We hosted Sen. Saxby Chambliss on campus today. He’s in an unexpectedly tight race for reelection, running against his fraternity brother. (I should add that Chambliss and his Senate colleague Johnny Isakson attended UGA at the same time and married sorority sisters; Jim Martin, Chambliss’ challenger is two years younger. The Southern equivalents of Skull and Bones are the fraternities and sororities at the flagship state university.)
But back to Sen. Chambliss. He spoke very impressively on energy policy and quite lucidly on our current economic woes, winning over colleagues who aren’t exactly your typical Republican voters. (I won’t swear that they’ll vote for him, but they surely won’t slit their wrists if he wins reelection.) Chambliss has a style that isn’t exactly post-partisan, but his partisanship is subtle and understated, a model for what might work and win in this very bad Republican year.
In response to a question about the partisan climate in Washington, D.C., he made two interesting points, one institutional and one cultural. The institutional one is familiar: generally speaking the Senate is less bitterly partisan than the House (a function of statewide races, often with relatively evenly divided electorates). The other built upon his experience attending a weekly prayer breakfast, for Senators only. When you hold hands and pray with someone, he said, you don’t care whether they’re Republican or Democrat. I think he’s right. I seem to recall that Hillary Clinton has attended those breakfasts. Has Barack Obama? Or has he been too busy running a post-partisan campaign?