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Shipp: Perdue should pray for more than rain

POSTED: January 4, 2008 5:03 a.m.

I'm happy that Gov. Sonny Perdue went forward with his prayer meeting to beseech the Almighty for an end to the drought. It's the best idea the governor has had since taking office.

I had worried that he might call it off when I did not receive an invitation. It may have been lost in the mail, or perhaps the mailman ran into a bear on Wade Green Road. It's happened before.

Surely, Sonny didn't get depressed and consider cancelling the whole thing just because his fellow governors in Florida and Alabama told him to take a hike. They reportedly asked their senior aides if Sonny was nuts after he rolled out his grand idea to let Georgia have more water from the three states' shared basins. Naturally, Sonny wants to keep the Peach State's subdivisions growing. So what's wrong with that?

As for the tentative tristate water agreement that Sonny proudly revealed, our governor may have been making a little joke on the Atlanta media, which will believe anything, even that Florida and Alabama are willing to sacrifice millions of gallons of water to protect Georgia's lakeside land values. I was thinking last weekend just after I returned from my empty mailbox that Sonny could make his prayer meeting a day to remember in Georgia history, sort of a mini-Billy Graham crusade, like the ones Billy used to have in Ponce de Leon Park.

The next time, Sonny should not limit his prayer to rain. He ought to ask for softer hearts for Govs. Bob Riley of Alabama and Charlie Crist of Florida. He might even throw in a good word for President Bush, who needs divine guidance more than anybody I can remember.

Sonny could mention in passing that Georgia's education system and transportation network are in such despair that only heaven can help them.

The governor also should open up his next prayer day A-list to invitees who do not always claim direct divine contact. Even a few Democrats might want to come just for old time's sake, back when Sonny was one of them.

Of course, we all know that Sonny's favorite Republican suits, who give wads to fighting abortions and the spread of child health care, have a special line upward. Even so, it might be good for a few blue-collar types and even those ungodly, anti-war liberals to hear what an honest-to-goodness Southern prayer meeting sounds like.

Don't forget to add a few blacks to the invite list; not just mega-preachers and undertakers but working folks to make the meeting look legit. Sonny could remind them of his promise to resurrect racial reconciliation in the wake of the fight over the Confederate flag.

Several Mormons hunkered down in Gwinnett ought to be included. I sense what Sonny thinks about Mormons. But one never knows. Mitt Romney, a super Mormon, might win the presidency. Then where would the governor be if he snubbed Mitt's people?

I'll bet that if Sonny looked closely enough, he could find a few Muslims in Georgia who would place a good, hard rain ahead of a promise of a virgin-filled paradise. Some Muslim Arabs appreciate better than anyone the godsend of rain.

One other thing and this is a must: Invite men and women from around Lake Rabun to the next prayer meeting. Somebody in that neighborhood has been living right or has a special line upstairs. Lake Rabun, in Northeast Georgia, is full of water, and the fishing is great.

Of course, during the course of his next round of prayers, Sonny also ought to give thanks for Coach Mark Richt and that fine Bulldogs football team. Rain or shine, Georgia has one thing it can really be proud of: its football program.

If Georgia government ran half as well as Coach Richt's football team, Gov. Perdue might not have to bother the Good Lord with a frantic public plea for rain. Instead, if Sonny's tenure had gone in a different direction, the governor could have taken time out to give thanks for the wisdom and compassion to plan and conserve, instead of ignore and exploit.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesville times.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160.



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