Too much good and bad during 2017 to pick just one “hero” or “villain” to celebrate or revile, so The Tennessee Star has decided to do a throwback to high school days when Senior Superlatives were dished out to a wide number of contenders. Today, we dish out the best of the “bad.” Tomorrow, we hand out the “good” stuff.
MOST DESPICABLE. Pretty easy pick here as Senator Bob Corker entered the year as a front runner and only enhanced his selection when Rolling Stone added ethical transgressions to his resume late in December. His verbal “slap fight” with Trump, while the President continued to enjoy astronomical approval ratings among Tennessee Republicans, cemented his retirement plans. Opposing tax cuts, then flip flopping; opposing repeal of Obamacare; and the continued negative consequences surrounding his signature legislative accomplishment (the Iran Deal) all helped secure unanimous support for Corker being named “Most Despicable” for 2017. There are indications that there is much more to come regarding the insider financial deals that made him rich as a U.S. Senator, so Corker may be set to repeat in 2018!
NIT-WITTIEST. The Tennessean was poised to win this category in a runaway, particularly with their fawning series of “WE HEART CORKER” columns and articles after he announced he would not seek reelection. Selecting Corker as their Tennessean of the Year secured the win for sure. The continued leftwing tilt of the newspaper, while the state (including readers and advertisers) moves more decidedly into the Trump/Red column shows that their lack of journalistic insight is only surpassed by their incredibly poor business sense. Layoffs, paycuts, reduced local stories and dumping their papers into the driveways of those who have already cancelled their subscriptions, underscore the dearth rattle of a once-significant media outlet. WSMV Channel 4 received serious consideration by unceremoniously dumping beloved anchor Demetria Kalodimos at year end. But, when the final votes were tallied WSMV just nitwitted too little too late to get the award.
LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED. There were so many viable contenders for this category as we head into the 2018 election season. Rolando Toyos, running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker, must overcome former Congressman Stephen Fincher and Trump favorite Marsha, Marsha, Marsha Blackburn to get the nomination. Not gonna happen. (Who is Rolando Toyos you might ask? Exactly.) Bill Lee, Beth Harwell and Mae Beavers were all contenders as they continue to lag in polls and the spending capacity to compete with mega-self funders Randy Boyd and Diane Black in the GOP primary for Governor. However, perennial candidate Larry Crim, who is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate — having run for the DEMOCRATIC PARTY NOMINATION IN 2014, gets the win because he would lose the nomination no matter what party primary he selected this year.
BEST DUMPSTER FIRE. When the nomination process began, the University of Tennessee football coaching debacle looked unbeatable. Salvaging the process by hiring Coach “Aight” Pruitt helped open the door to a late surge by other contenders. The Democrats nationally choosing to argue that the Trump tax cuts, that are already producing impact in the form of bonuses and announced capital investment by corporations and which will keep money in the pockets of about 80% of Americans, are somehow a “bad thing” received some consideration. But since we limit the awards to TENNESSEE candidates the dearth of significant Democrat office holders in the state eliminated them from consideration. And then, out of nowhere, Memphis Mayor Strickland and his cronies sold two pubic parks for $1000 each — in what is likely an illegal scheme secretly concocted to avoid state law protecting heritage sites and statues and monuments — to get the win. Memphis comes through…again.
MOST LIKELY TO END UP IN AN ORANGE JUMP SUIT. Being Tennessee-focused, Hillary Clinton and her minions were disqualified from consideration. Several members of the Tennessee legislature may emerge as award winners in 2018, but their selection is premature at this point. Corker is a possibility, depending on what else emerges concerning his “day trading” deals, questionable real estate transactions, etc. But again, no indictment seems imminent…yet. So, with virtually everybody in the Executive suites at Pilot/Flying J having already plead guilty to felonies, and only four top underlings to CEO Jimmy Haslam remaining to find out their fates in federal court proceedings early in 2018, the award fell into Haslam’s lap. Frankly, his role (denied, but like his role in the Pilot/Flying J misdeeds, but hardly a credible denial) in the UT football coaching selection debacle is almost indictment-worthy by itself, particularly in view of the dismal record of the Cleveland Browns under his guidance and ownership.