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Don't do it, Johnny
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What a waste! Johnny Isakson has announced for a second term in the U.S. Senate. He should be re-elected without much trouble. Instead of going for the Senate again, however, he ought to run for governor.
Georgia doesn't need another robot Republican to represent us in Washington. We desperately need an experienced and talented hand to take control of the governor's office in 2011, and start playing catch-up with the rest of the country. The Peach State has been in a steep decline on a number of fronts for eight years.
Now we're caught up in the global recession and suffering all sorts of complicated economic problems. Georgia needs a really smart guy to get us out of the ditch.
That would be Isakson, Georgia's most skilled (and probably most sensible) active politician. Though he is a pioneer Georgia Republican, he generally eschews the nut brigade and marches mostly to a more moderate drum. He applauds the Sarah Palins and Rush Limbaughs of the world, but not quite as loudly as most of his Southern colleagues.
Unlike Georgia's senior senator, Saxby Chambliss, Isakson is not considered just another Republican lemming willing to jump over a cliff rather than depart one iota from the GOP's agenda.
The reason for Isakson's decision to return to D.C. puzzles some. At the moment, a second-term GOP senator has a future about as bright as a used Saturn dealer's.
As far as the political eye can see, the Grand Old Party will be the minority opposition in Congress. That means Isakson's duties for the next six years will consist mostly of speeding up constituents' passport applications and smoothing out Social Security problems. Isakson will not be a national player. He will not be a committee chairman, unless he's named to raise cash to try to resuscitate the national Republican Party.
In his home state, Isakson has played a major role in working out big issues and helping the commonweal move forward. The first time that I saw Isakson in the Georgia Capitol, he was in a meeting with Speaker Tom Murphy's Democratic leaders, bulldozing a legislative obstacle. Compromise is Isakson's bag. In Georgia, he knows how to make a deal to get things done.
In Washington, I am not so sure. When he stepped up in the Senate to offer a worthwhile amendment to the economic stimulus bill, Democrats shrugged him off and killed his amendment. Back in Georgia, some of Isakson's followers appeared startled that the Democrats would treat Johnny so cavalierly.
The question is, why were folks so startled? What did they expect? This isn't ring-around-the-rosy. Isakson had opposed President Obama's stimulus package and voted against it.
He is firmly on record as being against most of Obama's big initiatives. Isakson also has a record of supporting President George W. Bush's administration, thus making many Georgia Republicans happy. In Washington, Isakson's record simply underscores where he stands.
His stances might be applauded around Powder Springs and Odum, but in Washington he has succeeded only in making Obama's nascent enemy list. The White House is not likely to offer him a cabinet post.
When he is re-elected, Isakson will have nothing but a bleak six-year term ahead, one without rank or much power and influence.
But as Georgia governor for four or eight years, he could leave behind a legacy as the Great Rebuilder - the governor who came to the rescue.
Isakson understands Georgia's problems and knows how to solve them. He served as chairman of the state school board while soon-to-be-convicted thief Linda Schrenko was superintendent of Georgia's schools. The Department of Education escaped real damage during Schrenko's dizzy reign because Chairman Johnny took care of business.
He knows how to get roads built and fixed and why the state needs a comprehensive water-usage plan.
He comprehends the vast complexities of Medicaid, the state-federal health-care plan for the indigent. He understands the importance of good schools and colleges.
Looking over the growing roster of Democrats and Republicans expressing an interest in running for governor, it is easy to see that Johnny could be elected without much fuss. Not one gubernatorial wannabe comes close to his stature.
Switching to the governor's race would round out Isakson's career with a grand finale. Running and winning the Senate probably means little more than Johnny settling for early retirement and spending six more years in Washington.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail:, or Web address:

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