Around Town: Bombing Syria: Isakson off Hot Seat, Nunn on
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
September 09, 2013 11:35 PM | 3670 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S push to bomb Syria to punish dictator Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons has united most rank-and-file Georgians against U.S. retaliation — although it has had the opposite effect on the field of candidates seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) next year. It also left U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) facing one of the most politically toxic votes of his career.

He climbed off that hot seat late Monday, announcing that he had changed his mind and now is against the strikes.

The new occupant of that proverbial hot seat? Michelle Nunn, who many consider the leading Democratic contender to succeed Chambliss next year. More on her in a moment.


IT IS STRIKING, in this age of polarized politics, how so many from all points on the political spectrum — even those usually ardent in their support of Obama, and those who strongly supported the war in Iraq — are in agreement that the U.S. has no business getting involved in Syria.

Around Town has yet to hear from anyone that favors Obama’s bombing proposal. And while letters to the editor opposing the bombing continue to flow in, it has yet to receive a single letter supporting our intervention in Syria’s civil war. Ditto for social media like Facebook, which has been ablaze against intervention.


THAT ANTI-WAR outpouring put Isakson in a bind. His initial comments (and Chambliss’) back on Aug. 31 were strongly in favor of retaliation.

“If we fail to take strong action against Syria for this horrendous attack, then we are sending a signal to Syria as well as to Iran and North Korea that they are accountable to no one,” he declared.

But Isakson began tacking in the other direction last week, saying he wanted to know more about Obama’s plan before he would vote for it.

And late Monday afternoon he made it official that he had changed his mind.

“Over the past week, I have traveled my state and have talked personally to hundreds of Georgians,” he said. “Thousands more constituents have contacted my office by phone and email. It is clear to me that Georgians overwhelmingly oppose our country getting involved militarily in Syria.

“The administration’s lack of a clear strategy is troubling, and the potential fallout following a military strike is also troubling.”

Isakson’s shift will play well at home, even though he does not have to face voters again until 2016. But he likely was under heavy pressure from the White House and from the “internationalist” wing of his party to go ahead with the retaliation.


LEGENDARY U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia was an internationalist, although of the Democratic variety. His daughter, Michelle, is part of the crowded field seeking to succeed Chambliss and her comments on Syria indicate that apple did not fall from the father’s tree. She said Friday she supports a strike against Syria in order to deter Assad from further attacks. Ms. Nunn, who’s been trying to position herself as a moderate, added that her position was consistent with those of Isakson and Chambliss. She did not mention Obama.

Ms. Nunn, a political newcomer, had shown a masterful touch thus far in rolling out her campaign this summer. But will her willingness to help Obama “push the button” torpedo her candidacy with her fellow Democrats and other Georgians?

And now that Isakson has come out against the bombing, it raises a series of other challenges for Ms. Nunn:

- Should she follow Isakson’s lead and change her mind as well?

- Can she change her position without looking like an Isakson clone?

- If she follows Isakson’s lead again and comes out against the bombing, she risks losing the crucial funding and other support of the Democratic National Committee in next year’s elections. The wrong decision now and she might find Obama’s support next fall perfunctory at best.


MEANWHILE, Dr. Branko Radulovacki of Vinings, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate, said Monday that he is opposed to retaliation.

“It will result in more bloodshed, greater tension and hostility in an already-destabilized region, and unnecessary isolation from our global allies,” said “Dr. Rad,” who as a native of the former Yugoslavia knows a thing or two about bloody civil wars. “We may well contribute to the problem rather than resolving it, while being drawn into yet another war in the Mideast.”


AND THE REPUBLICANS seeking Chambliss’ seat? U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel all said last week they were against the bombing.


MORE THAN 70 former employees and friends of retired Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Rex Ruff will honor him at a private party on Sunday at the west Cobb home of Sam Huff and Diane Woods on the 40th anniversary of his appointment. Ruff is remembered for modernizing the court’s operation to keep up with Cobb’s population explosion and the surge of juvenile crime that took place as Baby Boomers endured their teen years.


RIP: Bill Maloney, 91, who passed away Friday, will be remembered as the patriarch of one of Marietta’s biggest and best-known families. He and his late wife of 63 years, Dorothy, were parents of nine children, lived on Chicopee Drive for more than 50 years and were charter members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Capt. Maloney flew C-47 Skytrain cargo planes in the Pacific during World War II and afterward spent 36 years working at the Lockheed plant in Marietta, where he was a division manager. Maloney served on the Marietta School Board, Marietta Zoning Board and Kennestone Hospital Authority and at various times served as chairman of each before finally retiring in 1988. And fittingly for the father of nine Marietta High graduates, he enjoyed Blue Devil season tickets on the 50-yard-line for decades.


FRIENDS OF BRUMBY HALL and The Hilton Marietta Hotel & Conference Center will dedicate a painting in memory of late MDJ publisher Otis A. Brumby Jr. at 6 p.m. Sept. 18 at Brumby Hall. Brumby’s ancestor, Col. Anoldus Brumby, was commandant of cadets at the Georgia Military Institute on the site of the present-day Conference Center and lived in what is now known as Brumby Hall.


PEOPLE: Former legislative candidate and occasional MDJ guest columnist JoEllen Smith has been appointed to the SPLOST Oversight Committee by the Cobb Board of Commissioners. She was nominated by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell and takes the seat vacated by Lee Berg. ... Joseph Goldstein, son of Marietta Councilman Philip Goldstein, is one of nine members of the Athens Campus Lions Club at the University of Georgia featured on the cover of the September issue of Lion, the magazine of the international service club. The issue includes a profile of the campus chapter’s activities.


MORE PEOPLE: Bill Hutson saw plenty of “grass” while busting drug dealers as Cobb’s longtime sheriff. But the now-retired Hutson has his eye on a different kind of grass these days.

Hutson was one of several farmers profiled in a story about feed grasses in the August edition of the Tennessee Cooperator, the magazine of the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. Hutson retired a decade ago as sheriff and since then has raised purebred Beefmaster cattle at his Oakhill Farms near Blairsville deep in the Georgia mountains. He touted a new strain of ryegrass to the magazine and was pictured on its cover as well.

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