TAMPA — Johnny Isakson may be the nicest and most frustrated U.S. Senator at the Republican National Convention.
The “nice” part is officially documented. Washingtonian magazine, in its biannual ranking of the chamber, awarded Isakson the title in its most recent issue. “The cordial Georgian got more votes than half a dozen runners up, “ the magazine declared. The ballots came from congressional staffers.
Isakson is pictured with a halo over his head.
Is it dangerous to be declared a nice guy in Washington?
“I hope not,” Isakson said this morning. “I sold houses for 33 years. I never sold a house to somebody that didn’t want to buy it, and I never sold one for somebody that didn’t want to sell it. you don’t convince them of either thing by calling them a son of a [blatherskite], or trying to convince them you’re right. What you do is try to let them come to that decision.”
Which brings us to that other part. What happens when no one in Washington – or at least, not the people who matter, and not the bulk of Republicans in the U.S. House – will buy what you’re selling?
“I’m frustrated,” Isakson admitted. For the past month, Isakson and his Senate partner, Saxby Chambliss, have been touring the state, warning of the “fiscal cliff” that hits on Jan. 1, if a lame-duck Congress fails to come to grips with a $16 trillion deficit and a host of George W. Bush-era tax breaks that are set to expire.
“Unlike a lot of times when you have major issues confronting you and you don’t know the answer, we know what the answer is. It’s sitting there on the shelf. We’ve had Simpson-Bowles, we’ve had Paul Ryan’s suggestions. We’ve had everybody’s suggestions. There are only so many ways to skin a cat,” Isakson said.
“You’re going to have to reform taxes. You’re going to have to reform entitlements. You’re going to have to cut spending. There’s going to be some pain. But not nearly as much pain if you keep kicking the issue down the road,” Isakson said.
Georgia’s junior senator said who wins in November will make a difference. “If [President Barack] Obama wins the election, I think he’ll extend all the current tax rates after making a show. Everyone forgets that in 2010, he was opposed to extending the rates. As soon as the election was over, he was the first one leading the band to extend them. I think that’ll happen again,” Isakson said. “If Romney wins the election, he’ll ask for an extension also, but with a deadline for results.”
Isakson is happy with the balance of a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket. Despite, his experience as governor of Massachusetts, and in business, “Mitt’s an outsider as far as Washington is concerned. Ryan will give him that legislative policy direction that he so desperately needs,” he said. “You’ve got two people in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan who are prepared by resume as well as by experience.”
My AJC colleague Daniel Malloy, who is younger and thus requires less sleep, was at the large party Tuesday night hosted by Herman Cain and featuring country music star Trace Adkins for several hundred Republican National Convention goers – just a few blocks from the arena in a massive tent dubbed “Liberty Square.”
The McDonough businessman and one-time presidential hopeful drew several Georgia delegates – including U.S. Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger – to the festivities, where arrivals were greeted with sandwiches from the Jimmy John’s chain. The company’s success story has been a favorite anecdote of GOP nominee Mitt Romney in his stump speech, making Jimmy John’s a distant cousin to Chik-Fil-A in the realm of politicized fast food.
Adkins brought conservative politics into his routine as well, opening with “More of Us,” a tune that takes on people who want to remove the Ten Commandments from courthouses and schools. Still, he did eventually make his way to “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” a song devoted to the female posterior.
Cain introduced the evening’s entertainment with an instruction to the delegates to unwind after a long day of “delegatin’.” Cain, who did not get an RNC speaking slot but hosted a tea party rally Sunday and has been making the media rounds, also offered praise for the night’s big speeches.
“Ann Romney defined the likeable side of Mitt Romney,” Cain said. “That’s all you got to say. I heard things that I’ve never heard before about Mitt. But she painted a very loving and likeable side of Mitt Romney because you know he’s been getting a bad rap.”
As for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Cain said he “defined the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats better than anybody that I have ever heard.”
Then came the most important instruction from the Hermanator: “Party hard. Party down. Enjoy yourself.”
But it is not all sweetness and light in Tampa. Talking Points Memo has this today:
An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention, a network official confirmed….
The CNN official declined to confirm specific details of the incident to TPM but generally confirmed an account posted on Twitter by former MSNBC and Current anchor David Shuster…
Then there was the bus ride that my AJC colleague Kyle Wingfield took last night, after Chris Christie’s speech. Wingfield sent this note:
One “it” Romney will not want to claim he “built” is the plan for transporting convention-goers back to their hotels.
The scheme involved taking everyone from one central location — the convention hall, to another central location — the parking lot at Raymond James Stadium, then to separate hotel locations. It broke down at every point in the process.
The 5.8-mile trip between the two centralized stockyards took an hour, only about 20 minutes of which were spent moving.
Inexplicably, another hour passed before we were actually allowed to get off the first bus and find our second bus. At 1:55 a.m., three hours after Gov. Chris Christie closed the (by then previous) evening’s proceedings at the convention, I arrived at my hotel.
I will add this to bolster Wingfield’s report: Last night, I was wandering the convention hall when I ran into an esteemed member of the Georgia General Assembly. I mentioned that I would be leaving the hall early, and had access to a rental car.
“Take me with you,” he begged, describing his epic bus trip to the Tampa Bay Times Forum that afternoon. And so I did.
One more tidbit making its way around the Georgia delegation, from the Savannah Morning News:
U.S. Rep. John Barrow has extended tepid support to the man Republicans are portraying as his Siamese twin.
The Augusta lawmaker said on Tuesday through a spokesman he’ll vote to re-elect fellow Democrat Barack Obama president.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider