Georgians called it like they saw it, when both senators came to town.
The North Georgia town of Ellijay, known widely for its fall apple festival, drew a summer crowd of 300 or more on August 20, 2011. They came for a town hall meeting hosted by the Tea Party of Gilmer County. Both of Georgia’s senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnnie Isakson, were there as part of their trek across the state to reconnect with constituents, face to face. Congress, meanwhile, was taking an annual break.
A dozen-and-a-half questioners made it to the microphone during the 90-minute meeting. They were less interested in taking a freebie apple at the door than taking a swipe at the guests inside. “Don’t spend what you don’t have.” Charlotte Thompson of Union county told the senators.
An unnamed woman advised them about how to handle federal agencies. “As a country,” she said, “we are broke. Just tell them, ‘You get a 20 percent reduction. You figure out how to do it.’”
Jack Smith, organizer of the hosting tea party grop, stated his thoughts on big solutions for big problems. “Repeal the Energy Department,” he said. Senator Isakson responded for both senators: “Greater transparency of costs is definitely needed.” Maybe not the answer hoped for, but in the right direction, perhaps.
Though direct with their messages, speakers were generally courteous. Only a couple of the milder four-letter words slipped through the teeth.
It was much the same for the onlookers, as only a single, low-level “Boooo” oozed from the audience. That was when Chambliss mentioned the “expert advice” he receives from Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman.
Sixteen of the 18 speakers expressed strong concern for the U.S. economy. And they stated their displeasure at the inaction, or wrong actions, of the federal government in general or the senators in particular. Late in the meeting Chambliss simply said, “We get it. We get it.”
Looking back, the statement by the very first speaker from the floor seemed to have hung in the air throughout the meeting: Pam Norman of Hall County addressed both senators when she read her statement. “Your easy willingness to compromise and vote for increasing levels of spending and taxes…is unconscionable,” she said. And “My liberty and my 401(k) can’t take it.”
Ms. Norman’s final words were, “I will give a huge shout-out to our Congressman, Tom Graves.” She rhetorically asked the absent Tom, “any thoughts of running for a Senate seat in 2014?” Applause and cheers followed her as she left the microphone.
For Pam Norman and nearly all who spoke after her, polishing apples was definitely not their style. Cutting to the core was more like it.
Senator Chambliss’ Washington, D.C., office may be telelphoned at 202-224-3521.
E-mail Senator Chambliss here.
Senator Isakson’s Washington, D.C., office may be telephoned at 202-224-3643.
E-mail Senator Isakson here.
Roger Carter covers Sen. Chambliss for Tea Party Patriots’ Government Accountability Project. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.