Today’s Courier Herald Column. Since my print deadline, the death toll from yesterday’s storms has continued to rise, now exceeding 200 nationally and climbing. Please consider giving blood if you live in Northwest Georgia, or you can make a donation to the Red Cross here, or if you prefer, the United Methodist Committee On Relief has an excellent disaster response group.
We’re going to do a little something different today with this column. Sometimes life interferes with deadlines, and frankly, my mind is still with people who are recovering from yesterday’s storms, as well as those who are still experiencing them. There’s nothing like being reminded that despite our best efforts, we can only control events in this world within the margins. Politics can seem quite trivial in the aftermath of 150+ of our fellow citizens losing their lives, with many more left with injuries and damaged or destroyed homes. Yet this being a space dedicated to politics and government, we’ll let the news folks cover storm aftermath, and I’ll discuss a few political quick hits below.
Governor Nathan Deal will be holding a fundraiser for his upcoming re-election, scheduling a luncheon for May 10th. While qualifying for the 2014 Governor’s race is still three years away and no obvious challenger in sight, the ramping up of campaign activities is significant in that it helps Deal quell rumors that began well before his election that he intended to be a one term Governor.
Deal still has some unfinished business remaining from his 2010 race that will be handled early next week with a much delayed inaugural gala to be held at the Cobb Galleria Center. Now named “Celebrate Georgia”, the May 2nd event is an invitation only affair held as a “thank you” to volunteers and grassroots leaders who worked for Republican candidates during the last election cycle. Unlike the original gala which was cancelled due to an ice storm, no tickets for this smaller event are being sold to the general public.
Senator Johnny Isakson has withdrawn his name from consideration for an open seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Though the position would have increased both his profile and prestige, Isakson was mindful that the position was only open due to the resignation of Nevada Senator John Ensign, who left the Senate in the aftermath of a Senate Ethics Committee Investigation. Isakson, with a less-than-coveted and thankless spot on the Ethics Committee, did not want to create an appearance that his work on the investigation could be related to his desire to serve on Senate Finance. Thus, rare in politics, he did the right thing at the potential cost of his own political advancement.
The Georgia Senate Republicans are showing some signs that storm clouds may be parting within their caucus. They met yesterday for a few hours, but have largely kept the details of their meeting to themselves. This is in stark contrast to previous meetings, where Senators and the Lieutenant Governor have had semi-public battles leading up to and during caucus meetings as each jockeyed for positions of leadership and moral high ground.
Details of what was accomplished have thus far been scarce, but it appears that no major changes with the current leadership structure and Committee On Assignments are imminent. Senators instead appear to be coalescing around the need for a policy study committee, as well as a unified communications strategy. After the results of the last session of the General Assembly, anything with the word “unified” included with respect to the Senate has to be looked upon as progress.
And finally, some respect must be given to the efforts this week from The National Weather Service. All too often, we focus on the efforts of government that don’t work, and overlook when things work as planned. It’s even more rare when we can tell a government agency “well done.” The NWS did an amazing job of predicting there would be a tornado outbreak, that it would be on a scale of severity we see once in a generation, and pinpointed an area from Eastern Mississippi to NW Georgia, with Northern Alabama as ground zero, calling for a near 100% chance of tornados in that area.
Many of us have gotten used to ignoring warnings that often only indicate a bad thunderstorm will pass nearby. Those paying attention to the words used in the 48 hours preceding the storm noticed that the events of yesterday would not be routine, and the Weather Service was spot on with their predictions. Though many lives were lost, many more were no doubt saved because of their predictions.