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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK - Bredesen considering presidency?
Feb 10, 2005 12:00 am
If Gov. Phil Bredesen is trying to avoid becoming an increasingly attractive focal point for Democrats nationally looking for a candidate to bring their party back to the middle of the road and White House, he is going to have to try a lot harder.
Bredesen gave what could be perceived as his first national policy address Tuesday at the University of North Carolina's Emerging Issues Forum on potential reforms to the federal Medicaid program.
Bredesen's suggestions came in the typically uncomplicated fashion Tennesseans have come to appreciate, a style which belies the intelligence and thought that usually appears to have gone into the decision leading up to Bredesen policy positions.
The governor made two major suggestions about how to overhaul Medicaid: Prioritize prescription drug coverage to scale back less crucial prescriptions such as heartburn medication and antihistamines and make Medicaid recipients pay "something" whenever they use the system's coverage.
"If we don't get the fundamentals right … no amount of tinkering around the edges is going to work," Bredesen said. "This is something America can do. and the time is right to do it."
The standard riff in the governor's office to reporters over increasing national speculation about his future as a presidential candidate is to shrug it off by saying the governor's "mother is proud" over the attention.
Yet, the North Carolina speech is the fourth in a series of speeches inside and outside Tennessee that continue to draw attention to Bredesen despite his seeming aggravation at the entire presidential issue.
His first address was the well-documented speech to Southern Democrats at a regional caucus in Atlanta where he admonished party leaders for not getting outside the Beltway much.
A popular Democratic governor in a Southern Red State, Bredesen essentially told party leaders they had lost the country's faith because they did not know the country.
Next were an economic development speech and then the governor's traditional State of the State where his message of job creation, education and fiscal accountability in government could just as easily be a template for New Hampshire or Iowa as it is for his own re-election in 2006.
But, it is not just his conservative policy themes or even his willingness to address national health care issues on a national stage that may continue to see Bredesen followed by presidential speculation. It will likely be his increasingly broad language and invoking images of a national identity according to Phil Bredesen that have pundits wondering where his heart and mind are wandering when it comes to the presidency.
In addition to the North Carolina speech, Bredesen also invoked the "A" word – that would be America – in his State of the State that saw the usually emotionless former health care CEO momentarily finding his voice gripped with emotion.
"The miracle is that we are still young, and the spirit of our nation – its vision of an unlimited future – still inhabits the darkening land," Bredesen said. "There are towns and lights where those forests once stood, but the genius of America is that we are still a land of undiscovered shores, and we are at our best when we open our hearts and allow the night winds to bring renewed visions of great deeds."
The "genius of America" and "spirit of our nation" – quite frankly – are not words typically used by governors anywhere who are thinking about the next session of the state Legislature.
Gov. Bredesen insists he is not considering running for president in 2008. However, if anyone ever bothered to ask him if he has ever thought about being president, the answer might be very, very different.