Saxby Chambliss’ new role in the ‘12 GOP race for president

The revolution in Egypt may have just revealed U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ new role in the coming GOP race for president.

On matters of foreign policy and national security, Chambliss could become the man who serves as a reality check for the likes of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin — reining in those who cast chunks of red meat over the line.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., arrives for a  recent closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Associated Press.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., arrives for a recent closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Associated Press.

Last month, Chambliss was named the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, responsible for oversight of the CIA and such. Should the GOP seize control of the Senate in ‘12, he could very well be the committee’s next chairman.

That makes Chambliss an official member of secret Washington, privy to the unspoken details behind every crisis of note. Much of his business will now be conducted over secure phones — which have just been installed in his office, the senator said last week during a visit to the state Capitol.

Chambliss isn’t known for speaking off the cuff. But now more than ever, what he says could have real impact on world events. And it will be assumed that he knows something we don’t.

Take, for instance, an Arab revolution that holds in its hands both Israel’s future and crucial U.S. access to the Suez Canal. During that chat at the state Capitol, Chambliss invited a few questions on Egypt.

Two Republican presidential presumptives had already weighed in. Palin, in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview, declared that “we should not stand” for a new Egyptian government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood.

Gingrich said that to encourage the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in that country’s future political structure was “fundamentally wrong.” And he declared that the Obama administration’s handling of the Egyptian crisis was “the most amateurish foreign policy I have seen I think in my lifetime.”

Chambliss disagreed — with Gingrich, Palin and most of Fox News. “I don’t know if we could say if the [the Muslim Brotherhood] as a whole is made up of radical Islamicists. But that part of the world has a lot of extremists in it. And some of those extremists are members of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “It is a concern, but it looks like they’re going to have to be part of the mix.”

As for Barack Obama, the Republican said he thought the president has handled the situation “pretty well.”

“It’s a very sensitive issue. You can’t get too far out. The last thing the United States needs to do is inject itself in telling the Egyptian people how to run their country,” Chambliss said. “We don’t even need to be perceived as doing that.”

Reminding voters (and candidates) of the limits of U.S. influence isn’t a happy task — especially at the outset of a presidential campaign. But it is a necessary one.

There are other downsides. While the position Chambliss has accepted offers the lure of being one of Washington’s true insiders, the post gives you very little to bring home to your constituents. Chambliss is giving up his ranking position on the Senate Agriculture Committee — which means he won’t be at the center of negotiations over the next farm bill.

“Most of this difficult work is done in a classified setting, which dictates that it cannot be shared with constituents or trumpeted for political gain,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who offered the position to Chambliss.

But before Chambliss accepted it, he sought advice from former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn — who indicated that Chambliss could be in for a rough ride from rank-and-file Republicans.

More than any other in the Senate, the Intelligence Committee requires the chairman — in this case Democrat Diane Feinstein of California — and the vice chairman to work closely together, Nunn said in a telephone interview.

“You’ve got to have someone who is willing to rise above partisanship,” he said.

“If handled correctly,” the former senator said, leadership of the Intelligence Committee can enhance one’s standing in the Senate tremendously. “And I think Saxby’s very capable of doing that,” Nunn said.

“But he’s not going to get back-home credit for it. And I think the people of Georgia ought to feel proud he’s being put in that position of trust,” Nunn said.

Chambliss is clearly pleased with his new status. While there have been whispers of primary opposition, Chambliss recently told a group of reporters that he was ready to run for re-election in 2014.

“Oh, yeah. I’m planning to run. My health is good. I’m beating this prostate cancer [diagnosed in 2004]. I’m cured. As long as I like what I’m doing, and my family’s still excited about coming to the White House now and then …” he trailed off.

Then there’s the new job. Decisions to be made about Guantanamo and the many fronts of the war on terror. “We truly are going to be at the point of the spear,” Chambliss said.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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16 comments Add your comment

Jon Lester

February 12th, 2011
3:39 pm

I guess it’s some small comfort. I don’t trust a single one of the likely GOP 2012 presidential candidates to know what they’re talking about on the subject of foreign policy, but if Chambliss has sense enough to consult with Sam Nunn and appreciate the importance of how he has to handle this new role, maybe there’s hope.

As for Egypt, I really don’t think they’ll turn down any canal passage fees, after losing so many billions in the last three weeks, and the Muslim Brotherhood is not to be confused with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.

Last Man Standing

February 12th, 2011
4:00 pm

Yeah, that muslim brotherhood is a great organization, sort of like the Kiwamis – except with explsives, assorted other weapons and a hatred for non-muslims.


February 12th, 2011
4:15 pm

As usual– Last Man Standing says something entirely loony on a subject he knows nothing about.


February 12th, 2011
4:16 pm

Fox News has its own share of extremists

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Galloway, Josh Putnam. Josh Putnam said: RT @politicalinsidr: Saxby Chambliss’ new role in the ‘12 GOP race for president [...]


February 12th, 2011
4:59 pm

Palin and Gingrich are Christian extremists. Every religion has them.


February 12th, 2011
5:06 pm

Oh, God, the big three–Saxby, Sarah, and Newt. Throw in Nathan as well. Literally.

Sick of Republicans

February 12th, 2011
5:11 pm

Christian extremists? No, Palin and Gingrich are self-service, unknowledgeable idiots who think they know everything. Palin is out for the money and exploits her family to make those big dollars. Newt on the other hand is so full of himself there is no room for anything else. I am not a fan of Saxby but the fact he did seek out Sam Nunn for advice gives me hope.

[...] this afternoon, we posted on the different tones on the Egyptian revolution sounded by potential Republican candidates for president and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, now the [...]

Last Man Standing

February 12th, 2011
6:20 pm

Sick of Republicans:

“Palin and Gingrich are self-service, unknowledgeable idiots”

By virtue of this statement you have shown your ignorance. No matter what you think of Gingrich as an individual, he is extremely knowledgeable and very well-versed on foreign affairs. He is also a historian with the study and work to back him up.

Now, what exactly are your credentials that allows you to judge him as you did – other than the fact that you hate Republicans? I tend to think that you lack the intellect to go head-to-head with Gingrich.

just an opinion

February 12th, 2011
6:53 pm

Just my opinion, but I think Chambliss’ shift from the Agriculture Committee to the Select Committee on Intelligence is a pretty savvy career move. Consider that Chambliss has never been a favorite among Georgia’s voters. Democrats hate him for his campaign ads against Max Cleland, and Republicans have always been luke warm as he’s not the fire breathing conservative many would prefer. He’s not as well liked in general as Isakson and he could very well face a primary challenge from the right in his next election. If he stays on the Ag Committee his chief claim for re-election is that he brings home the bacon, which apparently is exactly the argument that a tea party challenger would use against him. At least that’s what happened in several other states during the 2010 election. This way he goes to a respected committee by defense hawks in his party, and he doesn’t get his hands dirty by pushing for ag subsidies in the next bill that committee negotiates. Overall I’d say this should work out pretty well for the guy.


February 12th, 2011
7:32 pm

Mr. Chambliss is complicit in the war crimes of the Bush administration. Now he is a proponent of extending the unconstitutional provisions of the horribly-named Patriot Act. It is clear from his voting record that he cares little about the safety of americans, the constitution, the bill of rights, or freedom and liberty. That he is now in a powerful position among the republican leadership only confirms the truth that the two-party system is the greatest destructive force in american politics today.

Hopefully those interested in running for the republican presidential nomimation will take their foreign policy advice from the founding fathers, Robert Taft, Ron Paul, and other great politicians in our history that understood the folly of empire building and the bankruptcy, both moral and economic, that comes with it.

Chambliss is an embarrassment to the state of Georgia.


February 12th, 2011
7:34 pm

And not surprisingly, Ron Paul just won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting (for the second year in a row). Newt only finished 27% behind him. True conservatives know that big empire is also just another form of big government.

Real Athens

February 13th, 2011
8:25 am

Last Man:

Newt has a Ph.D in Modern European History form Tulane. He taught a history course at W. Georgia College and a course at Kennesaw State University.

That and $3.00 will make you a “latte drinking, Volvo-driving, pin headed, elitist, ‘university’ professor’.


February 13th, 2011
7:05 pm

War crimes, schmor crimes. If Chambiliss is a war criminal then so is Obama and every congressman eever elected.

Ron Paul has the correct idea on constitutionally limiting the federal government, but he is not a “great politician”. He is a marginal voice on the right fringe, and he knows it.

I am extremely disappointed that Chambliss indicates any acceptance at all towards the Muslim Brotherhood. They are no different than the bloodthirsty Hamas in Gaza. BIG mistake on his part.

Allan Cannon

February 14th, 2011
5:28 pm

Sen,Chambliss is neededs to be voted out of office in 2014,
He is a selfserving elitess that will not take a conservitive stand.
Even after the skanking the the Dems took in Nov.2010 he thnks the voters wanted the congress to work togather and be more partisen.
No Mr. Chambliss it means the voters want to fight the liberials,
Obama and take back our country. To cut spending, Taxes and goven. give a ways. We need to put him back on his farm.