The Tennessean's Theo Emery takes a trip through the years with former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. One of the early reader comments on the story is that Emery should get a spine because it's basically a p.r. piece. It never takes the haters long to emerge.
But you have to admit, Naifeh's is a great American political story. Who would have thought that a man of Lebanese descent would rise to preside over the TN House of Representatives for 18 years? He even indicates that he would be open to seeking the position again. He's not one to be counted out.
The griping about Naifeh usually centers around how he maintained power, was married to a powerful lobbyist, or that's he's partisan, or that he killed a lot of bills. Why don't people just come out and say it? You don't like him because he stood against your agenda. The other charges usually lack a lot of specificity and amount to piling on. It's either that, or you just don't like being outfoxed in your own power plays.
Well, I'll come clean. I'll always be a fan. I remember that day in 2005 when the adoption ban went down in the Children and Family Affairs Committee by a vote of 11 to 9. Speaker Naifeh went to the committee meeting, rallied the Democrats, and personally cast a vote. I am convinced that his leadership is the reason why adoption in this state is still based on what is in the best interests of the child. For that, I will always be grateful, no matter what happens with the adoption bill this session.
And I have no doubt that there are a hundred other stories like that where the Speaker helped kill a bad bill or advance good legislation. You don't read a lot of defenses of him on the blogs, but that's all right. He's always been able to manage just fine. A word of gratitude now and then doesn't hurt, though.