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Georgia to be shut out?
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The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president Tuesday marks the beginning of new era in American politics.
Obama stands as a giant symbol that the nation’s door of opportunity is wide open to anyone of any race to rise to any height. In addition, Obama is riding a wave of high expectations in a country fatigued by eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency and a daunting set of economic and international problems.
If someone had told me in 1962 in the midst of the riot on the Ole Miss campus, or even this time last year, that America would elect a black president early in the 21st century, I would have laughed. I never thought I would live to see someone like Obama take the presidential oath. Tuesday is a day I hope we can remember with pride for the rest of our history.
On a more practical level, what does the dawning Obama presidency mean for us Georgians? At a time when the incoming president is planning massive use of the federal treasury to jump-start the moribund American economy, how does Georgia compare to the other 49 states in its ability to attract needed help from the Obama administration?
The sad answer is that Georgia is in a weaker position with the incoming president than it has been with any other president since Ronald Reagan ousted favorite-son Jimmy Carter from the White House in 1980.
Part of the reason: Georgia voters awarded our 15 electoral votes to defeated Republican nominee John McCain, but that’s just the beginning. Several other states that Obama lost are doubtless in a better position to interact with him than we Georgians, thanks to Georgia officialdom’s openly hostile attitude toward Obama. No other state seems as mad at the new president.
We have few people positioned to influence the White House  for us. Obama’s go-to guys in Georgia are an obscure state senator, David Adelman, D-DeKalb, and Dan Halpern, confidant of the late Maynard Jackson.
In the 1990s Georgia was in a better position to influence President Bill Clinton than almost any other state, except his native Arkansas. Then-Gov. Zell Miller had done more to help Clinton than virtually any other elected official in America. Many other Georgians — elected officials and private citizens — went to bat for Clinton.
Our state’s close ties to the Clinton administration paid off with major federal help in staging the 1996 Olympics and other important projects. Georgia’s military bases were protected during multiple rounds of closings in part because of the Georgia-Clinton relationship.
When Bush was elected in 2000, many Georgians were still in the right place to deal with the federal administration. Political consultant Ralph Reed had played a key role in the Bush election. Several other Georgians had close personal and political ties to Bush.
At the beginning of Bush’s tenure, Georgia had a leg up on landing federal projects. The Peach State had the opportunity to showcase itself at Sea Island when Bush hosted the G-8 summit of world leaders
In sharp contrast to our hospitable manner toward Clinton and Bush, several of our prominent elected officials have already formed an anti-Obama bloc. Gov. Sonny Perdue taunted Obama for deciding to spend money to compete for Georgia’s electoral votes in last year’s election. The Republican majority in our congressional delegation, including underachieving Sens. Chambliss and Isakson, strongly opposed Obama.
A politically connected Atlanta law firm, whose members once included many Clinton loyalists, is now strongly identified with the Republican Party. Randy Evans, a prominent partner at the firm who is active in Republican politics, wrote a syndicated column unflatteringly attaching to Obama Richard Nixon’s worst traits. The firm recently hired another attorney/Republican pundit who, like Evans, is close to former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an emerging force in the leaderless Republican Party.
Even our Democratic elected officials’ ties to Obama are unlikely to bear fruit. While some Georgia Democratic congressmen endorsed him, none are prominent enough to command the attention of the White House or congressional leadership. Our three statewide Democratic elected officials endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton against Obama in the primary. State Rep. Calvin Smyre has strong national party credentials and connections, including with the new prez, but was for Clinton during the primaries. Civil rights icon John Lewis, an Atlanta congressman, backed Sen. Clinton until his arm was twisted to change to Obama.
All in all, Georgians’ political choices have put our state on the outside looking in as Congress and President-elect Obama hammer out the biggest economic rescue and spending package in world history.
Hopefully nothing will confront Georgia during the next four years that requires massive federal assistance. Otherwise, we may find out Obama is as interested in helping us with our problems as we were in helping him when he ran for president last year.

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