It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the repugnant Congressman from Tennessee’s 4th District, but Jim Tracy sure didn’t do himself any favors when the state senator took the Jasper physician to task for past indiscretions in a tawdry mailer that was just mass-mailed to voters. Gutter politics could get Tracy beaten when voters go to the polls on Aug. 7.
In an article that appeared in Sunday’s Chattanooga Times Free Press, writer Andy Sher reported Tracy’s camp is saying DesJarlais has “no moral ground to stand on” after the doctor made a string of embarrassing mistakes that led to a divorce 14 years ago. Two years ago DesJarlais claimed his life had been radically changed since then. “I know God has forgiven me. I simply ask my fellow Christians and constituents to consider doing the same for me.”
It should have been a story that ended there. DesJarlais has remarried and has a family that shouldn’t be subjected to such slime. Add the fact that recently it has been announced DesJarlais has cancer and will begin both radiation and chemotherapy this week. Tracy’s stance, terribly advised, makes him look like a backwoods rube from Shelbyville rather than a successful insurance agent who once delighted in officiating high school and college basketball games.
There should be no place for mud-slinging and Tracy knows better after having served four terms as a senator in the state legislature and allegedly as a Church of Christ deacon. But Tracy defended his decidedly un-Christian behavior, telling reporter Sher that dredging up DesJarlais’ misfortune “gives people a choice between him and me. Who do the people think would be most effective? And, in being the most effective, you must take everything in consideration. I definitely think it’s legitimate.”
There will be some voters who take exception to Tracy’s troubling thought pattern. DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson was more on point, saying, “It’s terribly disappointing that Senator Tracy chose to go this route rather than have a meaningful discussion on the issues” because, in truth, Tracy could maul DesJarlais in a fair fight.
DesJarlais sold his soul to the dirty “Big Lick” crowd of the Tennessee Walking Horse in 2012 when the Jasper physician was honored at a reception during the so-called Walking Horse Celebration as scandal swirled over the organization. Since then, DesJarlais has joined a group of Republican members of Congress who are trying desperately to undermine a current bill in Congress that will do away with the stacked hooves, the performance devices and pressure shoes that some trainers use to illegally sore the animals.
Tracy has indicated he will have no part of the seedy “Big Lick,” where it has just been announced that every judge at this year’s “Celebration” has a past history of violating the federal Horse Protection Act, a law that has been openly mocked by “Big Lick” trainers and owners since 1970. Called the PAST Act, there are now 300 members of Congress who have endorsed the legislation – leaving DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann and others looking like sulking numbskulls to the great majority of Tennessee’s populous.
All Tracy has to do is paint DesJarlais as an animal rights villain and forget his checkered past, as though his past history is readily known by the great majority of District 4 voters. Tracy doesn’t need to squeal the tires on that. Instead, simply illustrate DesJarlais’ shoddy performance record in Congress and cite the fact that of Tennessee’s nine members of House, only Chattanooga’s Fleischmann has a worst performance record.
Weston Wamp ought to take the same tact against Fleischmann because the incumbent’s record after four years in Washington shows he has done appallingly little to warrant anyone’s vote. That’s a fact – run with it. Wamp embarrassed Fleischmann badly in an on-air debate recently but Fleischmann was his own worst enemy, just like the day he ignored President Obama in a Chattanooga visit by telling a reporter he had to “go to work” instead. Puh-leeze.
Tracy should have known that anytime you sling mud in a political race, your grimy hands lose some of the grip on the rope. He hurt himself, no doubt, with his amateurish mailer but why throw mud when DesJarlais has provided all the political hand grenades he could hope for?
Just deal in the facts, Jim, and you’ll waltz.