Originally created 02/04/01

Kent: Cleland votes no; summit notes



JOHN ASHCROFT was confirmed Thursday as President George W. Bush's attorney general on a 58-42 vote. Among the 42 Democrats voting no was Sen Max Cleland, D-Ga.

Cleland told constituents for weeks that he was "undecided." But on the day of the confirmation vote, the Georgian took a cheap shot by growling that "the nomination has demonstrably furthered the atmosphere of division, mistrust and skepticism among many Americans."

How come Cleland never talked that way about the partisan Janet Reno, perhaps the worst attorney general to ever serve?

Cleland's opposition - and especially his accompanying smear of Ashcroft - will come back to haunt him if he decides to run for re-election next year.

Compare Cleland's position to the statesmanlike stance of Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., who sharply criticized fellow Democrats for labeling the nominee as an "extremist."

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., further hoped that his vote for Ashcroft would help to end "the growing predilection to treat nominations as ideological battlefields" - another slap at the Max Clelands of the Senate.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., also derided fellow Democrats who said the vote against Ashcroft is a warning to Bush not to appoint political conservatives to the Supreme Court:

"I happen to be a senator who believes that, when it comes to judges, they ought to be conservative. As far as my little shot across the bow, I say, `Mr. President, send us conservative judges.' Judges have no business trying to make the law."

Cleland didn't represent Christians and conservatives who make up a majority of Georgia's electorate, so the GOP ought to put his seat at the top of their targeted pick-up list for 2002.

After all, Cleland barely won election in 1996 - and George W. Bush carried the state big time last November.

Large, but low, fine

The Georgia Ethics Committee has often been derided as toothless - and rightly so. But not lately.

Former state Department of Transportation board member Max Goldin admitted to 29 counts of violating state law in his 2000 financial disclosure report, in which he failed to reveal his ownership of 14 pieces of real estate and provided incomplete information about his businesses.

That means he has to pay $15,000 in fines.

It's the largest penalty ever imposed by the panel - but it's still too low for this scoundrel.

Goldin tried to walk away with an illicit $250,000 from the DOT's purchase of properties owned by himself and his family. When honest DOT appraisers refused to pay him several times the market value, Goldin appealed to his pal - then-Transportation Department head Wayne Shackelford. (Bear in mind that Goldin was one of Shackelford's bosses.)

Attorney General Thurbert Baker ought to investigate what other dubious deals Shackelford consummated with regard to land acquisition involving cronies or prominent people.

Hoist those beer mugs

Rep. Stephanie Stuckey, D-Decatur, won a victory for Georgia businesses and consumers last week when the House Regulated Beverages Committee finally agreed to increase the limit on alcohol content from 9 to 14 percent - which is comparable to table wine. Her bill resembles laws in 37 other states that allow the sale of strong malt beverages like Belgian, French, English and other European ales; imperial stout and barley wine beer.

It was Stuckey and former Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, who tried to educate colleagues last year in the effort to allow more consumer beer options. That's why it was humorous when Stuckey approached Williams' successor, Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, about supporting the stronger beer bill.

No can do, Burmeister replied. Backing that bill, Stuckey was promptly informed, was one of the sticks she and some clergymen used to beat Williams with during their primary. (Obviously Burmeister & Co. never reflected on the words of that famous Polish polka, "In Heaven There Is No Beer (That's Why We Drink It Here)."

Talk at the summit

Observers at Thursday's much-bally-hooed "summit" in Atlanta called by Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, say it was a good start to keep community dialogue going on how best to boost Augusta's economy, improve race relations and reform municipal government.

Sad to say, though, that the comments of several commissioners - most notably Andy Cheek, Willie Mays and Marion Williams - indicate they still are in a state of denial over the Augusta Commission's mismanagement and other problems exposed in a special grand jury report.

An obviously frustrated Williams, at one point, even said that he would not run again. (Constituents should hold him to that promise.)