You’ve got to hand it to Tennessee’s lieutenant governor for the way he uses social media to rattle partisan cages. Ron Ramsey’s tweet on the 12th anniversary of 9/11 had tea partiers cheering, hard-boiled Democrats steaming and the rest of us cringing.
“As the President attempts to ally w/ Al-Qaeda in Syria’s civil war, we must always remember who attacked us on our soil 12 years ago,” the Republican senator from Sullivan County tweeted Wednesday.
Yep, he went there.
Ramsey’s comment was met with a strong rebuke from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, who said the “treasonous tweet” was designed to divide, not unite, Americans on Patriot Day.
“I served with Ron Ramsey both in the Tennessee House and the Tennessee Senate, and I believe he’s too smart to write something so stupid,” Herron said in a news release. “If I’m wrong, Speaker Ramsey’s wrong and he should apologize immediately.
“If I’m right, Speaker Ramsey should apologize immediately and fire whoever wrote such an outrageous, dishonest, misleading, incendiary, unpatriotic and dangerous attack on our Nation’s President and on Republican leaders like Senators Corker and McCain and House Speaker Boehner and the Military Leaders working with them.”
Herron was partially correct. Ramsey didn’t actually write and send the tweet himself, but the lieutenant governor told me he sanctioned its transmission and had “100 percent approved” of its content. I spoke to Ramsey by phone early Friday as he waited at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, for a flight back to Tennessee. Ramsey had been out of pocket for a few days on a fishing trip with friends in Alaska (and, yes, he had planned to meet up with Sarah and Todd Palin, but the weather forced the couple to scrap their flight to the fishing lodge where Ramsey was staying).
It was Adam Kleinheider, Ramsey’s communications director, who sent the message from the lieutenant governor’s Twitter account. Ramsey has no regrets about the tweet, and said he wasn’t surprised that its tone had made “liberals and Democrats mad.”
“It was factual, and an overwhelming number of people agree with me,” he said.
Even so, Ramsey’s office in Nashville fielded a number of angry calls Thursday from Tennesseans who believed the lieutenant governor had gone too far. One of those callers told me that he did, however, appreciate the courtesy the Ramsey staffer showed in listening to him criticize her boss. At this point, I suspect they are probably used to it.
Also on Thursday, Ramsey’s office issued the following statement regarding Twittergate:
“Every September 11 since that tragic Tuesday in 2001 has been a day of remembrance. We remember those who died, those who served and those who carry on. But we must also remember those who attacked us and why. The Syrian rebels connections to Al-Qaeda are well-established and well-known. I am proud to stand with leaders like Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul against coming to the aid of our enemies, enemies who continue to hate our country from afar as they kill Christians in their own country.”
Notice in the statement that Ramsey firmly announces his allegiance to two of the most vocal tea partiers in the U.S. Senate and makes no mention of the positions taken by that chamber’s two representatives from Tennessee.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (who is likely to face one or more tea party challengers in the Republican Primary next year) has expressed opposition to using U.S. military force in Syria.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker (who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) had tried to sell the president’s case for military intervention to his fellow GOPers.
There has been talk that Ramsey might challenge Alexander in next year’s primary. I even heard speculation that tea partiers were trying to talk him into running against U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st. Ramsey assured me Friday he is “very happy” in his current political job.
“I can do more to affect things in my position than I ever could as a congressman,” Ramsey said.
The lieutenant governor said he doesn’t have the “slightest bit of interest” in running for Congress. Besides, Ramsey said, “Phil does a great job in Washington.”
Yes, but does he tweet?
Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.