So, did you head down to the Imperial Theater Saturday evening for the debate between the three Republican candidates for Georgia's U.S. Senate seat?
Me neither. We had a much more productive time celebrating my middle daughter's 14th birthday.
Hopefully everyone else had such a good excuse. From the looks of TV coverage afterward, there were lots of empty seats, even though there were no empty suits on the stage. All three Republicans running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Zell Miller are men of substance, and one of them will likely be Georgia's next senator.
All are good men, and after a recent one-on-one conversation with Herman Cain, I'm inclined to give him my vote. His opponents are Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins, two congressmen with proven records; Cain is a successful businessman, coming at the race with "outsider" appeal.
For me, the "outsider" concept doesn't mean much. Too many people grab onto the label as an "alternative" to their own indecisiveness.
They're like the desperate folks who advocate "alternative" medicine. Alternative to what, exactly? Alternative to the medical advances that have made us healthier in spite of our bad habits, giving us longer lives in spite of our risky behavior? Such "alternatives" are usually voodoo and ignorance.
In politics, the "alternative" candidate is often one who says the other guys have been getting it wrong, and only he has the solution for fixing it because he hasn't been "tainted" by being "in the system." It also generally means the "outsider" candidate is clueless about the way things work in the political world, and if elected will spend years spinning wheels trying to get traction for ideas that just aren't practical.
Could that describe Cain? I don't think so -- because unlike most "outsider" candidates, he's firmly grounded in common sense. He's a staunch advocate of a national sales tax to replace the federal income tax, and he wants real, top-to-bottom reform of Social Security -- needs that only an outsider would have the courage to tackle.
Even better, Cain is a businessman who is entering public service not to massage his own ego, but to give back to the country that allowed him to be successful. Imagine that: A politician running to give, not to take. How much more "outside" can you get?
There is, however, one area in which Cain and I sharply disagree: Along with a handful of very-much-inside politicians, Cain is proposing that Congress suspend the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process.
Sure, it sounds attractive. But the fact is that BRAC is one of those rare things politicians do right: It is designed to tie their hands with an all-or-nothing revamp of the nation's numerous, and often duplicative, military bases.
And while everyone is certain that Georgia will take a hit in the next round of BRAC -- we've never lost a base before and thus are overdue -- the betting money says our own Fort Gordon could actually gain jobs from other bases.
Putting a hold on BRAC would not only delay the inevitable, but would continue to bleed defense dollars in areas that aren't needed while preventing additional money from flowing where it could be more useful -- including Fort Gordon.
Other than that minor point, I give Cain the edge. If he could speak to every other voter one-on-one, he'd probably get their support, too.
Farewell to Jo Lutcher
For several years, up until August 1987, Jo Anne Lutcher was news editor and a columnist for The Columbia News and Martinez-Evans Times. We note with sadness her passing last week, and send our condolences to her family.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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