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Running for a bad job

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POSTED: November 27, 2007 5:00 a.m.
By this time next year, the United States will have elected a new president, and Georgia will probably have the same two senators.
Whether Democrats or Republicans get the key to the White House won’t make much difference in the Peach State.
A change in senators is unlikely. Junior Sen. Johnny Isakson won’t be running in 2008, and senior Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ re-election next year is all but certain. You’d think old Sax would be dancing in the streets. He is not.
Despite his high ranking in the upper chamber (he was Senate Agriculture Committee chair when the GOP had a majority), Chambliss is a living example of why being a senator may not be such a hot job, even without formidable opposition.
Look what’s happened to Saxby since he left the House to defeat triple-amputee Vietnam War vet Max Cleland, a Democrat, for the Senate.
Sen. Chambliss has been roundly booed at a convention of his own party. Republican regulars detested his proposed immigration law.
Chambliss has become the Democratic poster boy for “the dirty, draft-dodging, unpatriotic, insensitive campaigner.” His TV spots in the last campaign — particularly the one showing incumbent Cleland with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein  —  ranks right up there with other unspeakable ads including LBJ’s nuclear bomb attack against Barry Goldwater and G.W. Bush’s swift boaters against John Kerry.
 In fact, the ad against Cleland has already appeared more in 2007 on cable TV and Democratic blogs than it did in the entire 2002 election cycle.
In his one term in the Senate, Chambliss has gained a reputation as a rubber stamp for the Bush administration. “Rubber stamp” is the polite phrase, not the one used by his Democratic critics.
Chambliss also has been placed in the terrible position in Washington of not being able to help his main constituents, the big farm interests, as much as he would like.
That is a shame. Deep down, Chambliss is probably on the sensible side of the immigration issue, but he can’t quite say so.
A new immigration law is what big ag needs badly. They need more and better access to migrant labor. They need migrants who can qualify for driver’s licenses and liability insurance. They need a minimum of red tape in handling migrant workers, and they need federal immigration enforcement officers to stay off their backs.   
The big-guy farmers aren’t alone. Big business in general needs help in the immigration area, even in facilitating the recruitment and admittance to this country of executives and highly skilled workers. (We don’t like to say it, but immigrant labor is what makes America work. Nearly all of our ancestors came to our shores as immigrant labor, voluntarily and involuntarily.)
In the current national political atmosphere, help on the immigrant front is not likely. In the Republican Party, the issue boils down to a fight between Wall Street and Main Street, a contest of wills between wealthy entrepreneurs and the other Republicans.
The same problem exists on the Democratic side of the ledger. Smart party recruiters want to curry favor with immigrants to add them to their voting bloc. However, many union leaders and rank-and-file blue-collar Democrats are in lockstep with Main Street Republicans. They demand a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
So what’s a fellow to do if he wants to remain a senator? To silence the boos, poor Saxby wound up disavowing his own proposed law. Lately, he has offered a tiny amendment to the farm bill to help farmers with their migrant crews. The amendment disappeared in a cloud of smoke before it went anywhere.
Still, it is instructive to note that Chambliss’ very vocal critics inside and outside his party have not been able to recruit a candidate with any chance of defeating him. Moreover, Chambliss is rolling in campaign funds, much of it from agribusiness interests. It’s a little early, Saxby, but welcome back to the Senate.
Saxby’s sidekick, Sen. Isakson, is in a more difficult spot. Isakson’s term does not end until 2010. Rumors persist that Isakson would like to leave the Senate to finish off his political career as governor or maybe even as a media mogul.
The wise money suggests media mogul may be the better choice. Isakson, whose record on immigration is a copy of Chambliss’, will not get a Saxby-like pass from the political bosses back home.
In 2010, as Isakson tries to explain his back-and-forth stances on immigration legislation, his probable opponents  — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glynn Richardson  —  will be free to pander and say anything they wish to please the anti-immigrant crowd, which is undoubtedly the majority of Georgia voters. What any of the three would do upon election is, of course, unknown.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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