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The elephants' tent

POSTED: May 18, 2009 9:35 a.m.
Ninth District Rep. Nathan Deal has spent 16 years as Georgia’s mountain district congressman. During that time, we’ve barely heard a peep from him. Deal’s low profile may account for the ease with which he has slipped back into office every two years.
Now Deal has announced he’s decided to retire from his easy seat in Congress and get a real political job: governor of Georgia. Deal is one of about 10 (or is it 12?) Republicans seeking to compete in next year’s GOP primary for governor.
He has already distinguished himself from the rest of the Hee-Haw refugees trying out for governor. Deal is bringing with him his policy of remaining as silent as a cigar-store Indian on most issues, especially those that are plain silly. Keeping your lips zipped is a mountain tradition (unless you’re Zell Miller), and Deal never forgot that.
Last week, Deal had a solid no-comment on a state Senate resolution to urge Georgia to consider secession if the Obama administration tries to impose stricter gun control on American citizens.
As far as I know, President Barack Obama has not addressed the gun issue. But in some parts of the state, it is probably good politics to get on record against Obama, no matter how he stands on any issue.
Six of the 10 Georgia GOP candidates for governor say they favor the secession ploy — if that is what it was.
Only Sen. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, dared to say that he opposed the amendment, adding that he was proud to be an American. Sen. David Adelman, D-DeKalb, Obama’s go-to guy in Georgia, voted for the amendment that passed overwhelmingly on the last day of the legislative session. Adelman said he did not know what the resolution contained, as it swept through the Senate with a batch of other bills.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Republican leaders are meeting quietly to rebrand the national GOP. They say they want to return to the days of the “big tent,” where everybody is welcome as a Republican. The elephants’ big tent, for the benefit of you youngsters in the reading audience, was last spotted at about the time of the first moon landing.
In any event, while the suits in Washington are talking up saving the Republican Party from fading into a regional backwater party partial to the South and a few sparsely populated Western states, here in Georgia Republican pols are preparing for next year’s primary.
From the looks of things now, the GOP primary will hearken back to the bad old days of racist-tinged rhetoric and hate-Washington oratory. Legislative leaders squashed a routine personal resolution that would have made Obama an honorary member of the Georgia Black Caucus. The House crumpled the meaningless resolution with such glee that one would have thought they had reversed the agreement at Appomattox.
The top guns in the GOP’s Peach State delegation have already made it clear they plan to fight to the bitter end to stop President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. At this writing, the name of that hateful judicial nominee is still unknown. It doesn’t matter. Our guys are ready to shoot down the unknown justice, whoever he or she may be. They just don’t like the guy or gal.
Of course, the whizzes in our congressional delegation have already blamed Obama and his buddies for the soaring national debt. Where were these guys when President George W. Bush took a balanced federal budget, wrought by Democrat Bill Clinton, and turned it into a $1.2 trillion deficit in just six years?
Looking down the road to the 2010 primary and election, a Republican seems a cinch to win the governor’s office, barring a late entry by a big-name Democrat with lots of money and influence in the more populous reaches of the state.
And judging by the early shots in the primary campaign, the GOP nominee will likely be a well-heeled, not-quite-nuts candidate who comes up with the most fighting-mad conservative platform. There won’t be any big tent on elephant property in Dixie next year, certainly not in the Empire State of the South.
Georgia has had enough shade-tree government to last another century. We need to elect a go-go governor with big issues (education, transportation, health care) on his or her mind. A dash of visionary in the makeup of the new chief would not be out of order.
If we get such a governor, it will be by sheer accident or because he or she fooled us into thinking their crowd was a throwback bunch resurrected from the 1960s. (See Carter versus Sanders for governor in 1970.)
As you watch next year’s political drama unfold, remember this: a main issue for many candidates will be opposition to Obama in the White House. What the candidate advocates won’t really matter in our state’s little Republican tent.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.
 

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