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Speaker wins by losing in General Assembly

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POSTED: April 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Let’s hear a thunderous round of applause followed by an ear-splitting rebel yell for House Speaker Glenn Richardson. He is clearly the winner of the 2008 legislative wars.
He also is the runaway victor in the first round of the Main Event for Governor, 2010.
Romeo may look and sound dumb, but he is not dumb. He may be the smartest guy in the state Capitol.
First, consider what he did to prepare for his 2010 bid to succeed Gov. Sonny Perdue. It was a masterpiece of pre-campaign showmanship.
Somehow, Richardson induced the Yale University Law Journal’s online edition to roundly condemn his methods of running the Peach State House. Yale’s online “Pocket Part” slams Romeo’s detested House "Hawks" for exercising “an extraordinary and unjustified amount of legislative power (while inflicting) untold damage to the bargaining process.”
The Hawks, you will remember, comprise a platoon of legislative goons handpicked by Romeo to take charge of any committee the speaker deems to be acting against his best interests. The only thing that might have helped Romeo in a greater way was being bashed by the Harvard Law Review. We’re still trying to figure out how Romeo managed to attract Ivy League attention, even if he had to settle for Yale.
Why would Yale or Harvard or any other Ivy League school have an interest in Georgia’s House rules? Does Romeo have his own private mole lurking in the ivy? Getting rapped in Georgia by New Englanders automatically qualifies a Dixie politician for a coveted Cracker medal.
Second, Richardson maneuvered Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle into the terrible political position of killing nearly every piece of tax-cutting legislation. Richardson challenged Casey “to stand up like a man” and support what was left of Richardson’s GREAT Tax. Meanwhile, Gov. Perdue was romping through the Orient on a trade mission. So Cagle followed the governor’s orders and blocked the “irresponsible” tax reductions.
Perhaps as many as two Republicans will remember Cagle’s courageous stance. Millions of other Georgians will constantly be reminded of Romeo’s seemingly fearless but futile combat to give Georgians tax breaks.
Forget that actually getting the tax breaks passed this year would have been the worst thing that could have happened to Georgia and its present legislature. The state’s economy already is in steep decline because of lower tax receipts. Squeezing more billions out of education, transportation and health care hardly seems prudent at the moment.
However, Richardson can now crow, “Casey and Sonny wouldn’t let the voters and me lower taxes! But I shall win in the end! Vote for lower taxes! Vote for Romeo for governor!”
I can’t figure out which of Romeo’s allies helped him devise the strategy to leave Lt. Gov. Cagle and his Senate to carry on for Perdue. Whoever the master planner was deserves a high place in the Richardson transition team to governor. But wait ... .
The speaker’s enemies could derail him before the fireworks for governor even begin. Such would be an Act of Extraordinary Bravery. Richardson’s off-the-field conduct last year should have been enough to send him to the showers, but the ABR (Anybody but Romeo) bunch just didn’t have it in them.
(Whatever happened to the guys who squared off in the broken beer-bottle fight at the last elegant farewell party for the legislature? Let us hope that wonderful tradition — the party, not the cutting — remains on our social calendars.)
Maybe Romeo decides to skip governor and go for senator to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is returning to run for governor. That is not as farfetched as it may sound. If one watches Romeo in action closely, one will plainly see he envisions himself a national kind of guy, too talented for the penny-ante field under the Georgia Gold Dome.
Washington awaits, Romeo.

Reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail shipp1@bellsouth.net or visit the Web site billshipponline.com.
 

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