While sitting in for Dan Mandis on WTN 99.7 FM Monday afternoon, guest host and Tennessee Star Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed the recently retired Vanderbilt professor and conservative legend Carol Swain.
“We’re delighted to have you here, Carol,” Michael Patrick Leahy began. “You just wrote a great op-ed for us at The Tennessee Star called, ‘The Seven Reasons to beware of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is, by the way, the second-most read commentary we’ve had in almost a year – so congratulations on that excellent piece.”
“Now, we asked you in today, Carol, because we wanted you to talk a little bit about what is going on with Mayor Megan Barry.”
Carol Swain responded, “Well first of all, I have to confess that I didn’t vote for Megan Barry, and I could never have imagined myself doing so because she was so liberal. After having said that, I wanted her to succeed.”
“I love Nashville,” Swain continued. “And I wanted her to be able to do some of the things that she promised – especially for the working class and the poor.
“And I’m disappointed with her as a woman; I’m disappointed with the lack of moral leadership around the scandal. But also the fact that she seems a bit indifferent. The other thing is that … I’m shocked by the fact that, this is a woman that was an ethics officer in her previous job. Her affair, and everything about it violated her executive order about City employees not giving preferential treatment to individuals. And yet she goes and takes it to the ‘nth’ degree.”
Leahy replied, “I think you’ve really hit on something significant there. For a dozen years, she was an Ethics Officer – a compliance officer – at a major corporation here in the area, and yet she came in, in the first month or so and had an ‘Ethics’ Executive Order, and she appears to have violated just about every aspect of that.
“You almost get the feeling, Carol Swain, that because she was an Ethics Officer, she knew how to skirt the rules.”
“Well the thing about Megan Barry, and some other people, I have observed – and it just happens that most of them seem to be Democrats – it’s as if they think the rules don’t apply to them. And I have observed in academia as well as in the world that the most immoral people that I see these days are people that call themselves ‘ethics officers.’
Listeners can hear Leahy laughing in the background as Swain added, “They have redefined the whole meaning of ‘Ethics,’ and I find it very troubling.
“When it comes to Megan Barry – you know, my heart goes out to her because she has lost a child, and so she deserves our sympathy for that.
“She also deserves our forgiveness because she asked for our forgiveness – and so those of us who are Christians, we are accustomed to extending forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have consequences. There are always consequences. By her clinging to office with these circumstances, she’s harming women, the whole idea of women’s equality – because she had an affair with a subordinate.
“Even though she might argue that it was consensual – so were the men who were charged in the MeToo movement. Many of them felt that those relationships were very consensual. I think that when women abuse power – if they want to be equal to men – they should suffer the same consequences.
“This affair has damaged her ability to lead, it’s damaged the public trust, and it’s wasting taxpayer dollars every day she clings to office.
Leahy reiterated, “She needs to resign, then, is what you would argue.”
Swain answered, “Definitely.”
Leahy followed up, “You talked a little bit about the hypocrisy of the ‘MeToo Movement.’ That struck me, as well. How do you see that?”
Swain responded, “I mean, it’s obvious what it is. Think about how so many men have been accused, and now that standard seems to be that you’re guilty until you’re proven innocent. There’s no due process for men that are accused. But in the case of Megan Barry… I mean, she’s come out with her confession, and we know now from the news that she came out because Rob Forrest’s wife was talking with media. She knew the story was going to break soon, and so she tried to get ahead of it.
“It’s just very troubling that she’s not being held to the same standard.
Swain explained, “If her name had been ‘Marvin’ or ‘George’ or ‘Marion Barry’ – in Nashville, she would have been gone the next day. A ‘he’ would have known he had to go. A ‘he’ would not have clung to office. Now, I don’t believe whether it’s a Democratic man of a Republican man – the man would have to go and I think if women want to be equal, then they have to hold themselves to the same standards.”
Leahy said, “I understand you are going to be one of the featured speakers tomorrow at the ‘Resign Now! Megan Barry Rally’ that will be held at the courthouse at One Public Square in Nashville. Tell us a little more about that.”
“I got the invitation last night,” Swain said. “I accepted the invitation, and I will speak.”
“I really want to focus on not just the facts of the scandal, but also what good governance means.
“I think that it’s important for our cities to be led by people that are concerned – not just with changing the whole character of the City. Nashville has been a great place to live, a great place to raise children – but with all the changes, the development, the growth… Growth can be good – it’s a nixed blessing – but not of it destroys the what is the quality of life of people who have been here for generations.
“Somehow, we need to balance the needs and concerns of working and middle class Nashvillians with that of newcomers. And I also think that Nashville is in the Bible Belt. We have Judaeo-Christian traditions.
“It seems like the political Left – they’re thumbing their nose at those Judaeo-Christian values and principles, and I believe that’s unacceptable.
After a short commercial break, guest host Michael Patrick Leahy asked Carol Swain ‘The Big Question.’
Listen to Part One of Michael Patrick Leahy’s interview of Carol Swain:
“Carol,” Leahy asked, “Have you ever considered running for Mayor of Nashville?”
Swain answered, “I would have to confess that when Megan Barry first started her campaign, that it crossed my mind. And then when I saw some of the things she was proposing, I sort of jokingly raised it on Facebook. There was a tremendous response of people encouraging me to challenge her. So I can’t say that I haven’t – but I never really sought political office. I’ve never felt called to be in political office.
“But ever since I’ve been on the public scene, I’ve had people urging me to run for governor, run for congress – and I have resisted because I believe there has to be some people that are from the outside to hold politicians accountable.”
Leahy said, “You told me earlier that for many years in your life you were very shy. And yet you are very articulate. What changed?”
“I had a Christian conversion experience in 1999. Up until that time – even as a professor – I was shy. I would try to write out everything I had to say, I would clutch the podium, and I would sweat, and I would be miserable. I had the Christian conversion experience, and God impressed on my mind that He had given me a message bigger than me that as long as I focus on the message, I could speak.
“After that I started talking and giving media interviews. Before that, during my time at Princeton, I had turned down a chance to be on ‘Good Morning America’ because I was afraid.
“Now, I go wherever they ask, pretty much.”
Leahy replied, “And you are increasingly getting inquiries from various media outlets. Fox News has you on all the time and you’ll have another interview later today before you make your speech tomorrow at the ‘Resign Now! Megan Barry Rally at 1 Public Square in Nashville.”
“And I also have an inquiry from the Martha MacCallum show for this evening, although we have not firmed up the details because we just got the request” Swain added. (For the record, Swain did accept Fox News’ invitation to appear on The Story with Martha MacCallum.)
“Yes, I do do a lot of national media. I love public speaking. And I do believe I have a message to convey. When it comes to whether or not I would run for Mayor – I would have to know that God was the one calling me to do it.
“I would be very concerned about finances because I believe that to run a credible campaign, you need deep pockets. That’s why we see so many rich people running. There are people who will urge you to run for office, but when it comes to writing the check – they don’t always follow through. To challenge Mayor Barry if she clings to office it would take at minimum a million dollars. If she resigns, it would still take a lot of money to defeat her [replacement].”
Leahy said, “You mentioned something earlier that I think is worth exploring. When it comes to the Metro Nashville Davidson County Government – in its current operation – you said that the mayor ought to focus on good governance.”
“Yes,” Swain responded.
“Now, what I’ve noticed,” Leahy elaborated, “is that when you look at American political ideas of ‘checks and balances’ as it is really embedded in the US Constitution, I get the feeling that there may not be as many ‘check and balances’ in the Metro Nashville government today as we would like to see. Have you seen that at all?”
Swain said, “If we had ‘checks and balances,’ the scandal that we’re discussing today would never have happened. And if Megan Barry has wisdom, no way would a married woman travel alone with a married man. But it was nine trips or ten trips. That would not have happened if there was any sense of propriety.
“Those of us who are Christians know the Bible says not to give even the appearance of evil. That means that we can be totally innocent, but there are things that we can do that look to outsiders as being inappropriate. There was no sense of judgment that she exercised.
“I think her affair hurts young women that have looked up to her. She received enormous national attention as being the first female Mayor of Nashville, and she ends with a big cloud over her head.
“She should do the right thing and exercise moral leadership by stepping down, and not forcing the authorities investigating her to actually force her out of office based on the improprieties that she seems to have committed with her eyes wide open.
Leahy noted, “You mentioned a verb: ‘cling to office.’ It looks like there are now three ongoing investigations: the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations; a special Metro Council investigation that is headed up by one of her political allies; and then an Ethical Board of Conduct investigation of the Metro Council that has to be signed off on by the legal director – but it’s possible that there may be federal and state investigations as well coming up.
“How can she continue to provide moral leadership to the city when she’s not really being all that transparent with all the facts; and she’s under this increasing number of investigations?”
Swain answered, “Well first of all, she has friends who love her. And I have prayed for her and I know that there are a lot of people who don’t agree with her politically who are praying for her. But she’s not exercising good judgment at this moment.
If she were exercising good judgement, she would resign immediately. She would not force the city and the state to incur the cost of the investigations. It’s clear that she’s not exercising and operating with a clear head. I would encourage her allies to speak to her because I think she’s damaging her political party – I really don’t care if she’s damaging her political party – but I do care about good governance and I believe that Nashville suffering under the weight of leadership.
“And that’s all I have to say about that,” she concluded.
“Just to summarize,” Leahy said, “When you describe the elements of good governance, there would be three elements: number one, internal checks and balances; number two, judgment; and number three, wisdom. Sadly, all three of those are missing right now from Megan Barry – at least as far as I can tell.”
“Yes, I do believe that Phil Bredesen and Karl Dean and her allies at Vanderbilt University, and all the people that pushed her – they need to step in and speak up,” Swain said, taking the last word as the music rose to end the segment.
Listen to Part Two of Michael Patrick Leahy’s interview of Carol Swain: