence. Nothing is unplanned. Nothing is off-book.

Both moves are the latest incarnation of the secret of Haslam’s dazzling success: his ability to be insulated from even the slightest nuisance or controversy.

The new COO, former IBM executive Greg Adams, in the words of the Haslam messaging department — relayed pitch-perfectly by the man himself — will bring “a fresh perspective to the work we’re doing every day to serve Tennessee taxpayers in the most efficient and effective way.”

What the governor means is Adams will find more cuts to make in state government, more state workers to lay off, more services to privatize.

And — most importantly — he provides another level of protection between the messy business of running a state and the governor himself.

It’s a smart move, politically — it’s time to shift into re-election mode for the governor with the election 18 months away, thus the job shift for Ingram.

Team Haslam is lining up its ducks, erecting firewalls between the governor and any criticism, lest some flame-breathing archconservative get in the way of his apotheosis. Democrats, presumably, will find some poor sap to take on the wildly popular Republican governor in a seemingly ever-redder state — or maybe they won’t, and their candidate will be a conspiracy theorist again; at this point, the Haslam camp is as worried about a Democratic challenger as they are about an armed invasion from Kentucky.

Haslam’s great gift as a governor is that he works hard at making himself immune to criticism.

The fear-mongering nihilists in the state Senate pass their half-baked fever-dream-inspired legislation, and Haslam gets simpatico House Speaker Beth Harwell to quash it, so he doesn’t have to take a stand that may make him enemies on his party’s hard-right wing.

He takes a hands-off approach to state departments, and when problems creep up — or rush down like waters, as they have at DCS — he very seriously and sternly says changes will be made and brings in a fixer, as if the problems weren’t systemic ones allowed to metastasize by a laissez-faire approach.

He owns stock in a company hired by the state? He didn’t know! His family’s company is charged by the federal government with massive fraud? Never heard of it!

And now, instead of acting as chief operating officer himself — even though operating the state was at least part of the job to which Tennessee citizens elected him overwhelmingly — Haslam has hired outside help: a man who never has to face the voters, a bureaucrat of the highest order, placed in power by the leader of a state party that practically spits at the word bureaucrat.

The governor has created even more distance between himself and the actual governing of the state.

It’ll work like a charm in November 2014.

9 Comments on this post:

By: Luckyforward on 7/2/13 at 6:03

I've often wondered what Bill Haslam does all day. When a crisis comes up, he spins it off to someone else. When the legislature is in session, Ramsey runs the show. He has a personal lobbyist. Now Billy has a COO to run day to day operations.

I think it so funny that some of my conservative Republican friends who supported Haslam have been "steamrolled" by his administration. One, a school teacher has been affected by Haslam's actions, another is a former state employee who has been laid off. His area of state governement was "outsourced."

What does Haslam do all day?

By: Badbob on 7/2/13 at 8:16

LOL Luckyforward... It's all fun and games until they figure out that "they" are the ones the Republicans have been talking bad about.

By: makesense on 7/2/13 at 8:57

What is the salary we are paying this new COO?

By: pswindle on 7/2/13 at 12:17

TN GOP will vote against their own interest, and vote this man back in office that is trying to destroy every middle class family in the state. The first that he did was to destroy the teachers and their unions, so he could Hauffman in charge and privatize education with public money. The teachers could work their whole career and get another raise. I can't believe that we as citizens are letting this wimp of a man destroy our state. He thinks that, we the citizens, believe him when he knows nothing about the Flying J. The last that I heard he was part owner and it was not put in a trust for him. I'm beginning to think that our state cannot be saved because no one is coming forward to stop this man.

By: pswindle on 7/2/13 at 2:36

Perfect article and states the truth.

By: UnionBaby on 7/3/13 at 7:17

Haslam makes Ray Blanton look like a Sunday School teacher! What is wrong with us? We get this state back on track from an absurd governor (Sundquist), by Bredesen only to have Haslam sell us out so he can continue to have friends in high places. This is a pattern for those new to the area (been here all my life - all 60 years of it and I know and remember my TN history very well!). Lamar cleaned up Blanton's mess, Ned Ray cleaned up Lamar's mess, Bredesen cleaned up Sundquist's mess - who is gonna clean up Bill's mess? It will take a very smart and skilled person as this state is going down hill at a very fast pace. So sad, we used to be a wonderful place, not looking too great anymore. Corrupt Government seems to be what the people want and that is exactly what we are getting right now.


By: yucchhii on 7/3/13 at 8:00

Just creating another position to bring in YET ANOTHER "CRIMINAL" for us to pay for!!!

By: Rocket99 on 7/3/13 at 10:01

Ok, Haslam just laid off how many state workers to save money? Then he goes and creates a new, unneeded position paying the person a six figure income? This man makes no sense. If we couldn't afford the employees he just layed off, then how the HELL can we afford this new person?

Is there a way we can FIRE the Governor now? He and his buddies are robbig the State blind.

By: pswindle on 7/3/13 at 11:06

It is about time for TN to wake up, I've been preaching this for a long time. Haslam is a wimpy little crook.