If you were watching President Obama's love-in with his lap dogs in the national media - generally called a news conference - our glib president strayed off his health care message long enough to observe that the Cambridge, Mass., police "acted stupidly" in arresting black Harvard scholar Henry Lewis Gates, who was caught trying to break into his own home. (If this guy is smart enough to be a Harvard professor, how come he isn't smart enough to remember to carry his house keys with him?)
Obama had no facts on which to base his ill-timed remark. Had he checked he would have found out that Gates, head of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, an organization not to be confused with the Roy Acuff Institute of Southern Banjo Music and Roadside Fireworks, was arrested for being uncooperative with the police and the whole matter was observed by a black officer on hand during the furor.
It was a cheap shot directed at hard-working and underpaid police officers around the nation. Having ridden with a number of police departments in our state, I can tell you their job is much more critical to our well-being than anything coming out of Harvard.
After discovering that playing the race card backfired - where is Joseph Lowery when you need him? - Obama now says he says he should have "calibrated those words differently." Had he asked, I could have told the president from personal experience that poor calibration can lead to all kinds of problems.
I recently went out of my way to find someone to say something nice about Gov. Sonny Perdue's administration and reported those comments on these pages. That effort got me a huffy note from the governor's press secretary, Bert Brantley, who has barely acknowledged my existence in the past. Brantley said I was "obsessed way more than anyone else" about Perdue's "Go Fish, Georgia" program. A "thank you" for doing his job for him would have sufficed. But I don't hold this against a guy who sees nothing wrong with his boss giving an elephant a physical. Just like Barack Obama, maybe I didn't calibrate my words well. So let me try again.
I think "Go Fish, Georgia" is about as relevant as a wart on a rhinoceros' rump. I believe it will be a marginal economical development program at best. Given that Alabama and Florida have effectively rolled us for all the water in Lake Lanier, I think the governor should have been focused on the water, not the fish. I think also that making teachers take a three-day furlough to help offset the budget deficit while still funding "Go Fish, Georgia" is just short of immoral and tells you where the governor's interests lie.
Granted, the program isn't all that much money, but to can it would send a positive signal to school teachers that they matter as much as largemouth bass during these dark financial days.
I agree with The Savannah Morning News which recently opined, "Teacher furloughs would save about $99 million. However, it means dumbing down schools. Mr. Perdue should get lawmakers back to Atlanta. In a special session, the General Assembly could restore those funds to education in one simple move: Enacting a cigarette tax increase of $1 a pack. While Georgia's cigarette tax is currently 37 cents per pack, the national average is about $1.25. A tobacco tax increase would bring in an additional $400 million in revenues."
Sounds simple enough, but why would the governor and members of the General
Assembly want to take on such heavy lifting when they have public school teachers to bleed dry?
Barack Obama may wish to choose his words differently in the future, but don't look for much change here. When it comes to Georgia's public schools and Sonny Perdue's schools of fish, I have just begun to calibrate.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com, P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139, or Web site: www.dickyarbrough.com.