Boy, the job market must still be awful, because Chambliss made a point of saying he was hanging it up after 20 years in Congress because the work had become thankless, futile and frustrating with absolutely no end to chaotic do-nothingness in sight as far into the future as he could see. Of course, he is also one of the few senators who is not a millionaire so maybe he wants to work for himself instead of you folks before truly retiring.
Fortunately, Chambliss will still be around until the start of 2015 to stand like the stone wall he has become to protect state interests. Unfortunately, no matter who replaces him — Republican or even Democrat — they won’t be able to do Georgia much good where it matters most.
In the Senate, being elected to be one of a hundred has never meant much. What matters is seniority since authority is dealt out according to tenure, having influence based on trustworthiness as proven by working with others, plus being well-thought-of sufficiently to get on key committees that control what is most important ... usually money more than policy.
It doesn’t much matter whether one agrees/disagrees with Chambliss’ positions, although it is hard to envision anyone truly running to his right as he has about the most ultra-conservative voting record in the Senate. So, for that matter, does Georgia’s junior senator and future senior one, Johnny Isakson, though both manage to nonetheless appear — and act — reasonable. That’s no small feat nowadays.
WHAT MATTERS is that Chambliss has piled up key roles and a good reputation among his peers in spots where he can be most effective on the federal issues of most true concern to his state constituents. That’s what the state is now faced with losing ... possibly for some decades ... leaving it highly vulnerable to becoming the sacrificial goat when national party appetites must be appeased.
For example, everybody in both parties pretty much knows something has to be done regarding budget/finances, with cutting having to replace debt-paid spending as the emphasis. Maybe that will impact things like Medicare and Social Security, but absolutely it will slice, dice and discard billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of jobs, in other major areas just within Georgia alone.
Having a powerfully positioned senator is as valuable for protection against “losing stuff” as it in the past has been for “getting stuff.” Much of what Georgians now benefit from was attained by well-placed, long re-elected senators when it was Democrats automatically returned to power.
For example, already discussed as likely are massive slashes or even elimination of such as farm subsidies. Chambliss is considered an agricultural expert, co-authored the 2007 Farm Bill and is the ranking (longest-sitting) minority member of that panel. Perhaps that is meaningless to the millions in Atlanta metro who think “farming” is a tomato plant in a patio container but agriculture/forestry remains far and away the largest Georgia industry in dollars and employment. If peanut butter ever costs $20 a jar it’ll be because Chambliss is no longer there.
CHAMBLISS is also highly placed on the Armed Services Committee, and Georgia’s largest federal payroll comes from its many military bases. With the war in Afghanistan winding down and the military perhaps about to be returned to pre-Pearl Harbor sizes, it should be assumed that his replacement won’t even be in the committee room when the discussion is about whether Fort Bragg (N.C.) or Fort Stewart (Ga.) should be closed. Fort Benning and the Kings Bay submarine base are probably safe ... but maybe not much else, including Warner-Robbins on Chambliss’ original congressional turf. State defense contractors, such as Lockheed, can hardly be happy about this either.
Then there’s the fact that Chambliss is vice chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. That makes him privy to the same sort of secretive information that the president/Pentagon receive, one of the few able to monitor such doings, the only Georgian in the hush-hush inner circle of national power.
This means he is considered sane, level-headed and able to keep his mouth shut. Looking at some state politicians who have already drooled at becoming his replacement, many of them notorious publicity hounds known mostly for saying the wrong things at the wrong time, does anyone think they’ll ever get this far?
Oh, and he also helps decide how the Senate is run. He’s on the Committee on Rules and Administration.
All this is what should be pointed out, instead of the current rush to replace him while his body is yet warm. Indeed, those same would-be candidates might better serve Georgia by pleading with Chambliss to change his mind, if for no other reason than his departure could cause a new Great Recession in Georgia as federal dollars are redirected to the Dakotas or wherever.
AND THAT’S said even though this newspaper has sometimes agreed with Chambliss in the past, sometimes disagreed, and won’t forget how he defeated former Sen. Max Cleland in the first place — in effect starting the entire era of dirty, slimy, lying political campaign ads that all Americans must now live with.
Yet, nowadays the “far right” criticism of Chambliss is that he dares speak and confer with those not of the same political faith, even though his own voting record is about as far to the right as it is possible to get. All that means is he remembers that “half a loaf is better than none” and beats “my way or the highway” every time.
In announcing he was not going to seek re-election even while voicing confidence that he would have won easily against any critics (and he’s likely right about that), Chambliss told supporters:
“I’m going to have a life after this. Sitting on a back porch drinking whiskey with some of y’all is exciting to think about.”
Well, he’s certainly welcome on our back porch at any time, knowing from experience that he will explain his views in detail, answer questions, and then listen to our/your position on the same issue and the reasons for it.
It is the very lack of this in Washington nowadays that plainly led to his decision and the probable negative consequences it will have for most Georgians in years to come. There’s been almost a stampede away from Congress by its most-experienced veterans, with all of them citing pretty much the same reasons.
Chambliss is sick and tired of “debate” having turned into the other guy becoming red in the face, slamming his fist on the table and shouting “Idiot!”
CAN’T BLAME him a bit with “having it up to here” with such daily evidence of why this nation is in the difficulties that it has. We’re pretty sick of it too ... and hope readers are as well.
Still, when the last remaining option appears to be sitting on a porch and sipping whisky to try to forget, it could be that the country is in even worse shape than previously imagined.