Monday, September 8, 2008

Why it's hard to hate Johnny Isakson

Galloway has an article today about Johnny Isakson and high speed rail. Isakson is putting his name on a bill by John Kerry (yes, that John Kerry) to revamp the funding model for rail transportation, and perhaps on $200 billion in bonds to finance high-speed rail lines.

I certainly am not a fan of Johnny Isakson - I'm too partisan for that, and I disagree with him on most issues. He doesn't get me that worked up, though, and I often find myself with a begruding respect for him. I'm almost always impressed by his political skill. This transportation bill is a perfect example of why Isakson will be in the Senate as long as he wants.

Isakson has a carefully crafted "moderate image," even though on most issues he is fairly typical of the GOP. What Isakson has excelled at is picking moderate issues important to the business community, and pushing for them without making a big stink. He is definitely a moderate in temperament - he avoids the headlines that some of his Georgia colleagues relish.

So the reasons that make it hard for me to hate Johnny Isakson - his initial support for a reasonable immigration bill (even though both he and Chambliss later caved in the most blantanly craven way possible), his compromise on an energy bill recently, and this transportation bill. Isakson isn't a Johnny-come-lately (I couldn't help it!) on high speed rail, by the way. He's been pushing for this for years, and he has secured federal funds for feasibility stuides on numerous occassions in the past.

Isakson's willingness to work with Kerry is also impressive. Everyone knows that Isakson was rumored to be eying the Governor's mansion. He decided to stay in the Senate, and I presume that was because he believed he could still get things done. He's a veteran of working from the minority, as he was never in the majority while serving here in the state House. This bill is an indication that he is more interested in getting things done than in looking for political scapegoats.

It is hard not to respect that, and Georgia can do a lot worse if we are going to have conservative Senators (see: Zell Miller). I can't imagine the GOP would ever challenge him in the primary, and his moderate reputation will ensure that Dems never get riled up enough to really challenge him. Most politicians will see a race against Isakson as unwinnable, so I doubt you'll even see many challenge him unless the real goal is something like raising name ID and gaining experience for something like a real run at Governor.

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