Johnny Isakson: GOP Congress unlikely to stonewall a President Hillary Clinton

Just as the weekend broke, Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson, making a bid for a third term in the U.S. Senate, sat down for an interview on GPB’s “Political Rewind” hosted by Bill Nigut.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking here, but we’ve isolated some highlights:

Nigut: [After going over the GOP “autopsy report” of 2013, recommending outreach to minorities and women, and Donald Trump’s decision not to observe it. Tweeting about Latina beauty queens at 3 a.m. was mentioned.] Doesn’t that trouble you a little, the way that he behaves?


Isakson: I don’t tolerate anybody that has that kind of behavior, regardless of their political party or their position. I think we need to respect everyone for who they are. When I’m on the campaign trail and I see somebody in a skirt, somebody [who is] African-American, somebody who speaks Spanish – I treat them as a Georgian and an American. Not as Hispanic, not as a woman or not as a man. I treat everybody equally.


Nigut: Does it worry you that you have a presidential candidate who does not seem to share that view?


Isakson: Let me give you the political answer to that. You’re never going to win a national election with just old white men voting for you. You’ve got to appeal to the cross section and diversity of our country – ethnicitywise, racewise, religionwise and occupationwise. And the lack of occupation.


Nigut: Does that mean you worry that Trump won’t win this election?


Isakson: If you’re narrowing your chances to get votes, you’re narrowing your opportunity to win.


Nigut: Will you be voting for Trump in November?


Isakson: I’m going to support the ticket. He’s the head of the ticket. So I’ll be voting for him.


Nigut: [When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, Republicans locked down against him.] If Hillary Clinton wins in November, do you think there’s a chance that Republicans might be willing to reach out and work a little more amicably to try to accomplish some of the things that need to be done?


Isakson: I don’t think it will be like the post-Obama election at all. The one thing you have to remember is that for five years she was secretary of state while we were in the Senate. We had to work together an awful lot while members of the Foreign Relations Committee and also as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. So I don’t think it will be the same.


Barack Obama was somewhat of an unknown – he was a senator, but only for a year-and-a-half before he was elected president. She is a known commodity, and I think there’ll be more camaraderie in terms of working together, than there might have been in the early days of Obama.


[Note: We didn’t broach the possibility of a Trump victory with Isakson, given that a Trump presidential victory presumes continued GOP control of both chambers of Congress.]


Galloway: What are you hearing from outside the U.S. about these kinds of concerns about Donald Trump wanting to put a price on NATO enforcement, nuclear weapons in East Asia?


Isakson: Well I, let me answer the way you asked it. I’m not hearing much at all from foreign ambassadors coming into my office about Donald Trump as a general statement. I hear a lot about the NATO situation. I’m a supporter of NATO. NATO has proved a great asset to our country. We need to have a presence. We also need to have a presence where we can enforce Article 5.


You know, when Crimea was invaded by the Russians, and later the Ukraine, under Article 5, we really should have physically gone in to their aid. We didn't because we're stretched too thin. But NATO's an important part of our national defense and the defense of our own country.


Galloway: Would you be in favor seeing additional U.S. ground troops in that area?


Isakson: I’ll tell you one thing Donald Trump has called for and I think Hillary Clinton has called for it, too – I’m not going to try to play one against the other. We need other countries in NATO matching what the United States is doing, in terms of a percentage of contribution and effort and manpower and money. Far too often in world organizations or regional organizations like NATO or like the U.N., the United States puts in a disproportionate amount of money in there and that’s not right. I think our taxpayers want us to reduce that commitment and have more put in by those who participate with us.


POSTSCRIPT: The campaign of Democrat Jim Barksdale has taken exception to Isakson’s answer on Russia’s incursion into Crimea and other portions of Ukraine, noting that Ukraine is not a member of NATO and as such doesn’t qualify for Article 5 protection, which declares that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.

The response from the Isakson campaign:

"Senator Isakson was making the point that, in that part of the world, we would come to the defense of a NATO ally under Article 5, and we should have acted similarly for our ally Ukraine given our commitments and their strategic importance."


Speaking of Republican angst over Donald Trump. We heard from a longtime, pioneering Georgia Republican on Sunday who has moved past the rules of brevity usually required by bumper stickers:


The Braves final game at Turner Field on Sunday, a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, featured a host of aging ballplayers who once made the 20-year-old structure rock.

But afterward, there were several things missing in the ceremonial transfer of home plate to the new stadium. One was cable TV magnate Ted Turner, one-time owner of the team and the namesake for The Ted.

The other disappeared item was more subtle: Geography. The word “Atlanta” was only sparingly used. And the phrase “Cobb County” was avoided entirely. Turner Field and SunTrust Park were the preferred terms.

On the other hand, there was this:


Democrats in Georgia, as elsewhere, are focusing on boosting turnout among minorities and millennials – two groups that Democrat Hillary Clinton isn’t reaching as well as Barack Obama did in his two presidential campaigns.

And so Tom Huynh, the executive director of Clayton County NAACP, tells us of a 6 p.m. Friday event at Lee Street Amphitheater in Jonesboro – a partnership with Usher's New Look Foundation – aimed at pushing new voters to register. Cracker Barrel and R.E.A.L Ministries are also sponsors.

In Georgia, the deadline is Oct. 11 for the 2016 presidential contest.

Speakers will include Moneteria Robinson, the mother of Jamarion Robinson, who was shot and killed by U.S. marshals in East Point, and Devaris Thomas, the father of Dervais Caine Rogers, who was shot by an Atlanta police officer in June.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...