October 23, 2016
As published in the Marietta Daily Journal
In the swamp that is Washington, D.C., where smearing your opponent with a vile brush and selling out to the highest bidder is just another day at the office, Georgians are fortunate to have a man of decency and common sense as our senior senator: Republican Johnny Isakson of east Cobb.
Former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, who has endorsed Isakson for re-election over Democratic challenger Jim Barksdale, recalls how the two first met in 1974 when Barnes was running for the Georgia Senate and Isakson for a seat on the county commission.
Decorated with campaign buttons, the two crossed paths at a Fair Oaks convenience store and instantly hit it off. They’ve been friends ever after, despite being in opposite political camps.
“What I admire most about him is it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Barnes said. “If he thinks you’re right, he’s going to try to help you. That’s a great trait to have in this day of divided politics where if you even mention somebody from across the aisle, you’re condemned.”
Politics, as Isakson has often said, is the art of compromise, and for those high-handed ideological purists angry that Isakson hasn’t catered to their every whim, former Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart, an Isakson supporter, offered Ronald Reagan’s maxim: “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”
In the U.S. Senate, seniority matters. Isakson is the only Republican senator to chair multiple committees: the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Select Committee on Ethics.
He has never voted for a tax increase, has led the fight against radical Islamic jihad and voted against President Barack Obama’s Neville Chamberlain-esque deal with the terrorist state of Iran.
Isakson opposes Obama’s plan to expand Syrian refugee resettlement without adequate security safeguards. And he opposed the “gang of eight” immigration bill and Obama’s executive amnesty.
He’s also fought to ensure that the American victims of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis were able to seek justice for their 444 days of captivity.
A defender of the Second Amendment, the NRA gives him an “A” rating, while the National Right to Life has given him a 100 percent for his pro-life stance.
The senator has opposed Obama’s liberal appointments to the Supreme Court and voted to repeal Obamacare.
After reading an obituary of Kate Puzey of Cumming, the 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer murdered in 2009 in west Africa, Isakson met with her parents before traveling to Africa to meet with Benin’s president and plead for justice in her murder case.
In 2011, he introduced the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, which provides the same whistleblower protection for Peace Corps volunteers that was already being provided to federal employees. The bill, which was signed into law, also required the Peace Corps to develop specialized sexual assault risk-reduction and response training and protocol.
Republican Attorney General Sam Olens, president-elect of Kennesaw State University, said he first met Isakson in the early 1980s when Isakson was in the Statehouse and Olens was involved with the East Cobb Civic Association. Olens said he was pumping gas when Isakson walked over to say he had read about Olens’ efforts in the MDJ and wanted to thank him for his community service. Olens remarked how unusual it was for an elected official to approach a stranger and thank them, but that’s the kind of guy Isakson is.
And unlike so many public servants, who expect incense burned at an altar whenever they accomplish something positive, Olens said Isakson is not one to seek public acclaim.
There is an endless list of leading nonprofits that Isakson has helped raise large sums for just when it made a critical difference — work that Isakson, being the gentleman that he is, has never sought attention for doing.
“When I think of the word public servant, he’s on top of my list,” Olens said.
Such lack of showboating brings to mind George H. W. Bush biographer Jon Meacham’s account of how the senior Bush “found it incredibly difficult to talk about himself — a legacy from his mother, who discouraged self-reference and self-absorption by saying that no one wanted to hear about the Great I Am.”
Isakson began his business career in 1967 when he opened the first Cobb County office of a small, family-owned real estate business, Northside Realty, growing it into the largest independent residential real estate brokerage company in the Southeast.
He served for 17 years in the Georgia Legislature in both the House and Senate. In 1997, then-Gov. Zell Miller appointed him chairman of the Georgia Board of Education. He was elected in 1999 to the U.S. House for the first of three terms and was elected in 2004 and 2010 to the U.S. Senate.
He and his wife, Dianne, have been married since 1968 (how many Capitol Hill moralists can say that?) and they have nine grandchildren.
With his calm, steady hand and business-minded approach, Isakson’s moral temperament is in stark contrast to the grandstanding politicians who dominate the headlines with their swaggering, demagogic pandering.
Washington needs more statesmen like Isakson who are guided by character and integrity rather than polls and payoffs. For the good of our county, for the good of our state, for the good of our nation, Isakson should be re-elected on Nov. 8.