OPINION: Will politicians call out noxious statements? Nah

If it’s aimed at Marjorie Taylor Greene, then it’s a good deed that will be punished

Last Monday, Rev. Andy Stanley urged legislators to be kinder versions of their political selves. Or at least to try to be less malicious.

The popular preacher, whose weekly church attendance rivals that of a Braves game, was at the Georgia Senate for the morning invocation and told that congregation that he was troubled by a scummy political flyer he received at his home.

He asked those plying the political craft to please stop demonizing those on the other side.

“What if we decided, you decided, that we just need to do things differently — not only are we not going to mail out this kind of garbage but we’re going to call each other out and hold each other accountable when we see this happening,” he said.

Turns out that Georgia pols immediately had a chance to put his request into practice.

On Tuesday, the day after the Stanley’s request, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Q-GA, was at it again, tweeting that “any Senator voting to confirm #KJB is pro-pedophile just like she is,” referring to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, since confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. “You are either a Senator that supports child rapists, child pornography, and the most vile child predators.”

Then she took aim at senators Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who committed the atrocity of breaking ranks with their GOP colleagues.

“Murkowski, Collins, and Romney are pro-pedophile. They just voted for #KBJ,” she tweeted.

There’s something about pedophiles and QAnon, the crazy theories Greene once embraced but has sort of backed away from. Sort of.

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A woman waves a Donald Trump and John F. Kennedy Jr. flag along Elm Street at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. The group believes John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in plane crash in 1999, will return and reinstate Donald Trump as president. (Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Credit: TNS

A woman waves a Donald Trump and John F. Kennedy Jr. flag along Elm Street at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. The group believes John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in plane crash in 1999, will return and reinstate Donald Trump as president. (Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Credit: TNS

caption arrowCaption
A woman waves a Donald Trump and John F. Kennedy Jr. flag along Elm Street at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. The group believes John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in plane crash in 1999, will return and reinstate Donald Trump as president. (Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

There was the belief that Dems were abusing kids in the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor. And this year, when Georgia legislators debated (and later passed) a mental health reform bill, there was a contingent of those with a loose grasp of reality calling the bill the “Pedophilia Protection Act.”

For decades, politics has devolved into tossing one stink bomb after another. Accusations like “Commie,” “Criminal coddler,” and “Traitor!” all worked for a while but eventually grew stale. Want to go nuclear? Then call those on the other side the worst thing you can think of. Pedophile works.

And here we are.

I wondered if anyone would take Stanley’s advice and stand up to Greene’s toxic lunacy. And by “lunacy,” I mean her cold, calculating, poisonous methods.

Before I called real, live pols, I surfed the Internet and saw a couple of GOPers have pushed back. One was, surprisingly, Sen. Ted Cruz. I say “surprisingly” because he has taken insult after insult from former President Donald Trump and has smiled sheepishly and asked for more. When questioned about Greene’s latest outrage, he laughed and called her comment “silly.”

Collins, one of the targets of Greene’s venom, called her observations “ludicrous and, sadly, typical of what I expect from her.”

I called David Shafer, a longtime legislator who now heads the Georgia Republican Party. “Why are you trying to drag me into this?” he asked with an exasperated laugh.

I get his reluctance. His job is to get Republicans knocking on doors, not picking fights with each other.

“I agree with the Republican senators who voted against Judge Jackson, and I am persuaded that the judge was light in her sentencing of child pornographers,” he responded in a text. “My approach as state party chairman has been to emphasize my areas of agreement with other Republicans and not my areas of disagreement.”

I was going to call Jody Hice, the Trump-backed Congressman running for Georgia Secretary of State, but looked at his Twitter feed first. “#KBJ is a sympathizer of child sex abusers,” he wrote. I saved the call.

Requests for comment from Republican gubernatorial candidates David Perdue and Gov. Brian Kemp brought the sound of crickets. Even Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who has been standing up to Trumpism and is standing down from his office, did not respond.

State Rep. Wes Cantrell, a Republican, told me that while his colleagues criticize their own for making aberrant comments “all the time, they don’t necessarily do it to a reporter.”

I called Cantrell, who is a reverend, because he asked his buddy, Rev. Stanley, to come to his chamber a few weeks before the Senate visit and also because he is leaving the legislature, which helps loosen up the tongue when it comes to discussing touchy subjects.

“I don’t know one of my colleagues who has anything good to say about (Greene),” he said. “Our party is embarrassed by her. You can’t argue logic with someone who’s not logical.”

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Nathan Deal makes some notes on the original copy of his inauguration speech after speech rehearsal in the governor’s conference room in January 2011. From left are Brian Robinson, director of communications, Chris Riley, Chief of staff, Michael Shaffer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs and Erin Hames, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Deal appointed Hames to the state Board of Regents. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

Nathan Deal makes some notes on the original copy of his inauguration speech after speech rehearsal in the governor’s conference room in January 2011. From left are Brian Robinson, director of communications, Chris Riley, Chief of staff, Michael Shaffer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs and Erin Hames, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Deal appointed Hames to the state Board of Regents. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

caption arrowCaption
Nathan Deal makes some notes on the original copy of his inauguration speech after speech rehearsal in the governor’s conference room in January 2011. From left are Brian Robinson, director of communications, Chris Riley, Chief of staff, Michael Shaffer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs and Erin Hames, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Deal appointed Hames to the state Board of Regents. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

Republican political strategist Brian Robinson was once an acid-tongued spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal. Now, his former rantings would be considered milquetoast. Robinson told me it’s needless, even dangerous, to call out someone like Greene. “You create enemies for no reason without moving the ball,” he said.

He recited the old axiom about not picking unwinnable battles, like fighting with newspapers. “They used to say, ‘Don’t pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel,’ ” he said. “Today, it’s ‘Don’t pick fights with people whose social media accounts dwarf yours.’ ”

Besides, Robinson said, “There’s the feeling that Republicans shouldn’t police Republicans. The media does that. And they don’t do it for the other side.”

Ah, it’s nice to glimpse a bit of the old Brian.

Then he added, “I don’t know how we get out of this nosedive.”

Well, a preacher recently had a suggestion.

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