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With Ted Kennedy on his back, judicial candidate Gus Puryear is forced to defend his membership....

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 02:40 PM
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With Ted Kennedy on his back, judicial candidate Gus Puryear is forced to defend his membership.... /

A White Mans Dance
With Ted Kennedy on his back, judicial candidate Gus Puryear is forced to defend his membership at the exclusive Belle Meade Country Club

by Matt Pulle

If you were to call the Belle Meade Country Club a relic of the 1950s, youd be exaggerating its modernity. Only white men comprise the hallowed ranks of the resident members who can vote and hold leadership positions. They have first names like Doyle, Bradbury and Wilford, and they can shell out the clubs $40,000 entrance fee like a college senior unloading his pockets for 25-cent drafts.

Women have their own special and quaint category: Theyre called lady members, and while they pay less in club fees, they have no say in how the place is run. They cant vote on club affairs or hold a club office. Blacks, meanwhile, werent admitted into Belle Meade until 1994, more than a generation after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Even now the club has only one African American memberand, conveniently enough, he lives in Atlanta.

So it is against this backdrop of pride and prejudice that Gus Puryear, once seen as a safe bet to be confirmed as a federal judge for Tennessees Middle District, is struggling to defend his membership in the Belle Meade Country Club. Liberal members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hold the professional fate of this young GOP lawyer in their hands, as they examine the diversity and discriminatory practices of a creaky Southern country club whose weathered exterior and unremarkable grounds make its cachet all the more mysterious. But Puryear has fumbled his part in the query, raising questions about his honesty by choosing to give technical, misleading answers to very simple questions about the roles blacks and women play at this private bastion of Nashville privilege. And in the process, hes put his own country club on trial for its antiquated ways.

After Puryears rocky appearance before the judiciary committee last month, during which he fielded testy interrogations about his lack of trial experience, Sens. Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold sent the nominee a series of written questions. The three liberal firebrands largely focused on his work as the general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America, a Nashville-based private prison company. The senators each asked him about the investigation into the mysterious death of Estelle Richardson, a CCA inmate found dead in solitary confinement with a cracked skull and four broken ribs.

During his initial appearance before the committee, Puryear seemed more intent on defending the company than being frank about the circumstances of her death. So in their follow-up questions, Leahy, Kennedy and Feingold each pressed the judicial nominee to reconcile his vague, self-serving account of what happened to Richardson with the more authoritative conclusion of the Nashville medical examiner, who ruled her death a homicide and indirectly pinned the blame on the four prison guards who came in contact with her in the final days of her life.

Compared to Puryears comments about Richardsons murder and the subsequent $60 million federal lawsuit, his country club membership might have seemed like a footnote in the rsum of a judicial candidate. But both Kennedy and Feingold pestered Puryear about the practices of the elite social organization, with the Massachusetts senator himself asking four sets of questions about the place.

FULL story at link.

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