BOBBY HARRISON: Amy Tuck's 'roast' was lightly done affair

JACKSON – It was billed as a “roast” of Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, but it was a light toasting at best.

If the roasters cook their food to the same degree they roasted Amy Tuck Saturday night, it is a miracle they haven't died of salmonella or some other type of food poisoning.

Maybe, since the roasters included a state senator, a member of the College Board, a business lobbyist and a Republican campaign financier, they have little experience at actually cooking, instead spending all their time being wined or dined or doing the wining and dining themselves.

Calm down. It was just a joke, but perhaps an example of what is supposed to go on at a roast.

Still entertaining

Still, despite the not-so-done verbiage, the annual Mississippi Press Association Education foundation Roast, which is held to raise scholarship money for journalism students, was, as always, an entertaining event.

The roasters were funny, even if the seasoning applied to the Republican lieutenant governor was very mild. Not one commented on Tuck's propensity to change her mind – on everything from switching parties to supporting a teacher pay raise. But then, doesn't a woman have the right to change her mind?

Hey, just a poor example of possible fodder for a roast.

It appears a couple of problems arise when roasting Tuck.

First of all, she is is either the most powerful or one of the two most powerful legislative leaders in the state.

As Marty Wiseman, director of the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government, said as he took the podium to roast Tuck, “I have a budget tied up in this.”

Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, also is beholden to Tuck for his many leadership positions in the Senate. A matter of fact, Burton had some very funny lines – all aimed at himself.

All in all, it turned into a Amy Tuck love fest with some funny and endearing stories.

Perhaps the real reason the roasters never really turned up the heat on the oven is Tuck herself. Agree with her politics or disagree, she is such a genuinely likable person.

More than one roaster spoke of Tuck's ability to be “working” a room of hundreds and making each person believe he or she is the most important person there.

Attorney and College Board member Amy Whitten of Oxford said when she first met Tuck she thought she had to be on drugs because she never stopped.

Whitten said she learned Tuck was “addicted to people. They didn't even have to be interesting people.”

Through happenstance, there is probably no more newsworthy person the press association could have roasted at this particular time. Tuck is engaged in an epic political struggle with her usual ally, Gov. Haley Barbour, who is opposed to her plan to remove the 7 percent tax on food while increasing the 18 cent per pack cigarette tax to $1.

The governor has vetoed the legislation.

Wiseman said such catchy Tuck campaign slogans as “me and my truck are for Amy Tuck” have been replaced by the warning Tuck is giving senators sitting on the fence “override or I will have your hide.”

Sharp response

Tuck, whose response was much more razor-sharp than the roasters, also referred to the battle over the tax bill. She often tells the story of how the turtle had help to get on the fence post to make the point she also has had help through the years with any successes in her life.

She changed that story at the roast, though, saying she is telling undecided senators to get off the fence and get on the right side of the tax issue.

Bobby Harrison is chief of the Daily Journal's Capitol Bureau. His e-mail address is bharri9015@aol.com, and the bureau's telephone number is (601) 353-3119.