WASHINGTON -- The federal government could emulate the Georgia success story if Congress paid more attention to what people care about and less to such divisive issues as campaign shenanigans, arts funding and abortion, Gov. Zell Miller said Friday.
"People at home aren't worrying about how many (fund-raising) phone calls President Clinton makes from the White House, or how many people he's seen hugging on videotape," Mr. Miller said, referring to two topics taken up during recent Senate hearings. "They're worrying about how to balance their checkbooks, how to pay for child care, whether their streets will be safe and how to save to send their children to college."
During a trip to Washington to plug a new biography on his life published by the Mercer University Press, the Democrat extolled a long list of accomplishments during his two terms as governor, including HOPE scholarships. Under the four-year-old program, every Georgia high school student who graduates with a "B" average in the core academic subjects qualifies for free tuition, fees and a book allowance at any public university in Georgia.
Mr. Miller credited HOPE scholarships with helping Georgia buck two disturbing trends affecting many states: soaring tuition costs and declining minority enrollment in colleges and universities.
"I wanted the question in Georgia not to be whether to go to college or a technical school, but where to go to college or technical school," he said.
Mr. Miller also highlighted Georgia's status as an economic leader -- with jobs being created at the rate of more than 2,000 a week -- as the only state providing free kindergarten to every four-year-old whose parents want it and as one of the few states with a tough "two-strikes-and-you're-out" sentencing law for violent criminals.
"Georgia has made this kind of progress because our attention is focused on the issues that really matter to our citizens," he said. "In contrast, (Washington) stays tied up in partisan knots."
But Mr. Miller dismissed speculation that he might be interested in coming to Washington to help straighten out federal priorities. He denied that the higher profile he has encouraged recently with the publication of the biography and appearances on nationally syndicated radio programs is testing the waters for a future campaign.
"It's not part of a plan to run for anything," he said. "I'll be 66 soon. I'm too old and cranky to be a candidate for anything else."