Views from elsewhere in Tennessee
The following is a roundup of recent editorials from Tennessee members of The Associated Press. In some cases, the editorials have been edited for length. They do not reflect an editorial position of the AP but represent the opinions of the newspapers from which they are taken.
The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, Jan 19.
Ward Crutchfield got off easy. There’s no other way to describe what happened when the longtime state legislator appeared before a federal judge for sentencing Jan. 17.
Crutchfield, who pleaded guilty last summer to accepting an illegal gratuity during the Tennessee Waltz undercover sting, got two years of probation, six months of home confinement and a $3,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen could have sentenced Crutchfield to 12 to 18 months in prison. But instead the judge cited Crutchfield’s age, health issues and his lengthy career in public service as reasons for the lenient sentence.
It sends the wrong message, to the community and to other public officials who might be tempted to engage in illegal conduct.
Ever since federal officials went public with the first indictments in the Tennessee Waltz investigation, there have been critics who were suspicious because almost all of the defendants were black. Crutchfield, a former state senator from Chattanooga, and Chris Newton, a former state representative from Cleveland, were the only white people caught up in the scandal.
Newton was among the first to plead guilty and received a relatively light sentence of one year and one day. With Crutchfield avoiding prison time completely, unlike almost all the black defendants who have been sentenced so far, that’s sure to fuel the belief that wrongdoers of different races were treated differently.
Crutchfield’s sentence must surely have given a few ideas to the lawyers representing former state senator Kathryn Bowers, who is set for sentencing in her Tennessee Waltz case next week. Bowers, who has complained of health problems since the case began, can probably use her medical condition to her advantage now.
If she gets a tougher sentence than Crutchfield, right or wrong, it’ll undermine the credibility of what has otherwise been an extremely effective corruption investigation.
The Jackson Sun, Jan. 23
Former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee ended his bid for president on Tuesday. But just because Thompson’s presidential dream has ended doesn’t mean his public service should. There are still plenty of ways for him to use his newly heightened profile, and he should explore them all.
Already, there is plenty of speculation as to why Thompson’s bid failed. Some say he got into the race too late and could never catch up with other Republican candidates in terms of campaign funds.
Then, there are those who decried Thompson’s work ethic and campaign schedule, commonly seen as lax in comparison with other candidates. Whatever the reason, it would be a shame if Thompson failed to capitalize on the publicity that his campaign generated and use it to do some good on a larger scale.
Thompson brings a lot to the table. He is laid back and approachable. He is quietly charismatic. He has a commanding presence. So how could that translate into a life outside politics?
If Thompson wants a model for how to make a successful transition back into the private sector, he need look no further than his fellow Tennessean, Bill Frist. While he was in the Senate, Frist regularly took medical mission trips to poor countries. In September 2007, Frist became chairman of Survive to 5, an organization dedicated to reducing child mortality around the world. He is on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corp., an international aid organization that encourages openness and democracy worldwide.
There are plenty of ways Thompson can use his varied experiences to help others. There’s even the possibility that he could still end up on the ticket as a vice presidential nominee. Whatever happens, he shouldn’t just retreat from the limelight. He should use his experiences and his well-earned notoriety to help others.
Published in The Messenger 1.25.08