OPINION | Georgia’s U.S. senators: Profiles in cowardice

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (center) — shown here surrounded by his staff at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta on November 6, 2020 — is under attack from Georgia's U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who've joined President Trump in calling the election results fraudulent. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (center) — shown here surrounded by his staff at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta on November 6, 2020 — is under attack from Georgia's U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who've joined President Trump in calling the election results fraudulent. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler could write the book on being Trump toadies

When I was a kid, the book “Profiles in Courage,” ostensibly written by John F. Kennedy, was required reading.

The book featured eight U.S. senators throughout history — including Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams — and detailed how they demonstrated fortitude by going against the grain because integrity was more important to them than expediency.

Years after Kennedy’s death, speechwriter Ted Sorensen admitted he had ghostwritten most of the book, so the authorship was based on fraud but the messages still largely hold true: “A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.”

I was thinking of that book because we have two senators who’d never warrant their own chapters. Instead, they’d be featured in: Profiles in Toadying. Profiles in Cowardice. Profiles in Rank Political Moves to Save Their Skin.

I’m speaking, of course, about Georgia’s U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

On Monday afternoon, the Dynamic Duo, who are both involved in runoff elections Jan. 5, drove the campaign bus over Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican. The two released a joint statement calling for Raffensperger to resign, saying the “mismanagement and lack of transparency from the Secretary of State is unacceptable” and was an “embarrassment.”

FROM LEFT: U.S. Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia, President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, and Georgia's U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler greet each other in Atlanta during Trump's visit to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at the UPS Hapeville hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on July 15, 2020. (photo: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)
FROM LEFT: U.S. Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia, President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, and Georgia's U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler greet each other in Atlanta during Trump's visit to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at the UPS Hapeville hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on July 15, 2020. (photo: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Now, they didn’t cite any irregularities, fraud or mismanagement. It’s just that the wrong guy — Joe Biden — won a squeaker in Georgia (he was up by 12,500 votes Tuesday out of 5 million cast), and the right guy — Donald Trump — was stalking about the White House, no doubt ready to Twitter-bomb their campaigns if they didn’t grovel and kowtow to his whims.

Within 20 minutes of their statement, Trump tweeted, “Georgia will be a big presidential win, as it was the night of the Election!”

Even though Trump is almost certainly a lame duck, it’s a fact that there’s nothing lame about his tweets. He still has the power of Thor in the GOP, and a caustic tweet headed Loeffler’s or Perdue’s way would be devastating.

Perdue’s campaign says there was no coordination with the president. If you believe that, then they are outstanding mind readers.

ajc.com

I called Cathy Cox, Georgia’s last Democratic secretary of state. (Former Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel, who recently lost a race for Congress, didn’t want to touch this mess with a barge pole.)

Said Cox: “This is so ludicrous I can barely respond. My first reaction is to put up or shut up. It’s so sad that elected officials will do this without evidence. It’s sad the things the people in the Republican Party have to do to appease him. It’s an eat-your-own process without logic.”

Actually, there is logic: It’s eat-your-own or Trump will devour you. Too bad for Old Brad.

“It’s a lack of courage, a lack of independence, a complete lack of leadership and integrity,” said Cox, who is now dean at Mercer University’s law school and also teaches election law. “All I can figure is it’s the Trump strategy of keeping your base enraged until January 5,” Georgia’s runoff.

The balance of the U.S. Senate, national politics and the fate of the free world will be in the hands of Georgia voters. Zillions will be spent on political ads in the runoff, and the names and faces of Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, as well as Perdue and Loeffler, will no doubt one day give us something approaching PTSD.

Democratic Georgia U.S. Senate candidates the Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) and Jon Ossoff (left) participate in a campaign event with rapper Common (right) in Jonesboro, Georgia, on October 27, 2020. (ERIK LESSER / EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Democratic Georgia U.S. Senate candidates the Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) and Jon Ossoff (left) participate in a campaign event with rapper Common (right) in Jonesboro, Georgia, on October 27, 2020. (ERIK LESSER / EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Credit: EPA

Credit: EPA

Election days always bring issues. Counties are in charge of running elections on the precinct level and, in Georgia, there are 159 counties and as many stories of stuff happening. Poll workers oversleep and open precincts late. There are technical glitches. Workers are sometimes badly trained. Someone leaves behind a suitcase of ballots at the end of the day. There’s some double voting. (This year out of 1,000 possible cases of double voting in the primary, 60% were Democrat, 40% Republican.)

The pandemic and huge turnouts made the process even more difficult this year. In the June primary, there were meltdowns at some precincts, like the one by Piedmont Park in Atlanta that saw hourslong, 300-yard lines of voters.

After years of accusations that the secretary of state’s office was in the bag for the GOP and suppressed minority voters, Raffensperger wanted to look competent, lawful and above the fray. Sure, he had to tear into Fulton County election officials because that’s part of the office’s job description. Fulton officials later agreed to almost double their budget for elections.

ExploreOpinion: The Georgia secretary of state who insists that two plus two still equals four

The general election seemed fairly smooth, with a huge increase in early and absentee voting — the latter of which benefited Dems and led to presidential outbursts.

Earlier Monday, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who obviously didn’t get the GOP’s #StoptheSteal memo, told CNN: “We’ve not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet and so we’ll continue to make sure that the opportunity to make sure every legal ballot is counted is there, but you know at this point, we’ve not seen any sort of credible examples.”

After Perdue and Loeffler called for Raffensperger to resign, the secretary of state quickly told the media he was going nowhere. Later, in an interview with the AJC’s Jim Galloway, he referenced reckless, irresponsible comments, saying, “In these times that we live in, I think it’s best to be very mindful of our speech.”

He admitted he’d like to see Trump in the lead. “But not enough folks turned out, and that’s where we are right now. But we’re going to make sure that we follow through the process, that we’re going to count every legal ballot, and the results will be the results. I’m a constitutional conservative. I follow the law.”

Speaking of the law, veteran election lawyer Lee Parks has been declining offers to join with Team Trump in the effort to overturn Biden’s lead.

He said overturning a lead of 12,500 votes would be extremely difficult. “Is there a systematic effort?” he asked. “If you say, ‘We found two dead people voting,’ well, take them out. Does it change the outcome?”

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold signs during a demonstration on Nov. 5, 2020, outside the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where Fulton County has a vote-counting operation. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold signs during a demonstration on Nov. 5, 2020, outside the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where Fulton County has a vote-counting operation. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

With this election, it would involve overturning three states — Georgia, Arizona (where Biden led by 14,500 votes Tuesday evening) and Pennsylvania (which was called for Biden, and which he led by 46,000 votes). Parks said people often talk about the courts deciding the 2000 presidential election. But in that case, he said, it was one state: Florida, 500-something votes and hanging chads.

“The amount of evidence you’d need here to overturn a national election is impossible,” he said. “They’ll not succeed. They’ll just succeed in prolonging it.”

Loeffler and Perdue just want to prolong any Trump tantrum until the day after the runoff.

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