Bookman: Sneering TV ads painting Collins as Pelosi ally beyond dumb

Our columnist Jay Bookman says he doesn't have a preference between U.S. Sen Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep, Doug Collins, who are running to fill the remaining term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson,. But ads supporting the new senator that suggest Collins as in cahoots with U.S. House liberals are absurd. Official congressional photos.

Personally, I have no rooting interest in the Senate battle between Republicans Doug Collins and Kelly Loeffler, because the outcome simply does not matter. One candidate is male; the other is female. One has long, flowing hair; the other has a crewcut. But in pragmatic political terms, the differences between them stop right there, and it doesn’t matter which of the two survives.

In a party that has become an ideological monoculture, like a vast field of hybrid corn with identical DNA, both candidates have made it clear that they will not deviate an iota from whatever they are instructed by Donald Trump to espouse on any given day. Independence and integrity, once considered virtues in a politician, have now become baggage to be tossed aside as flamboyantly as possible.

In fact, as an outsider, it’s been interesting to watch how Republicans themselves try to establish some differences between the two. Take, for instance, the TV ads being run here in Georgia by the D.C.-based Club for Growth on Loeffler’s behalf. They are a remarkable example of the debasement of our public discourse and of the low regard for voters’ intelligence of those attempting to steer that discourse.

For example, the ad titled “Song and Dance” is a 30-second barrage of disrespectful insults to the intelligence of Georgia voters, more specifically to Georgia Republican voters. Using a juxtaposition of photographs and a sneering announcer, it attempts to convince the TV viewer that the highly conservative Collins has somehow allied himself with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the two Democrats that Republicans most love to hate.

That’s just out-and-out dumb. Nobody who has paid the slightest bit of attention to politics can buy a linkage between Collins and Pelosi, but the Club for Growth is nonetheless paying millions of donor dollars to broadcast ads that try to get voters to believe it. Apparently they’re doing it because they believe it works, which says a lot about how they see the Georgia electorate.

In an effort to add credibility to its claim that Collins has gone liberal, in violation of Republican orthodoxy, the ad also accuses him of having voted to raise the debt ceiling. That’s true, Collins did. But other things are also true.

It’s true that eight other Republican House members from Georgia Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson, Tom Graves, Karen Handel, Barry Loudermilk, Austin Scott and Rob Woodall joined Collins in voting for that 2018 debt-ceiling bill. So did Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Johnny Isakson, the man whom Collins and Loeffler are fighting to replace. By the logic of the Club for Growth – and who am I to argue? – almost the entire GOP congressional delegation from Georgia are “Swamp Creatures” who need to be replaced.

In fact, on Feb. 9, 2018, after that legislation to raise the debt ceiling was passed by a Republican House and Republican Senate, it was signed into law by President Trump. As he later put it, “I can’t imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge.” What the club depicts as Republican heresy is actually Collins in full homage mode to Trump.

It’s also worth noting that in the 2016 primary season, the Club for Growth was one of Trump’s more vicious critics, running ads proclaiming that there’s “nothing conservative about Donald Trump” and attacking him as “the worst kind of politician.” In late October of 2016, just days before the general election against Hillary Clinton, Club for Growth President David McIntosh was still defending his group’s opposition to Trump, describing it as “a good call.”

“Knowing what we know today confirms the problems we saw early on with a Trump nomination,” McIntosh bragged in a TV interview.

Since then, of course, McIntosh and his operation have fallen meekly into line. They have become enforcers of what they once virulently opposed, because that’s how they keep the donor dollars flowing. They are The Swamp that they accuse Collins of swimming in, and they think that Georgia voters are too stupid to notice. They may even be right.

Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.