Although I am not a native Georgian, I hold fond affection for the place. I attended college there, worked in the Georgia State Senate, stumped in New Hampshire with the Peanut Brigade in January, 1976 for former Governor Carter, and worked in Washington for former Senator Herman Talmadge. Over the years I have returned on occasion to visit friends I still have there, converse often with college professors at my alma mater, and I keep in touch with a mentor and friend of mine, a former State Senator and Lieutenant Governor. So it is not far fetched to say that Georgia is often on my mind.
During my early years in politics I knew Max Cleland when he was Secretary of State and later head of the Veterans Administration. I worked in Washington when he was first elected U.S. Senator. If one strove to define the true meaning of sacrifice, Max stands as a living, breathing example of what it means to leave it on the field. We often use that term to define athletic achievement, but in this case it applies to the field of battle. Max is a triple amputee with a heart of gold and a steely determination that defies description. He is truly the embodiment of an American hero.
Six years ago he was savaged in his reelection campaign by one of the most despicable acts of political opportunism I have seen in my 30 years in politics. The person directing these attacks was none other than current U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss and today that individual finds himself in a tight reelection runoff that will not be decided until December 2.
The stakes could not be higher. In order for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate to reach a filibuster proof 60 votes; they need to capture that seat, along with Minnesota and Alaska. Georgia will be treated to a steady parade of political celebrities over the next three weeks or so. The carnival like atmosphere began yesterday with the arrival of ringmaster John McCain, the 2008 version. Lest we not confuse the clown of today with the P.T. Barnum of 2000, there was John McCain, former prisoner of war, former disparager of the politics of personal destruction, former critic of the tactics and ads of the Chambliss campaign of 2002, speaking out forcefully for that very individual.
The transformation of John McCain is complete. Each time there is a glimpse of the old version, such as the most gracious concession speech just a little over a week ago, it is as if the devil himself snatches back his soul and he delivers on whatever Faustian pledge he made in his vain attempt to be something other than he actually is. Sometimes individuals are humbled by defeat, other times they are hardened by it. I had hoped that in McCain's case the former would apply, it seems not to be the case.
So I truly hope that the voters of Georgia rise to correct the injustice that was perpetrated upon them six years ago. You are in the spotlight and it is your turn to show the world that politics as usual is no longer acceptable or desirable. As we enter into a new era of hopefulness and change, you can do your part and reject the desperation of a status quo that has ill served this nation and hard working Americans who love their country.
Max Cleland paid another sacrifice six years ago, and politics trumped patriotism. We cannot allow that to stand. McCain should understand this far better than others, yet he has demonstrated that politics is more important than country and integrity.
I believe that the greatest sin that a politician can commit is that of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of having John McCain weigh in on this race, hopefully, will resonate with the voters of Georgia and his impact will actually have a negative effect on the candidacy of Saxby Chambliss. If so, Max, this one is for you.