Friday, December 05, 2008

Saxby Chambliss Allowed to Continue Poisoning DC.

I'm sure that you've heard by now that Saxby Chambliss won his Georgian run-off election to retain his US Senate seat. He actually beat his rival Jim Martin by 15 points- a much larger win than during the general election, when he failed to achieve the necessary 50% of the vote to avoid the "do-over". With that victory, the Republicans have finally achieved what they fought so hard for during this past voting cycle. The GOP has been able to avoid a supermajority of Democrats in the Upper House. That means that the filibuster is still in play for these obstructionists. Now their opponents will need to sway someone from their side in order to attain cloture, and force votes on controversial legislation.

I can't say that this was particularly unexpected. It was quite clear before November 4th that the Dems had a long road to 60 seats. Still I can't help being a little disappointed. It looked for a minute like they had a shot. Franken and Coleman have been running neck-and-neck in the Minnesotan recount, and the party seemed to have resources to sink into the Georgian race. The ironic thing is that if the Democrats could have foreseen that they were going to get this close to complete dominance, they might have looked a lot harder for a stronger candidate than Jim Martin. Apparently the best thing he had going for him was that he wasn't Saxby Chambliss. Obviously that wasn't enough without Obama's long coattails.

The thing is that I really wanted Chambliss to lose for reasons quite apart from the larger partisan politics. The guy is clearly an asshole. He only occupies his place in Washington because he smeared Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland in 2002. What's so galling is that Chambliss is just another chicken hawk within the "Patriot Party". He scored five deferments to stay out of Southeast Asia, and still had the nerve to attack Cleland for voting against a homeland security bill. His campaign actually produced an ad that associated Cleland with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Even John McCain stepped forward to criticize the spot, saying "It's worse than disgraceful, it's reprehensible."

Still that didn't stop McCain from flying down to Georgia to support Chambliss' re-election bid. Apparently the former US congressman is quite connected. Chambliss is one of several GOP lawmakers to publicly return money he received from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He was one of the only senators in history to gain a chairmanship on a full standing committee within his first two years of assuming office. That position (head of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry) seemed to present a conflict of interest, as his son Bo Chambliss is a lobbyist for a commodities firm in Chicago that is under its legislative jurisdiction. I guess that it's just "all in the family" for this notorious southern clan.

Chambliss is fairly typical of many of the Republican politicians that swept into DC in 1994 under Newt Gingrich's congressional leadership. He's a social conservative, and he's corrupt. The ACLU gave him a 17% rating on civil rights. The National Educational Association gave him an "F". On organized labor issues, he has earned a score of 11%. He's terrible on the environment... a fact that likely explains why the GOP wants him working on our nation's forests. All of this makes him a natural for the Deep South. It's just too bad that the Democrats couldn't capitalize on the unique congruence of factors that prevailed in the recently concluded election. Perhaps Georgia would have actually enjoyed a change in their national representation. It will be many years before they see another such opportunity.

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