First things first: I do not know Kent Williams personally. Perhaps on a personal level he's a swell guy. I have no idea. But I also don't care for present purposes, because here's what I do know: Kent Williams, regardless of whatever grand qualities he may otherwise have, is, politically speaking, a weasel.
Whatever his defenders may say about him, the fact remains that he took advantage of a situation to better his personal standing and sold his party colleagues out in the process. This label is overused, but there is no better metaphor for Williams than this guy.
Oh yes, I hear the folks who claim that he saved the House from rampant partisanship, the (largely imagined) terrors of a Speaker Jason Mumpower and so on. Well, look, if he's such a great guy who could do all of these things, he should have put himself out there earlier on making those arguments and let everyone have that debate within the party, you know, kind of like they're doing now. Or, at the very least, he should have tried to form a coalition early on with the Democrats, as John Wilder did. He didn't do any of those things.
Instead, he saw an opening and he took it. I'm sorry, but Kent Williams a weasel and that's that.
I will say that one good thing came out of the Williams interregnum. It was a nice bridge between Democratic dominance of the House and the soon-to-come Republican dominance of the House. Gradual change is often underrated. And, as I suspected might happen, it robbed Democrats (who, ironically, were cheering these events back in January 2009) of a useful unifying political target. Basically, all they ended up getting out of it was a two-year reprieve while the Republicans got ready to take the House outright. Hope they enjoyed it.
All of that said, even though I wish he would shut up about it, Williams' support of Beth Harwell for Speaker of the House does nothing to deter me from hoping she gets the post. She's smart, capable and very, very experienced. Republicans are going to need all of these things because--I don't know if you noticed--we've never done this before. And, yes, I did say "we"--I am a Republican.
We as Republicans and as Tennesseans need a person in the Speaker's Office who can hit the ground running with regard to managing the House. With her quarter-century of experience, I am very confident that Beth Harwell can do that. and, as David Oatney quite properly points out, you are going to have a very conservative House regardless.
Can Glen Casada rise to her level? I don't know. He is my representative, as it happens, but that's the extent of my relationship with him. He seems OK, but I will say that potential speakers of the House need to have more sense than to get themselves involved in garbage like this. That's the kind of thing that gives Republicans like me--and whether you realize it or not, there are many of us--the creeps.
So, I'm pulling for Beth. If Glen wins, well, that's OK too I guess. But he'll have a lot more to prove to people. Let's hope he'll be up to the task. Otherwise, you'll give the Democrats an big enough opening to run a Kent Williams-sized truck through.