Dear Governor Deal:
I'm sorry I haven't written you before now. I don't want you to think that I am not interested in your progress.
My observation is that you seem to be doing well early in your first term. I have heard many nice things about you. Our state's most quotable politician, Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Cobb) says he has already had more dialogue with you in the short time you have been in office than he ever did with your predecessor. As you know, Earl says what he means. He was quoted in the paper the other day as saying your candidate for president, Newt Gingrich, was so "yesterday." The man can turn a phrase like a Porsche can turn a corner.
You did a nice job in getting the HOPE Scholarship program repaired. I don't think Zell Miller ever meant for HOPE to be an entitlement, which is exactly what our young people have assumed it to be. You should have to work hard to get the scholarship and work hard to keep it. You and I both got through college without the HOPE and look at us now - you are the governor and I am a modest and much-beloved columnist. Who would have thought?
We both know that there will be rocky days ahead for you. That is the nature of the job and that is where I come in. I have served as the go-to guy for a couple of your predecessors and I think they will tell you that my advice was - well - unique.
For example, Roy Barnes asked me if I thought he would have any trouble getting re-elected for a second term. I advised him that he was a shoo-in. In the first place, no Democratic governor in the state's history had ever lost to a Republican. His opponent, Republican George E. Perdue, was an unknown. Then there was Barnes' enormous public approval for having changed the state flag to something that looked like a pair of cheap golf slacks. To top it off, his campaign was being managed by the brilliant tactician Bobby Kahn, his top aide. What could go wrong?
Look at Roy Barnes now. He has a thriving law practice in Cobb County. He is making a lot of money and is even raising cows. I am not sure that would have happened without my advice and Kahn's political skill.
When George E. Perdue came into office, he immediately sought me out. Nobody knew who he was and he needed an exciting initiative by which he would forever be remembered. I suggested he build some fishponds and encourage people to fish in them. We could call it, "Go Fish, Georgia." He bought the program hook, line and sinker. History has proven the genius of my idea. After all, we have no budget crisis and no traffic jams, illegal immigration issues have been resolved and our mutual friends in the General Assembly have spelled out such a clear vision for public education that it gives me goose bumps. So why not position Georgia in the high-tech, international marketplace of the 21st Century as the epicenter of bass fishing?
I also convinced the governor, a veterinarian by trade, to give an elephant a physical at the Atlanta Zoo. Not even former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would have attempted that. I am told the elephant was flattered until the proctoscopic examination.
I know you will be glad to get the Legislature out of town so you can get some real work done. Frankly, they have about worn me out, too. I don't mean to brag, but I serve as their go-to guy on public education issues. Those folks at the Gold Dome seem to appreciate and welcome my strong opinions on the subject. Which reminds me - if you happen to run across Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) at the Capitol, you need to know he is in a funk because his voucher bill tanked this session. Rogers vows the voucher bill will be back next year. Please tell him that I will be, too. That ought to make his day.
Again, congratulations on getting this far in your term without the media stirring up some big controversy. Just remember that I am only a phone call away and stirring up big controversies is my specialty. Just don't ask me to set up another physical with that elephant. He is pretty sore these days in more ways than one.
Reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.