Feb. 22, 2004: Kahn Column Has David in a Dither

My recent musings about the gentlemanly Larry Walker (D-Perry) retiring from the Legislature and the return of the slash-and-burn politics of new State Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn would have been confined to one column, but a public rebuke from David Worley, former Democratic state chairman and perennial also-ran for public office, necessitates further comment.

I wouldn’t recognize David Worley if we were marooned together on a two-man bobsled, but he seems to know me well. In a widely distributed letter he declares, “The party of Perdue and Yarbrough portrayed Roy Barnes as a rat and Max Cleland as a dupe of bin Laden.” I should have been so smart.

Unfortunately, a number of columns hidden away in my attic say that Gov. Roy Barnes had an outstanding first term and would be unbeatable for re-election and that Sonny Perdue’s rat commercial was tackier than a Dixie Chicks hairdo. Worley may have missed that — he is quick to point out that he rarely reads my mutterings — but Republicans didn’t. They still remind me about those columns, and some accuse me of being a shill for Roy Barnes. (Their letters are hidden in my attic, too.)

As for implying that former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland was a dupe of bin Laden, I am innocent of all charges. Well, not totally innocent. I did say that Cleland was Tom Daschle’s lap dog and that his voting record didn’t represent the wishes of a majority of voters in Georgia. Worley’s point seems to be that Georgians kicked Cleland out of office over issues of patriotism, not performance. He must think we are dumb as dirt.

Worley says I should be careful about Monday-morning quarterbacking someone like Kahn, who had $20 million to re-elect an incumbent Democratic governor and could have flushed the money down a hole for all the good it did. He says the 1996 Olympics “weren’t exactly a bonanza” for the city or the state, and it must have been a “sour note” for me as head of PR. Actually, if David Worley’s Democratic colleague, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, hadn’t created a tacky tent city of vendors that clogged the streets and made the city look like a Third World flea market on steroids, Atlanta might have been viewed by the world as the major-league city it claims to be. As for the Games themselves, Olympic athletes set 32 world records and 111 Olympic records, five million spectators had a ball, and TV ratings were an all-time high. We built a half-billion dollars worth of facilities and then gave them to state and local governments, debt free. Sounds like a bonanza to me.

Worley sees my “fine hand” in the mess at the University of Georgia. I wish that were true. Had anybody listened to me, I would have put UGA President Michael Adams and Athletic Director Vince Dooley in a room and wouldn’t have let them out until they resolved their differences. But, alas, nobody in Athens pays me — or my fine hands — any attention.

Now that his hero, Bobby Kahn, is safely ensconced on the throne of the State Democratic Party, maybe David Worley can breathe normally again. This may shock Worley, but I actually like Kahn. I just don’t always agree with his ham-handed tactics. Some, better versed in state politics than I, have the same feeling.

One highly respected public official who is beyond partisan politics wrote and said, “Gov. Barnes’ loss has been largely attributed to his ‘my way or the highway’ style which alienated teachers, video poker advocates, flaggers and many other groups. Gov. Barnes’ arm-twisting, fund-raising tactics and his Democrat-biased reapportionment scheme, which even offended many Democrats, combined to create an atmosphere of defeat for the talented governor.” Maybe Worley will attempt to shoot this messenger too, but I wouldn’t advise it.

Okay, enough about Bobby Kahn. It is time to turn my attention to more pressing matters, like how much grief UGA could have avoided had someone taken a moment to listen to my fine hands and me. If I find out, David Worley will be the first to know.