Mr. Bob Corker
518 Georgia Ave.
Chattanooga, TN 37403
It has been more than three weeks since I wrote you asking for your commitment to seven televised debates between Primary Day and Election Day. Though you have had time to attack me personally--indeed, you began on the night of your nomination--you have made no response to our request for debates. It is now less than two months before Tennesseans begin electing a new United States Senator. I am, therefore, compelled to write again to request that you immediately take the necessary time to consider this matter with the seriousness it merits.
The Senate is the world's greatest deliberative body. A Senator must have the experience, skill, and, most importantly, the will to stand in the Senate chamber and debate the world's most important questions. Campaign debates are not merely political tools. They are the means by which voters determine whether a candidate has the skill set to give voice to their concerns and solve their problems.
Tennesseans want an honest discussion of the issues they face. They do not want candidates to hide behind buzzwords and catch phrases. They want to test the depth of our knowledge. They want to know whether we understand the issues that matter most to them. They care not whether our ideas are Republican or Democratic ideas, so long as they are good ideas. Genuine debate lifts up and illuminates these ideas. Tennesseans, therefore, deserve numerous opportunities to determine who among us has the experience, the vision, and the independence necessary to confront the challenges facing the nation.
Having not heard from you, this week I accepted the following debates that have been proposed by media outlets and nonprofit organizations across the state, as well as one national network broadcast.
Knoxville, WATE-TV (statewide broadcast), September 21
Nashville, Newschannel 5 (statewide broadcast), Late September date to be determined
Memphis, WREG-TV, October 8
Tri Cities, WJHL-TV, October 9
Chattanooga, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, October 10
Nashville, AARP/PBS statewide broadcast, October 12
NBC Meet the Press, October 15
Knoxville, WBIR-TV and Knoxville News-Sentinel, October 17
Nashville, WSMV, mid-October date to be determined
Jackson, WNWS and Jackson Sun, date to be determined
Knoxville, Hallerin Hill WNOX, September 7
Already, as you did during your primary campaign, you are refusing debates. The Associated Press reported today that you have refused to commit to the Meet the Press debate with Tim Russert. You are the only Senate candidate in the country to refuse to debate in this well-respected national forum. I can't imagine why you would not want a debate on the future of Tennessee to be heard and seen around the nation. Tennessee has so much to offer our country--solutions to our addiction to oil, a tradition of patriotism and national service, and a willingness to put aside party labels to elect Senators committed to solving our greatest problems. I am deeply disappointed you do not want to offer the best of Tennessee to the country.
Is your reluctance to debate because:
- You have never cut a tax, and only raised them multiple times as mayor?
- You refused repeated pleas from the Chattanooga police for additional 911 operators, leading to 31,000 unanswered emergency calls for help?
- You enriched yourself as mayor, making 50 percent more in your time in office than you had in the previous 24 years combined?
- You raised your pay as mayor three times, while freezing the pay of your police and firefighters?
- You are worth a quarter-billion dollars, yet you continue to take a city pension?
- You made $4.7 million on a shady land deal that would have been impossible if anyone else had been mayor--but you?
- You hired illegal workers on one of your construction projects and tried to cover it up?
- You aired false and misleading advertisements during your self-financed primary campaign, leading editorial writers and independent watchdog groups to criticize you for misleading voters?
- You served as Governor Sundquist's finance commissioner, and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the broken TennCare system, while you raised premiums on recipients?
- You have favored a stay-the-course approach in Iraq, while our generals and more and more of your own party have joined the American people in realizing such an approach is not working?
Whatever your reluctance, I do know Tennesseans want these debates. With our nation at war and gasoline prices rising daily, with the 9/11 Commission recommendations sitting on the shelf five years after September 11, with our national debt spiraling and our overseas borrowing soaring, with the number of uninsured rising and farm income falling, Tennesseans deserve these debates.
I look forward to finding out whether you agree.
HAROLD FORD, JR.