At 11:35 am, shortly before Vice-President Biden and President Obama were sworn in at today’s inauguration ceremony, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) delivered a brief speech extolling the tradition of the peaceful transfer of power in the United States:
Ladies and gentlemen, the late Alex Haley, the author of Roots, lived his life by these six words: find the good and praise it. Today we praise the American tradition of transforming, or reaffirming, immense power in the inauguration of the President of the United States. We do this in a peaceful, orderly way. There is no mob. No coup. No insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch. A moment most of us always will remember. It is a moment that is our most conspicuous and enduring symbol of the American democracy. How remarkable that this has survived for so long in such a complex country when so much power is at stake. This freedom to vote for our leaders and the restraint to respect the results.
Unlike former Senator Bob Bennet (R-UT), his predecessor as ranking member on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugurations who played little public role in President Obama’s first inaugural ceremony in 2009, Senator Alexander sought out and promoted the very public role he played in today’s inauguration ceremony. Jim Jeffries, spokesman for Senator Alexander, told Breitbart News that “Senator Alexander, because he was ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee last Congress, also served, by tradition, as vice chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and spoke today in that capacity.”
Jeffries did not offer an explanation for why Alexander’s predecessor, Senator Bennett, played virtually no public role during President Obama’s first inauguration ceremony.
Seeking today’s high profile role in President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony was an odd choice for the incumbent senator from Tennessee, whose increasingly moderate and left wing positions have raised the likelihood that he will face a conservative primary challenger as he seeks re-election to the Senate in 2014.
Alexander has come under attack for promoting the drastic coal industry environmental regulations promoted by the Obama administration that many conservatives believe are a blatant regulatory over-reach designed to kill the coal industry. Alexander is also well known for his plaintive request back in February, 2010 that President Obama not jam his Obamacare legislation through the Senate by distorting the reconciliation process. A month later, President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid used that exact tactic to secure the passage of the two bills that comprised the Obamacare initiative.
Alexander’s choice to begin his speech referencing his late friend Alex Haley is also unusual. Haley, a native of Tennessee, gained fame as the author of the international best-seller Roots, which later became a very successful television mini-series.
Haley claimed that he had based the novel on his own family history in America, which he said began with the capture of his ancestor, whom he called “Kunta Kinte,” in Africa in the 18th century, and his transport to America. However, a lawsuit filed by author Harold Courlander that claimed Roots had plagiarized the story from his novel The African was settled in 1978, when Haley and his publisher reportedly paid Courlander $500,000.
The theme of Alexander’s speech–that we should all follow Haley’s life motto and “find the good and praise it”–seems to be inconsistent with Haley’s own actual motto, which could be better described as “find what someone else has created that’s good and claim it as your own.”
Alexander may be setting himself up as the “moderate” alternative to the “strident” conservatives, a position that he’ll need not only in the 2014 primary, but also in the general election if he wins the primary and is challenged by the popular former Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen.
Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle contributed to this report