If you are a Republican elsewhere in the nation, there are certain phrases you hope to hear come out of President Barack Obama’s mouth this evening in his State of the Union speech.
Most of them begin with the words, “I surrender.”
But if you are a Georgia Republican, or the mayor of Atlanta, or a member of the state’s business establishment, you will be on the edge of your seat – waiting for “port” or “coastal” and “infrastructure” or “construction” to escape Obama’s lips.
The state’s political elite will be looking for any hint that next month – despite bipartisan insistence on a decrease in federal spending – Obama will include $700 million or so in his budget proposal, due out in mid-February, for the dredging of the Port of Savannah.
Refurbishing the port so that it can handle super-container ships that will pass through the Panama Canal in 2014 has become the state’s top economic development priority.
But the Republican ban on earmarks in Congress has made the project a dicey thing. If not in the Obama budget, Georgia Republicans in Congress would have find a way to put it in, whether by earmark or some other name. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss have already said the Port of Savannah is important enough to the state’s economy to do so.
But it could be a messy thing. Which is why Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, was sought out last year to escort Alec Poitevint, chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority one of the most influential Republicans in the state, into the White House to make a case for the spending.
We asked Brian Robinson, spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, if he would be looking for mention of Savannah tonight. “The governor would rather see it in a budget than in a speech,” Robinson replied.
On Friday, Deal plans to be in Savannah. A national news network will have cameras there, to catch the arrival of CMA CGM Parisfal, the largest container ship ever to call on the Port of Savannah. It will be a spectacularly tight fit.
Deal will be there to make the case for a port that’s six feet deeper. We do not know if the governor been asked to help apply the Vaseline required by the ship.
“Parsifal,” by the way, is the name of a Wagnerian opera about the search for the Holy Grail. Which seems appropriate.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider