There was a puzzling story in Wednesday’s Commercial Appeal. “Gibbons uses THP as drivers” touted the headline. They were referring to former Memphis DA now state Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
He “is chauffeured by state Highway Patrol officers in commuting between his Nashville office and his Memphis home, reports WTVF-TV in Nashville.” It went on to say that one drives him as another follows him, then they switch half way and “on at least two occasions, a second two-trooper team met the commissioner to drive him the rest of the way.” The CA adds that “the troopers were clocked at better than 80 mph.”
Interestingly, the CA doesn’t do its own research, but lifts the story from a Knoxville blog and puts that part in italics. Somehow it is more shocking and more gossipy in italics.
We don’t get Gibbons’ side of things at all in this story. Perhaps Gibbons needs the time to do some work; taxpayer time that is better spent in his working than in driving. Maybe the troopers weren’t going 80 mph. Maybe there was an emergency the time or two that happened. Maybe it’s good that the safety commissioner understand what traffic is like in his state.
The next day, the CA must have had some twinge of conscience or objection because they did let Gibbons tell his side of the story. Sort of. They buried it on the back side of the Local section. They also went through the whole story again, locking it in readers’ minds.
Gibbons said that he indeed does use troopers for work time and responds that he even rejected an offer by Governor Bill Haslam to have a trooper assigned to him full time, the story says. Turns out he’s only used that opportunity four times this year.
But lest a reader accept that, the CA has an editorial the same day with this scolding headline: “State troopers are not chauffeurs.” They want to smack him again and they do it in a more visible space, under the guise of fair editors protecting poor Tennesseans.
“A raised eyebrow is justified for Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons’ use of state troopers as chauffeurs to drive him between Memphis and Nashville,” it reads. Then they go on to retell the story, once again, firmly planting the idea of corruption in readers’ heads.
They reject the state Highway Patrol commander’s approval of the practice. “Taxpayer money should not be used to pay state employees to drive their bosses home or halfway home,” the editors prissily comment. They suggest he move to Nashville or buy a bus ticket.
Do they want the governor to do that, too? How about Obama? Should the president spend millions on a pleasure trip to Hawaii? How about applying the same standards to Democrats in office?
Why this sudden attention on Gibbons? Could it be they are applying ideas from Saul Alinsky put forth in his “Rules for Radicals” book? Alinsky advises that any future or present hindrance to his socialist philosophy should be taken down by searching out the target person, identifying a problem with him, freezing it, promoting the accusations and making fun of the person until he is minimized.
Perhaps the media feels that Gibbons would make a good candidate for future office and this is a way to shoot him down. It also allows them to reference this incident every time his name comes up, particularly useful when a person is a candidate.
I understand there was much backslapping and high fiving after this story appeared. Gibbons has been known as a very ethical, fair person. This makes people doubt that.
That’s the way the Alinsky game is played.