Michelle Nunn takes baby steps away from White House on foreign policy

If you listened closely to Democratic Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn's comments Thursday, you might have heard an attempt to distance herself -- ever so slightly -- from President Barack Obama's foreign policy.

Nunn called Obama's much-criticized recent remarks that he had no strategy to encounter the growing threat of ISIS an "unfortunate choice of words" and urged the administration to "quickly develop the right military strategy" against the militant group that's carving out a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nunn almost precisely a year ago backed a military strike in Syria to deter President Bashar Al-Assad from using chemical weapons against his own people, which at the time matched the positions of Obama and Georgia GOP Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

But Obama a few days later backed off in the face of overwhelming opposition in Congress, and Nunn drew flak in her Democratic primary for the position. She has since focused much of her campaign rhetoric on domestic policy, such as the jobs plan she rolled out Thursday.

She said in an interview that ISIS is a "dangerous terrorist organization that has to be defeated and that we must take a lead in that" through air strikes and cooperation with regional partners.

"I also believe we need to recognize that we cannot fight a civil war on the ground in Iraq or Syria," she said. "We have to look to the leadership of that region to resolve the long-term historic -- but I think resolvable -- schisms and conflicts with the right leadership there."

"The president has to work closely with Congress. Especially at this moment in time, it's incumbent for the president and Congress to come up with a unified strategy."


Her father, former Sen. Sam Nunnaimed stronger words of his own toward Obama on the role of NATO amid Russia's incursion into the Ukraine.

In a post on the website for his nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative group, the elder Nunn wrote that members of the Cold War-era alliance should be held accountable for meeting their military contribution commitments. Wrote Nunn:

"Will all NATO member states fulfill their commitments to spend more on defense?  Will NATO examine its current nuclear posture – including deployments of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe – and move toward a more credible, safer and affordable nuclear capability, where the savings could be devoted to significantly strengthening NATO conventional capabilities? NATO members need to answer 'yes' to these questions in the months and years ahead in order for reassurance to be credible within the Alliance and with Russia.

"A powerful signal could be given by President Obama and the bi-partisan leadership in Congress by getting rid of the sequester, which is damaging U.S. military readiness and capabilities. The current approach to deficit reduction through the sequester’s defense cuts is dangerous; a long-term approach that would make defense spending more efficient would send a strong, positive signal to the global community."


Republicans took quick aim at Nunn's jobs plan on Thursday, in part for not vowing to repeal Obamacare and for seeking to raise the minimum wage. Republican David Perdue's spokeswoman, Megan Whittemore, had this to say:

"After reading Michelle Nunn's so-called 'jobs plan' it’s clear her campaign will stop at nothing to deceive Georgians about who she really is and what she stands for. This confusing attempt to describe her vision for job creation is full of contradictions. Michelle Nunn mimics many of David’s ideas and then immediately undercuts them by advocating some of the same failed liberal approaches that caused the economic problems in the first place.

"Missing from the 'jobs plan' are obvious solutions to address the economic crisis President Obama and Democrats in Washington have created. For example, Michelle Nunn claims she is for reducing the regulatory burdens on small businesses, but completely ignores the negative impacts of Obamacare, which is cutting back workers hours and increasing costs for families. Similarly, she claims she supports energy independence, but refuses to address how burdensome regulations on the coal industry will raise energy prices and destroy jobs."

And the Georgia GOP's Leslie Shedd:

"In Nunn’s latest so-called jobs plan – in which 'there’s no pricetag for her pledges' - she claims she will support No Budget, No Pay legislation. The problem? Nunn’s loyalties lie with Harry Reid, who, in addition to endorsing Nunn, also said it would be 'foolish' for Senate Democrats to even propose their own federal budget. So long as Harry Reid is leader, he will block any chances of passing a budget.

"But it gets worse, a recent study by the Georgia Restaurant Association shows that [the minimum wage hike in] Michelle Nunn’s so-called jobs plan could cost more than 21,000 jobs statewide.  It could cost state and local governments an additional $164 million annually because of the 60,000 public workers that could be affected."


Perdue will be in Washington again next week, but good luck catching him unless you're paying for the privilege. We got hold of six fundraiser invites over the course of Perdue's two days in the nation's capital.

Among those helping Perdue rake in the cash: Isakson, Chambliss and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (they've mended fences, it appears). The financial services, and oil and gas industries will be pitching in, too.

The invites also reveal that Perdue emerged from primary season with a few outstanding debts. Donors are encouraged to donate to retire Perdue's debt from the primary and primary runoff, in addition to general election contributions.

Here's the full itinerary, or at least what we were able to snag:

Monday, September 8, 2014

12:00 – 1:30 PM

David Perdue, Nominee for US Senate, Georgia

Location: 220 E Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Hosts: Alex Albert, Bryan Anderson, Hunter Moorhead, Rob Leebern Harriet Melvin, NFIB Safe Trust PAC, Bill Stiers

Host: Give/Raise $5,000 PAC/ $2,500 Individual, Attend: $2,000 PAC/$1,000 Individual (Limited Space)

Monday, September 8, 2014

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

David Perdue, Nominee for US Senate, Georgia

Location: NRSC, 425 2nd St. NE

Event: Oil and Gas Event

Contributions: Host: $5,000 PAC│ Attend: $2,500 PAC

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

8:00 – 9:00 AM

David Perdue, Nominee for US Senate, Georgia

Location: Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, 1155 F Street, Suite 950, Washington, DC 20004

Hosts: Kirk Blalock, Kate Hull, Alex Jarvis, Billy Piper

Contributions: PAC: $2,500 Host│$1,000 Attend Individuals: $2,600 Host│$1,000 Attend

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

10:00 – 11:00 AM

David Perdue, Nominee for US Senate, Georgia

VIP Guests: U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas

Location: NRSC, 425 2nd St. NE

Event: Financial Services Reception

Contributions: Chair: $5,000 PAC/ $1,000 Individual

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

5:30 – 6:30 PM

David Perdue, Nominee for US Senate, Georgia

Hosts: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky.; Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas; Conference Chair John Thune, R-S.D.; Policy Committee Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; NRSC Vice Chairman Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Isakson; Chambliss.

Location: NRSC, 425 2nd St. NE

Contributions: Chair: $5,000 PAC/ $2,500 Individual; Co-Chair: $2,500 PAC/ $1,500 Individual

Host: $2,000 PAC/ $1,000 Individual │ Attend: $1,000 PAC/$500 Individual

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

7:00 PM

David Perdue, Nominee for US Senate, Georgia

Event: Utilities Dinner

Location: Social Reform Kitchen & Bar, 401 9th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004

Host: Alliant Energy, Edison Electric Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute, Southern Company

Contributions: Chair: $5,000 PAC; Host: $2,500 PAC; Attend: $1,000 PAC


All of that PAC dough will go to helping Georgia maintain its top spot in TV political ad spending this year.

The Center for Public Integrity reports -- with a very cool graphic -- that candidates and outside groups have spent $22.5 million on TV this year in Georgia's Senate race, making it the most expensive Senate race in the land.

Most of that money was for the Republican primary and runoff, but the pace continues to accelerate for the general.

And it's not just on TV: The National Rifle Association just reported spending nearly $70,000 on mailers supporting David Perdue, bringing its pro-Perdue spending to $264,777 this year.

Credo Super PAC, meanwhile, reported more than $13,000 of new spending on phone calls and canvassing against Perdue, bringing its total for the year to $22,276. The new group focuses on "grassroots mobilization" in five states to prevent Republicans from taking control of the Senate.


Another number worth watching in the Georgia Senate race: President Barack Obama's approval rating, as tracked daily by Gallup, tied his record low of 38 percent on Thursday. The last time Obama was this unpopular was in October 2011.


Tom Crawford at the Georgia Report provides some context for Attorney General Sam Olens' backup, after a judge rapped his office for the handling of Holly LaBerge's ethics memo.

A joint statement defending Olens was also issued by several attorneys who were identified as current or former officers of the State Bar of Georgia:

“To have produced the memorandum in this case without a request covering its production would have, in our opinion, constituted malpractice. It is clear that this was a good faith discovery dispute that is very common in civil litigation.

“It should also be noted, that both in the plaintiff’s motion and in the judge’s order, AG Sam Olens is not mentioned. This was a decision by a career attorney in the department of law who was constitutionally and ethically bound to zealously represent his client. The department’s attorneys have no choice in picking their clients when it comes to state employees. Today’s ruling shows just how difficult at times that task can be.”

The names associated with that statement include Robert Ingram, who is Olens’ campaign chairman; Statesboro attorney James Franklin, who was named to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Judicial Nominating Commission; and Dwight Davis, who was appointed by Sonny Perdue and then by Deal to the state natural resources board and served with Olens on Deal’s Judicial Nominating Commission.


Need proof that the bottom of the Democratic ticket leans further to the left than the top?

Take a look at this video from Connie Stokes, the former state senator running against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle:

Stokes sent this out on the heels of a letter she sent to to Gov. Nathan Deal's office calling for a special legislative session to expand Medicaid.

"People will die because they do not have a community hospital," she said, adding: "The people of Georgia are suffering because Casey Cagle has not stood up and been a voice of reason for jobs for Georgians."


If you can't join 'em, score 'em.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, fresh off an unsuccessful campaign to replace Phil Gingrey in the 11th Congressional District, announced Thursday that he would revamp his Liberty Guard organization with endorsements, Congressional scorecards and candidate questionnaires for the cause of liberty. Said Barr:

“Liberty Guard is unique in that we will hold America’s leaders’ feet to the fire in defense of liberty and freedom. Sound bites are no longer good enough; we will educate America’s leaders on liberty, work with them to advance liberty, thank them when they advance liberty, and hold them accountable when they don’t.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.