Posted: 9:00 am Saturday, April 19th, 2014

You can lead a governor to cameras, but you can’t make him debate 

By Jim Galloway

Instances are scarce, perhaps as rare as a cop doing the speed limit, but every now and then, you come across a politician who would just rather not talk.

Gov. Nathan Deal has become one of them. It is only an occasional affliction. Our governor is an easy conversationalist in front of small groups, and large ones, too. TV cameras provoke nothing but calm and a smooth river of words.

But offer Deal a chance to appear on stage with his two Republican primary opponents, and the governor becomes as halting as a greenhorn at his first Toastmasters meeting.

The GOP incumbent this week hit the mute button on his participation in a debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club, which will be aired statewide on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Likewise, the governor has turned back an invitation by Channel 2 Action News for a forum the weekend before the May 20 vote.

(The APC/GPB and WSB debates will air without him as empty-podium affairs, on May 14 and May 18, respectively. On Thursday, a debate in Cherokee County will go on sans Deal.)

Incumbents and frontrunners do not like debates, and Deal is both. It is a strategic issue that bridges ideology. Democrat Michelle Nunn, throughout most of the season, has avoided appearances with her underfunded U.S. Senate rivals. But she has accepted an APC/GPB invitation, and is weighing another from WSB.

Scheduling conflicts are the usual smokescreen. “Gov. Deal will be unable to attend as he has long-standing prior commitments that day,” was the note sent to the Atlanta Press Club.

But short of funerals for blood kin and some surgical procedures, a candidate is always in control of his calendar – and thus is always where he wants, or needs, to be. This is especially true of governors.

Jen Talaber, spokeswoman for the Deal campaign, confirmed that her boss is in charge of his own time. “The governor is choosing to govern and not campaign,” she said. At this time of year, “governing” means crossing the state for bill-signing ceremonies before large and appreciative crowds. Wholly different from campaigning, you understand.

But in politics, if you’re winning, then a debate becomes nothing but an inconvenient opportunity to say something you might regret. A debate also brings a certain measure of equality to a contest that a front-running candidate has often spent millions of dollars trying to undermine.

As a shopper, you might see a debate as a sensible venue for comparison shopping. Frontrunners would argue that showrooms for shiny Cadillacs aren’t obliged to also display used Fords.

Occasionally, they have a point. In 2006, Gov. Sonny Perdue declined to debate his GOP primary opponent, neo-Confederate Ray McBerry. Few complained.

But when it comes to deeming his opponents unworthy, Perdue’s successor is in a more awkward spot. Though neither has much money, David Pennington and John Barge can’t be dismissed as irrelevant cranks. Until recently, Pennington was the elected mayor of Dalton. Barge, the state school superintendent, has as many statewide elections under his belt as Deal.

Frustration on the part of Deal’s opponents is showing.

On Wednesday, Pennington stood outside the governor’s office in the state Capitol, in front of a phalanx of summoned TV cameras, to accuse Deal of ethical breeches that — he claimed — dwarf Watergate.

Pennington also chided the governor for being unwilling to face him in verbal combat. “I think the citizens and voters have a right to see and compare the candidates in open debate. We’ve been doing it in this country for 240 years,” he said.

But it turns out that if you give a governor 24 hours’ notice, he will get himself lawyered up. Deal himself was downstate, doing some pen-and-ink governing, but his attorney, Randy Evans, showed up to loudly accuse Pennington of doing – well, something mysterious that allegedly involved bankruptcy and offshore accounts. There are large gaps in Evans’ indictment.

The governor’s attorney demanded sealed court records and tax returns. He might have included polygraphs, if he’d thought of it. It was enough to flummox Deal’s challenger, and after Pennington departed, Evans took over the microphones.

“If you want to be considered a real candidate, if you want to be somebody that Republicans in Georgia actually think deserve to be on the same podium with a governor this transparent, then walk the walk,” Evans said.

All right, said a reporter, that may be your case against Pennington. But what was the governor’s objection to debating Barge?

The governor’s attorney said he wasn’t prepared to address that.

Debate or no debate, Deal is all but sure to triumph next month. The general election campaign would begin May 21. During this last session of the Legislature, state Sen. Jason Carter, Deal’s Democratic challenger, showed some rhetorical chops that caused some of the governor’s aides to sit up straight.

Carter is “eager” to debate the governor, spokesman Bryan Thomas said. “We believe he should answer for his record – and not just in videos or on TV. If the governor, right now, wants to debate Jason – name the time and place, and we’ll be there.”

But some patience will be necessary. “Governor Deal will definitely debate Jason Carter at the appropriate time in the fall,” said Talaber, Deal’s campaign spokeswoman.

So we’re not talking a series in the vein of the Lincoln-Douglas confrontations. Maybe just one debate, for all the marbles.

54 comments
SmartAleck
SmartAleck

Wait just a damned minute, JIm Galloway!  You're showing your partisan flag, AGAIN! 

Where is your high visibility demand that the sacrosanct Michelle Nunn debate her unworthy opposition? 


Clearly, your hypocrisy and double standard know no bounds. 


Any other reasons why the AJC subscriptions are plummeting? 

SouthGeorgiareader
SouthGeorgiareader

There are too many issues to talk about that Deal could stumble over, so he's choosing to avoid his primary opponents---and is probably betting that somehow he can skirt around a fall debate, which is where the real differences will be revealed.  Education funding, healthcare and Medicaid expansion, guns in schools, tax breaks for the rich, and the constitutional question of capping the top income rate to protect the wealthy are just a few select topics, but just the starting pointing point for a debate.

Starik
Starik

Taxes aren't low in Georgia..  We have a sales tax and an income tax, while some of our neighbors manage nicely with one or the other.  For business, taxes are low and incentives are high. For working people taxes are high and services low, the better to enrich the already well off.  



The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Long blog, but this is the total substance except for AJC (as always) aligning with Deal's opponents:  "But in politics, if you’re winning, then a debate becomes nothing but an inconvenient opportunity to say something you might regret. A debate also brings a certain measure of equality to a contest that a front-running candidate has often spent millions of dollars trying to undermine....Carter is 'eager' to debate the governor, spokesman Bryan Thomas said"

dreluv
dreluv

td1234 you been blogging for almost 10 years saying the same thing over and over.

I remember you said Kasim Reed was going lose against Mary Norwood..I remember you said

President Obama was going lose against McCain and Romney just don't understand what

going through your mind..Everyone know Nathan Deal going to lose governorship to Jason Carter.

td1234 why would you vote for someone such as Nathan Deal has cause more harm to Georgian.

td1234 I guess you be on this blogging for the rest of your life attacking people who don't agree

with your views..td1234 remember Georgia is changing for the best not the worst we want

a new leadership..The republican has destroy Georgia for decades it time for changes.

LHardingDawg
LHardingDawg

Governor Deal has the money, the support of most of Georgia, and is the incumbent. Why would he want to debate a wannabe.

notagain
notagain

Rethugs motto born them babies then starve them.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Voters should run away from a candidate that won't debate.  It should be a black flag.

td1234
td1234

The only way Deal can lose is in the primary. Carter can not defeat him in the general election. Deal has already boxed Carter in on guns and raising taxes to spend so the only issues he has left is ethics and Obamacare and neither of them are winning issues. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

All know before any important Speech By Governor "Sunshine Teeth" he must have his "WATER BOY"

Atllanta's Mayor Kasim Reed  " A Sock Puppet" close by at his side. Kasim is always expected to step up and speak on behalf of the Governor, while The Governor stands nodding in agreement. All the time showing those Yellow Pearls and Lighting UP the Room with Bright Rays of Yellow Sunshine filling up the room. 

Then we have "DARKNESS" (KASIM) standing Up before Us Talking and explaining things, as if Darkness were the Governor hisself! 

That exact Process as detailed has happened Far too many Times!  Then the both of them SLAP each other on the Back, as if something important has been said or done!

This is the present Governor leadership Georgia Has...One that is Corrupt, Mean SPirited, Selfish, Sneaky and Not Smart At ALL!

Georgia can and should DO and deserve Far better than Nathan DEAL.

Whose name has the word "LEAD" in it scrambled and mixed UP....just like the MAN

NWGAL
NWGAL

Deal answers to his cronies and rich supporters. Why would anyone expect anything more from him?

Bernie31
Bernie31

Jim, unlike Hilliary last week who had a SHoe Thrown at Her. Ole Governor "Yella Teeth" would most likely to have Tooth Brushes,Tooth Paste and Teeth whitening applications with Georgia Dentist Cards attatched!

All with Notes saying " Use it in Good Health".

Surely his Breath must Be Horrendously Bad....Whew!  most like smells Like a Boo Boo with Tuna Sandwich!  Yuk!  No kissing for babies...fer surely they will Cry. With mom saying He was just fine a moment ago!  The Kids knows the TRUTH! 

This s Not a Man of Good Report!  An empty suit!

Yep! The Gov is as Silent as a Church Mouse Peeing on cotton, on a Sunday Morning on Peachtree Street, during church service. If you are quiet and strain your ears, you just may hear the last Ahhhhhhh!  silently fade away!

uh...huh.

dreluv
dreluv

Nathan Deal don't be scare to debate I want to hear why Georgia rank 50 in everything.

Nathan Deal why you the worst governor..Nathan Deal what you going do about the 600,000 poor Georgia don't have Medicaid..Nathan Deal why you have so much problem with your ethic corruption.

Nathan Deal need not to be governor

dreluv
dreluv

Nathan Deal is running scare..I hope Jason Carter catch Nathan Deal in every lie in front of the media.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Must be frustrating for you, Jim, to see the young Carter boy stalled in the polls despite the AJC's best efforts.

DS
DS

Jim, do you really think Deal speaks with "calm and a smooth river of words?" We're talking about Nathan Deal here, right? Whenever I hear him on TV, he seems to mangle every other sentence. I'd say he's one of the least articulate politicians I've ever heard.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing what he has to say when (if?) he finally agrees to debate.

AvailableName
AvailableName

@SmartAleck  It is always better to read the piece before you attack it:


"Democrat Michelle Nunn, throughout most of the season, has avoided appearances with her underfunded U.S. Senate rivals. But she has accepted an APC/GPB invitation, and is weighing another from WSB."


Galloway and his two sidekicks do skew left and probably should label some of what they write as opinion rather than news; but, in this instance, left or right, it's SmartAleck that seems to be waving a partisan flag with insufficient facts.

honested
honested

@Starik  

Accurate statement of revenue collection facts.

Is this what the Citizens of Georgia wanted?

td1234
td1234

@dreluv  I have been blogging for 5 years.


I never predicted Reed would lose. Matter of fact I said he was the best Democrat left in the state of Georgia and would make a good mayor. The only thing he has done wrong in office was not kicking out the OWS clowns immediately. 


I was not on the blog when McCain was running. I did predict a Romney win and that is the only prediction I have been wrong about in 5 years. 


The Republicans have only been in charge of Georgia for the past 10 years after 130 year rule by Democrats. 

DS
DS

@LHardingDawg  But that's just it: Deal doesn't have the support of "most of Georgia." His poll numbers against Jason Carter, a Democrat! (gasp), have been consistently in the low 40%. That's awful for an incumbent---his numbers should be at least 10 point higher.

His terrible numbers show that Georgia voters aren't happy with him and would welcome a change.

Why are his numbers so bad? Well, he hasn't done much of anything for most of his term. He's been hiding behind his desk. 

Georgia's economy has been poor, recovering more slowly than even other southern states. And we have more resources than those other states!

His handling of the ice storm in January was incompetent. The results of the 2014 legislative session were pathetic.

Then he messed with the ethics commission. The sworn testimony from the Kalberman trial was devastating. She said she had been sacked three years ago for pursuing an investigation into Deal’s 2010 election campaign. And former commission attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein testified that she was told to drop the investigation. New director Holly LaBerge told a staffer that Deal "owed her one." The State of Georgia has to pay $700,000 to Kalberman, and there are two more trials pending. Deal's ethics problems are costing taxpayers real money. It's a mess. 

We need to put all of this drama behind us and elect a competent governor who will move Georgia forward. We need leadership we can be proud of.

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

yeah so what if he has the ethics of a scoundrel - he's a Repbulican....

Bernie31
Bernie31

@Wascatlady - You mean RED!  or in Governor Yella Teeth's case...The Yellow Flag of a Coward!

Someone who Runs away, depart,turn tail and run, skitdattle,  I am outta here, are you kidding me No way!, forget about it....That is what his flag means.

honested
honested

@td1234  

Take the tinfoil off your windows.

Things outside have changed a bit since you were last among the thinking.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@td1234  I have said ethics was a significant problem for Deal since when he "represented" my district.  He has refined and expanded his game.  Pretty significant for Georgians.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 - You obviously have not been keeping UP with the News...I do not mean Fox & Friends, either.

SmartAleck
SmartAleck

@dreluv  

Your broad brushed statements are just not true.  

Clearly, you are just one of he uninformed dumb masses, or just a political hack that will say say anything for some cheap political advantage (can you say Obama?).  

JAWJA
JAWJA

@dreluv  50th in everything but crooked politicians. Nathan and Sonny brought us down. They both prospered from their positions.

HarryCrews
HarryCrews

@EdUktr


Perhaps you're frustrated at the State (and National GOP) modus operandi of late: "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory".


It's quite possible that once Deal signs some of the bills that were passed this year into law (and makes a 'big deal' about it to mobilize his base) there might be the unintended consequence of mobilizing more of the common sense voters into making a 'regime change'.

honested
honested

@EdUktr  

'Stalled'?

What an odd and hilarious interpretation of reality you present.

But back to reality, isn't it nathan deal who said " de-baitin' goes on at the Go Fish attraction, fully funded by Georgia Taxpayers".

LHardingDawg
LHardingDawg

I hate it, but me thinks you are going to be terrible disappointed come Election Day.

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

This is a scum sock puppet liberal who copies my screen name and also posts under the NWGAL screen name.

LHardingDawg
LHardingDawg

If it was a democrat in the same position as Governor Deal, the democrat would not debate either.

Hopefully we won't have that to worry about anytime soon.

td1234
td1234

@honested And what exactly has changed in the past 4 years or the past 2 years?

td1234
td1234

@Wascatlady @td1234  Deal had bigger ethics problems 4 years ago and ran against a better funded candidate and still won by 10 points. The best that could happen is he beats Carter by 5 instead of 10. If Carter is tied to Obamacare then Deal wins by 15 points. 

td1234
td1234

@Bernie31 I keep up with the news well thank you. How can Carter win? What are the winning issues? 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@EdUktr @Bernie31- its 2:15...Yer wife tells me that you have had one bottle of Whiskey and now you are half way through the second. Your Liver is going to turn on you Soon and very soon!

Bernie31
Bernie31

@HarryCrews @EdUktr- Never mind Him..have been told on good Authority..he has already started Drinking!  This one is an EARLY BIRD! 

From now on all you will hear from is that Bottle of whiskey beside him Talking to you.

By noon he will be on the Floor with his pants and skid marked shorts down around his ankles, screaming he wants his Blanket and car keys!

Everybody else then just steps over him until 6pm...where he starts over again!

NWGAL
NWGAL

Heavens, Kamchak. Republicans don't need proof or evidence. They know in their hearts what is real. And that apparently is a mix of fantasy and paranoia.

Kamchak
Kamchak

...and also posts under the NWGAL screen name. 

Got proof, sport?

Thanks in advance

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

Despite the best efforts of the administration, education has succeeded in imparting truth to voters.

Truth = conserrrrrrrrrrrrrvatives lose.

td1234
td1234

@Wascatlady 


"I don't think Deal will make it to go against Carter. "


I hope you are right. This Conservative is voting for Barge in the primary but this paper does not think it will do any good. I do think the primary is the only place Deal can be defeated.  


My remarks on based on the assumption that Deal will win the primary.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@td1234 @honested  I don't think Deal will make it to go against Carter.  Everyone I know (ie teachers, friends and family of teachers, others disgusted with the perfidy of this man), although many are Republican and a few are Democrat, say they cannot hold their noses tightly enough to vote for Deal.  God speed the day.


I guess we will see.  I am sure there will be some ballot hijinks before then!

td1234
td1234

@honested You said the exact same thing 4 years ago and Deal won by 10. 

honested
honested

@td1234  

Says one who will be so terribly surprised both in May and then again in November.

HarryCrews
HarryCrews

@td1234 @Bernie31  


The three E's -- Education, Ethics and Economy are the issues most Georgians are concerned with, as opposed to if one can lay their pistol on the bar. Regarding taxes, Deal signed into law significant tax increases on Georgians. He called them fees.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 @Bernie31- Right Now Governor Yella is doing the hard work for Jason. Nathan is taking it on his on to prove to Georgia Voters, Nathan Deal is not capable and Unfit to continue on in the office of Governor. Period!