published Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Open letter to Alexander

Dear Sen. Alexander,

On July 8, this page published an editorial titled "Lamar sells out." In it, the devastating costs of Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are outlined, and you are roundly criticized for your economically reckless vote against overturning the burdensome regulation. The editorial candidly reflects many concerns that this page has about the MACT regulation.

No one likes to receive criticism for choices they make. Still, this page was saddened and disappointed to receive the letter -- printed elsewhere on this page -- that you authored in an attempt to silence criticism of you.

In your letter, you claim the Times Free Press' "distinguished reputation for high standards and fairness" is somehow tarnished because it included an editorial outlining a reasonable criticism of one of your least popular votes. You then ask that the paper retract the critical editorial.

The day after the criticism of your MACT vote appeared on the free market-oriented Free Press page, the Times Free Press' liberal Times editorial page published an editorial that was so laudatory of your support of MACT that it all but demanded that you immediately be installed King of the Universe -- as is well within that page's prerogative. Of course, your letter fails to mention any concerns you had with that editorial.

I would like to take this opportunity to address several of the points you raise in your letter.

First you claim that the editorial "accuse(s) you of a felony," namely selling your vote in exchange for $200,000 in television ads from an extremist environmental group. The editorial never intended to allege that the money spent by the Environmental Defense Fund applauding your MACT vote was coordinated in any way before the vote. In fact, the editorial acknowledges that the ads were a way of patting you on the back after the fact.

Second, and importantly, you correctly note that the editorial contained one factual error. The piece stated that you were one of only two Republican senators to vote in favor of keeping the job-killing legislation intact. In truth, you were one of five. The Free Press editorial page regrets this mistake and, in keeping with this page's -- and the paper's -- commitment to accuracy, we have issued a correction to address that issue. Whether two Republicans voted to uphold MACT or five, you were in a very small minority of GOP senators supportive of the regulation. This might give you an indication as to why your vote was contrary to the wishes of most Tennesseans.

Next, you attack the fact noted in the editorial that power plants account for only "one half of one percent of the mercury in the air we breathe," but you do not dispute the accuracy of the number. Instead you cite research that "coal-fired plants produce half of the manmade mercury in the U.S.," which, if anything, highlights that most airborne mercury comes from natural sources like forest fires, geysers and volcanoes and indicates that manmade mercury is a very small threat to air quality.

The editorial's assertion that the MACT regulation will "cost Tennesseans billions" in increased electric bills is then questioned. This is particularly surprising since you do not deny that, "residential ratepayers will pay a few more dollars a month." Projections assume that the average Tennessee household can expect a $13 increase in their monthly electric bill as a result of MACT. Since there are 2.5 million households in Tennessee, it will take only 30 months for MACT to cost Tennesseans more than a billion dollars -- and that only considers residential customers. When you factor in the cost to businesses, which your letter conveniently ignores, the price tag further skyrockets.

According to you, the "editorial sounds like it was written in Washington." If, by that, you mean that it relies on empirical evidence to assess policy, rather than just blindly assuming that anything you vote for is good, then this page takes that comment as a compliment.

You then admit "the EPA has become a happy hunting ground for goofy regulations." If you believe that, then why do you continue to blindly fund the EPA, showering billions of tax dollars each year on an invasive bureaucracy without attempting to overhaul the agency or eliminate many of these "goofy regulations?" Instead, you protect the status quo, occasionally articulating your frustrations, but never acting on them in a meaningful way.

Finally, your letter concludes by stating, "I am glad Volkswagen did not read an editorial like yours before deciding whether to come to Chattanooga."

Do you honestly imply that if leaders of a company were to read an editorial criticizing an elected official, the company might go elsewhere? It is difficult to believe that muting the freedom of the press is an especially useful tactic to lure businesses to a city.

Besides, the $500 million in taxpayer-funded incentives that were used to pay off Volkswagen to locate their facility in Chattanooga was likely a much more powerful enticement than whether one of the local paper's two editorial pages had nice things to say about a career politician, wouldn't you agree?

Your passion for the environment, while at times noble, has come at a great expense to taxpayers and electric consumers in Tennessee and across the nation. That you often put the interest of radical environmental groups above the concerns and needs of Tennesseans is alarming and worthy of discussion. This page is proud to facilitate such discussions.

Your letter makes you appear a spoiled, entitled, petulant bully. Despite living at the expense of taxpayers as a coddled government official for almost your entire adult life, you apparently believe you are beyond reproach -- even to the point of demanding an opinion page be silenced for criticizing you.

This page won't be silenced, Mr. Senator.

The Free Press editorial page will be the first to applaud when you advance free market or conservative policy proposals. However, when you fail to live up to the standards of fiscal conservatism and limited government expected of a Republican senator from this state, as was the case with your vote to uphold MACT regulation, this page will hold you accountable.


The Free Press editorial page

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

Silence criticism? Or dispute it? I guess in your universe, you're allowed to make whatever wild accusations you want, and nobody can protest it.

After all, it's far more important that you're allowed to lie and deceive than it is for you to tell the truth. You demand free speech to the point where nobody else has it.

This is exactly what I was concerned about, and exactly why I asked you to hold yourself to a higher standard than the previous editorial writers.

It's obvious you won't.

You don't get it, your editorial made you appear to be a lying and duplicitous bully, and your response reinforces it. You are the ones who are so arrogant that you believe yourself above reproach, that you can criticize anybody without regards to the veracity of your claims.

I don't like Lamar Alexander, but he's entitled to honest and truthful critics. You fail the test.

July 12, 2012 at 12:14 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

GREAT editorial. It's about time we had a "right side" editor who will stand up to liberal "Republicans" who are as bad or worse than Democrats. The former editor kissed up to incumbents no matter how egregious their betrayal of the principles they supposedly stood for. I'm glad we now have someone who has the guts to call a RINO a RINO.

July 12, 2012 at 1:38 p.m.
Easy123 said...

This letter and MountainJoe's comments are very telling of the Republican mindset. Republicans must fall in line with "conservatism" and their other Republican cronies. If they don't, their will be hell to pay.

The Conservatives/Republicans will be the downfall of America.

July 12, 2012 at 2:05 p.m.
theMirror said...

So far 1 accolade welcoming a change from sycophancy and 2 demeaning comments. Mostly name calling and zero actual refuting of facts.

If you dislike the letter don't you have something more than emotional words? How can Easy123 base the mindset of 50 million conservatives on one persons 3 sentence post?

Newbulbs writes that the editor acts like he's above reproach. But I thought the editor addressed his previous error in this very piece (there were 5 GOP votes, not 2). So it seems he's on the up and up when it comes to admitting a mistake.

Now everybody loves free speech, but neither Easy or Newbulbs seem to be concerned that a federal senator is trying to tell a public paper what to do and accusing them of libel (the misplaced comment on felony)!

Lamar does admit that the EPA has 2 minutes of good regulation compared to 1,438 minutes in the rest of the day when the broken clock is still broken. I think the take away here is that Lamar should put his actions where his words are; make up for any small faults and actually cull more of the EPA rules that are unnecessary

C'mon Lamar, show us that you can do it.

July 12, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.
acerigger said...

Why does the "new"editorialist remind me of my Junior High years????

Hopefully this kind of tripe will not become the new norm for the "Free Press".

July 12, 2012 at 2:39 p.m.
Easy123 said...


So a senator can't tell a public paper what to do and accuse them of libel but you can tell the senator what to do? It all makes sense now. So only YOU are above reproach, correct?

By the way, you seem to fall into the category with MountainJoe and the other 50 million conservatives. You folks are easy to categorize. You all think alike. You are no different.

July 12, 2012 at 2:47 p.m.
theMirror said...

Nope, I have plenty of my own faults. Honestly we all do; don't we.

One of mine is replying to comments of people who just banter about because they can't form a rational response. Forgive me for pointing out the static around here. At least you have proven you can make a rational response and you called me out on it. But then you wrongly slotted me in with all the conservatives. Really I am not.

In all actuality most conservatives probably don't really fit a definition of conservative and most "liberals" probably don't fit a definition of that either.

We're all individuals! Once we rise above the stereotypes and labels, we can get down to nuts and bolts to discuss an issue. Or some will choose the easy path; they will sit back and name call or make snarky comments leaving the real issue unaddressed.

Your move sir.

"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." Eleanor Roosevelt (also not a conservative)

P.S. Why can I address the senator? Well he CHOSE to be in a public office. So yes indeed he should expect thousands of people to tell him what to do. That is the nature of the job for all Public Servants.

And did I do anything but request he take on what he pointed out - that there are many unnecessary EPA regulations. Would you prefer someone to NOT correct things that aren't working well?

July 12, 2012 at 3:23 p.m.
Easy123 said...


I'm all for discussing the issues. And I don't have a problem with you telling the Senator what to do or evaluating his actions. However, the problem arises when you tell the Senator that he can't ask for a retraction from the paper or point out, at least, some libel on the part of the TFP. That was all I was pointing out. It appeared to be hypocritical. Whether you meant it to sound that way or not, I don't know.

July 12, 2012 at 3:32 p.m.
theMirror said...

Sure, he can ask for a retraction. But I thought that was laughable, as the editor has pointed out the fallacy of Alexanders request, except where he noted the correction (5, not 2).

Lamar should have better things to do with his time. From what I gather of his voting he could be doing a LOT better by focusing on all this fluff in DC that keeps good people down and props up cronies.

Maybe he'll take a queue from Jefferson, a wise politician "I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it." TJ never responded to any of the wild or true claims from newspapers. But then again he was wise more than he was a politician.

July 12, 2012 at 3:44 p.m.
ldurham said...

I think I have it figured out now. The wacko WEHCO media gang hired this hotshot to accelerate the demise of the TFP. Looks like things are right on schedule.

July 12, 2012 at 5:25 p.m.
DonnaLocke said...

Ha! Though I'm kind of a radical environmentalist myself, well, go, Drew, ha! Glad you worked in the part about the VW moochers' taking us for a ride on our dime. Tennessee has quite a reputation for such suckerdom. Heaven help us all; the biz pigs done took over and are playing Monopoly with OUR money.

July 16, 2012 at 1:47 a.m.
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