Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed public affairs strategist Clint Brewer in the studio.
During the third hour, Brewer gave his take on the recent firing of the Tennessee Valley Association (TVA) director for outsourcing IT positions overseas. He later discussed Governor Lee’s calling for a special session in regard to the liability limits of COVID-19.
(Trump on TVA clip plays)
Leahy: That’s President Trump talking about TVA. Wow. What a mess TVA has created for itself. I think the President acted properly. What’s your take on that Clint Brewer.
Brewer: Well as a lifelong resident of the Tennessee Valley I just really can’t imagine what the powers at TVA were thinking.
Leahy: Tell us exactly what they did that was so egregious.
Brewer: It appears that they were outsourcing IT jobs that were previously held by residents of this state to overseas contractors or to contractors that use overseas labor.
Leahy: It’s a quasi-governmental public entity established by FDR.
Brewer: Yes. It’s a public utility. It’s a federal corporation which is the technical term for it. And honestly, it’s been a very successful one. It is in my mind somewhat of a model if you look at what people pay here for their utility rates versus what they pay in say the Northeast. A vast difference. It does keep rates down.
They are generally a fairly efficient entity. They don’t take taxpayer money. They are fully funded by the right payers. But in this environment to outsource jobs and then to outsource them to vendors that use overseas labor in the middle of this economy.
Leahy: Yeah, what are you thinking?
Brewer: I can’t imagine what the conversation was that led to that decision. It just feels like they, I don’t know, they obviously don’t feel as accountable as they should. Let’s put it that way.
Leahy: I don’t know if you noticed this Clint but The Tennessee Star reported this front and center.
Brewer: Well I got to say locally the only site right now where I’ve read this has been yours.
Leahy: We will take a bow gladly. (Laughs)
Brewer: Kudos. It’s a huge story for this state. And let’s be clear the chairman that the president removed is one he appointed. He was removing his own appointee. So it’s not like he’s blaming somebody leftover from the Obama administration. He’s taking action against his own guy.
Leahy: The guy went into the boardroom and the president said, you’re fired! (Laughs)
Brewer: Literally. Again I think this is similar to the TikTok thing. This is a very pro-U.S. stance by the president. It feels like him getting back on task. Back on message. And it’s not a rash decision. It’s not impulsive. This is a real policy choice and it’s a solid one.
Leahy: I think you are probably right on that. And it’s interesting because the president seemed to be following at least the past week shall we say (Chuckles) you are laughing and saying yes, for the past week he has. This is the game plan my friend Steve Bannon…
Brewer: I was about to say.
Leahy: Were you about to say that same thing?
Brewer: That is literally where I was headed.
Leahy: This is why great minds think alike.
Brewer: Exactly. We are finding things to agree on today Mike.
Leahy: Not every day.
Brewer: Not every day. This is the president getting back to the sort of Steve Bannon brand of populism that got him elected the first time. And again, in Trump world, it could be a blip on the radar screen but between TikTok and TVA that’s the kind of governing that people thought they were getting when they got the president in 2016.
Leahy: I think it’s a big win for the president to do that.
Brewer: I do too.
Leahy: And the right thing to do.
Brewer: That’s the best part. It’s not an impulsive Twitter storm. We are actually making some choices here. And these are the choices and here’s why. And we are putting this country first and there is nothing wrong with that.
Leahy: I’m all in favor of putting this country first.
Leahy: Speaking of putting first things first. I noticed that Governor Lee is calling for a special session. they are going to be covering what? Liability limits in COVID-19? That’s important, isn’t it?
Brewer: That’s hugely important. I think the governor is absolutely right to do it. It’s something that we couldn’t quite get wrapped up in the regular session of the legislature. It’s extremely important. Businesses need to be able to get back to doing business. Get their employees back to work safely using all of the right guidelines.
And if they are doing that they need some measure of protection from liability and litigation related to the virus. It’s not their fault. And they shouldn’t be made legally or financially to take responsibility for it if they are doing the right things.
Leahy: Why was the Tennessee General Assembly unable to address this as part of their regular session?
Brewer: It’s just a huge issue. It needed more time for debate. I think it needed more time for thought. It’s complex. And I mean look, the virus didn’t just disrupt people’s businesses, lives, and schools. It disrupted how legislature did business. It’s very difficult to get things done. And it still will be. I think this is just something that was left on the table. Every legislative session has something hanging out there.
Leahy: What are the rules of a special session? Can you only address the items that the governor says he wants to be addressed?
Brewer: Yes. And the special is called special for that very reason. It is limited to addressing issues that the governor calls it for. In this case, it will be liability related to COVID-19 and I think there were a couple of other items. But it will be limited to those things. And then they are in and out.
Leahy: Is there a political aspect of this special session? By that I mean are we going to be treated the various Black Lives Matter protesters jumping up and down and causing problems for everybody?
Brewer: If there are any protests of any kind they’ll have to take place outside of the government buildings because I feel certain that some of the limitations to crowd size and access will still be in place.
Leahy: The big question is will Dr. Anthony Fauci be there to monitor if these are wearing masks?
Brewer: Yes. Well, they’ll be outside so the rules will be a little different. I think that every session has protests. So somebody will protest.
Leahy: Just talking about these masks things. I told you I was up in Michigan on business over the weekend and went to a wonderful restaurant. Everybody had to wear their masks. And I got a comment. As I was just talking to the person I was having dinner with this guy I told him that I was walking out and wearing this mask and the masks present, if you wear glasses as I do often. And if you have a new mask for me my glasses start slipping off my nose.
Brewer: Well, they fog up.
Leahy: They fog up. It’s just a pain. And of course, I’m not a big fan of the mask.
Brewer: It’s not as big a pain as getting COVID-19.
Leahy: Asterisk. If these masks, and this is a much longer discussion about whether they have an impact. But I tell you, the politicization of this mask thing. So as I’m walking out of the restaurant passed another table but not talking to that table I was six feet away from that table by the way.
So I’m wearing the mask and was telling the guy I’m having dinner with that I just hate these masks. And I saw this guy sitting at the other table look at me with hatred in his eyes. If he could have sent a dart directly at me, a ray gun he would have.
Brewer: If looks could kill.
Leahy: If looks could kill I would have been on the floor and out.
Brewer: Do you think he really likes wearing his mask? What was the problem?
Leahy: He was at the table not at that time wearing his mask. Because the protocol is you where your mask to go to the table and take your mask off and eat. Because there is obviously scientific evidence that shows that that works. (Laughs)
I was like oh my goodness. Everything in the country now is politicized. Everything! You can’t get a break! You go to dinner and you just have an off-hand comment being yourself, right? And then somebody overhears it and you get the death ray. You must be a Trump supporter.
Brewer: Well yeah. I had the opposite, somewhat opposite experience this weekend in Oxford, Mississippi.
Leahy: The home of Ole Miss. A beautiful town. I went the first time in part of your recommendation.
Brewer: And everybody was wearing masks. There was no disagreement and people were pretty copacetic about it. It was just being done.
Leahy: I had the same experience there. That was the mode there. I think that this whole thing has been handled incorrectly. I think the right thing is to say to avoid all this aggravation to come out and say, you know, we’re not entirely sure of the science but it can’t hurt. Please wear a mask. We’re not going to force you. But please wear a mask. I think there would be more compliance. Maybe.
Brewer: Just wear a mask.
Leahy: Well asterisk…
Brewer: We’ll get through all this. Just wear one just in case.
Leahy: That’s Clint talking. That’s not Mike talking.
– – –