ON FEB. 23 AUGUSTA Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale stood before area high school students at a leadership workshop sponsored by the Augusta-Aiken chapter of the Military Order of World Wars. The proud Citadel graduate told the teens they should set examples. "People will watch you so you must do the right thing," was one Wheale admonition. Another was "demonstrate leadership" by "speaking out on public issues."
It is interesting that, seven days later, the judge followed his own advice by addressing a growing nightmare that had been weighing on his heart.
Wheale has been a "compassionate conservative" long before George W. Bush coined the term. That's why the barrister, sick of seeing children failed by the only agency in Georgia empowered to help the abused and neglected, decided to publicly demand answers from local Department of Family and Children Services bureaucrats.
Five weeks before, he had informed the taxpayer-supported agency he wanted an explanation for what happened in four cases that had come before him. It was an insult when no DFACS people appeared at his March 2 hearing.
"We're in a panic mode when it comes to DFACS in this community," he says. "It's just one thing after another. I'm not going to tolerate it anymore."
Let's hope the judge holds DFACS lawyers in contempt. The community certainly does, because hardly any Georgian trusts DFACS to protect children.
The judge asked juvenile court officials and a child advocates group to devise a system to catch court cases involving any child who might have had some contact with DFACS. That would be a good first step toward reform.
Wheale also vows to continue speaking out, just as he advised those youngsters. Don't doubt for a minute that this fine role model will keep his word.
GOP `Battle of Atlanta'
IN MAY GEORGIA Republicans will choose either former state party executive director David Shafer or one-time national Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed to be their party chairman. In the meantime, muskets are blasting and swords slashing in a fight that appears to be the political equivalent of the bloody 1864 Battle of Atlanta.
Fiery e-mails have been sent statewide by maverick Athens-based consultant Jeff Chesser. One mocks Reed's "high standard of integrity." Another alleges financial funny business between Reed and a direct mailer.
Reed responded with what he knows best: direct mail. Delegates were barraged with postcards touting Reed's qualifications and listing his backers.
Chesser promises more to come in the new Battle of Atlanta (the convention will actually be at Cobb County's Galleria). But some Shafer allies feel Chesser's attacks are backfiring and creating more sympathy for Reed. There's no question both aspirants to the chairmanship agree on bedrock conservative principles and the GOP message to be presented. But who will delegates ultimately choose as their messenger?
Columbia coup fails
REPUBLICAN county conventions were held in Georgia on March 3. The Political Vine, an Atlanta publication by anonymous GOP activists, trumpets that "Ralph Reed appears to have won in both Columbia and Richmond (counties) where Congressman Charlie Norwood's operatives have been strong-arming local party leaders. ... In Columbia County, where Norwood had joined forces with state Sen. Joey Brush and state Rep. Ben Harbin to oust the county chairman, a last-minute double-cross by Norwood left the old county chairman in place and put a majority of the delegation in Reed's hands."
When I cited this to backers of Rob Blandenburg, who ran against incumbent Alvin Starks and gadfly Debbie McCord for the Columbia County party chairmanship, they basically agreed with the analysis. Blandenburg says McCord told him she wanted Starks ousted but wanted to run on her own. Well, Blandenburg almost secured the votes on his own. But McCord cut a deal and threw her delegates to Starks, thus ensuring his re-election in the run-off.
In any event, congratulations to Starks. And kudos to Blandenburg for his spirited, principled challenge. Both agree on one thing: Being a local party chairman is a "thankless task."
Taylor insults Scouts
GEORGIA'S lieutenant governor, egged on by Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, D-Augusta, hastily adjourned the Senate early on March 7 to ensure "The Defense of Scouting Act" would die this session, according to Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor "earned his Cowardice Merit Badge," was the angry response from Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs.
The Boy Scouts of America stresses strong moral values and heterosexuality, so the bill would have prohibited any state or local entity from denying Scouts permission to hold meetings at public facilities. All but two senators originally signed Ehrhart's bill. But Atlanta's militant homosexual leaders cracked the whip - and Taylor and Walker obeyed. "Taylor has shown himself to be more interested in placating the extremists in the homosexual lobby than in respecting the legislators and citizens he supposedly represents," Ehrhart lamented.