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Shipp: Are you smarter than a Georgia voter?

POSTED: September 24, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Let's hear it for Kathy Cox. The Georgia schools superintendent won $1 million in Hollywood on the TV quiz show, "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?"

She says she plans to give some of the prize money to the state's special-needs schools. That is truly magnanimous. It will help restore some of the funds her predecessor stole from the state education department to pay for a face-lift and finance her campaign for governor.

Kathy deserves full credit and our congratulations for finally making Georgia look good on national TV.
It's too bad Kathy wasn't the guest on "The Colbert Report" when one of our congressmen was stumped when asked to recite at least a couple of the Ten Commandments. I'll bet Kathy could have handled that question as easy as pie and she hasn't even been out demanding (as the congressman has) that the Ten Commandments be posted all over the place.

It's also regrettable that Kathy didn't go to Clayton County before she went to Hollywood. The messed-up Clayton school system might have used Kathy's considerable smarts to clean up its schools and avoid making national headlines by losing its accreditation.

Come to think of it, Gov. Sonny Perdue could have used his powers to order the state to take charge of the runaway school system. But what the heck? It was just another predominately black system gone awry. You can't fix everybody's school system, can you, Guv?

Besides, the governor was off in Washington helping his fellow Republicans devise the smartest presidential election strategy I have witnessed in my long career. I am sincere about this. The GOP may have changed the nature of American politics forever.

The elephants are running against themselves. They have stolen the Democrats' "time for a change" theme and started using it to win the White House again. The strategy looks like it's working, too. The Obama campaign has already given up on "putting Georgia back in play" and started pulling money and personnel out of the Peach State to use elsewhere.

You have to wonder how Republicans can run against themselves with a straight face. This is the party that ran up a record deficit, destroyed the real estate industry, let unemployment soar to a record high and got us stuck us in a potentially trillion-dollar war. Now they promise change if we'll just re-elect them.

The funny thing is, the American voter seems be leaning toward sending Sen. John McCain and his moose-hunting sidekick to Washington to take up where President Bush left off. The ticket's theme seems to be: "Give us one more chance. This time we'll try not to screw everything up."

If the grand strategy of running against one's own record succeeds nationally, just think how it might be applied to the Georgia election of 2010.

We're a natural for an all-out Republican campaign for change so the GOP can keep doing what it is already doing in the state Capitol.

Just look at the record:

Republicans have been in control of Georgia schools for 14 years with a Republican governor running things for six of those years. The schools are in worse shape than ever, and state government has whacked school spending by more than $1 billion. It's as if the GOP set out to undermine public education in our state.

Transportation is a colossal mess in every growing area of Georgia. And Gov. Perdue is raising the roof about the DOT running out of money -- by slapping one layer of asphalt on top of another on highways all over the state. That's not the way to fix transportation, but it sure does help those needy souls in the asphalt-laying business.

Under Republican leadership, the annual state budget has soared from $15 billion to $21 billion and is still climbing.

That doesn't mean pork-barrel projects have gone out of style. The state has built boat ramps to dry lakes everywhere you look. They are our version of Alaska's bridge to nowhere.

So you see, dear friends, Georgia is the perfect guinea pig for trying out the Republicans' change strategy on the state level. The state elephants are betting that we voters are too dumb to figure out their newest magic trick of blaming the fellow in the mirror for all our woes and promising to get rid of him.

You see, they think most of us are not smarter than fifth-graders. They may be right. We're not even smarter than sheep.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30160; Web site.



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