And as the Greek Tragedy of Republican rule in Georgia enters yet another act, we have Senators whispering to their favorite media and bloggers that Senator Smith’s blow to their gut yesterday from the Senate well was self-serving and disingenuous. They, like usual, do not want to go on the record with these comments for the decorum of the Senate, they would just kindly like you to know that. …without their name attached to it, please.
So let’s just assume for a moment that Senator Smith’s remarks were 100% self-serving, that his motivation was only to make himself look good at the expense of his fellow Senators, and that his remarks were spiteful and designed to harm those who had just stripped him of a chairmanship of a very powerful Senate committee.
Even if Senator Smith was in fact playing a disingenuous game, too many others on the Republican side are playing a game of distraction and denial. The “hey, look over there!” game has been played by John Oxendine, who was first to blame the Lib’ral AJC for making him illegally launder money through 10 Alabama based PACs into his campaign. Nathan Deal doubled down by coming up with 9 individuals or groups that have formed a grand conspiracy against him as a partisan witch hunt, and the Georgia General Assembly has a familiar refrain of “we’re not all like him….or him…or him…or him either.. or, well, no not like him at all.”
Questioning motive is nothing more than a ruse to change a casual observer’s mind from analyzing facts to questioning motive. It is obfuscation, and it is, at its root, the real act of disingenuousness.
And if we’re going to question who is disingenuous, should we start with Republicans who, while in the majority, pledged to shrink the size of Georgia’s state government before inflating it to an almost $21 Billion dollar behemoth? Should we question those same folks who were outraged at the insider dealings of Roy Barnes and Tom Murphy, but condone land and tax transactions of the Governor and the “common knowledge” of the actions of General Assembly leaders with lobbyists, with favorable outcomes on legislation exchanged as currency? How about the ones who railed against Charles Walker using his position of power for personal financial gain, but have now set up personal consulting contracts or even quasi-lobbying companies to sell the access entrusted to them by their voters to the highest bidder?
There is not money, no ability to fundraise behind being ethical. Quite the contrary. The payoff is in walking the fine gray line, and making sure that any ethics reform package doesn’t move that line which is, by all objective accounts, too far to the dark side. And so, when a player falls, he is quickly removed, and the chorus of the enablers, casual participants, and condoners sings to the fallen as being an isolated individual – and a praise that “we’re not all like that”.
There have been lone voices along the way who have spoken up against these abuses. Some have paid a price, and most have been ignored. One of the most frequent critics of the hypocrisy of state Republican governance has been Bobby Franklin. He has early and often quoted House Majority Leader Jerry Keen telling the Republican caucus that they cannot confuse the things they say when they campaign with the things they must do when they govern. Yet Franklin has never been an “insider”, and leadership has never felt threatened by him. Smith, on the other hand, has now made the same remarks in brutal, bitter detail. The words are real, they are public, and they can not be ignored.
So, at the end of the day, does it matter if Senator Smith was trying to pants his peers in the Senate, if the end result was him revealing that these emperors have no clothes? It is long past time to stop the practice of disingenuous distraction. There is precious little time left to right past wrongs before the voters get to speak again. The ethics bill that passed the house is a complete sham, turning the clock back and opening loopholes that didn’t previously exist.
In the limited time remaining this session, passing meaningful and true ethics reform is the most important tangible step to Republicans beginning to govern like Republicans.