When U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, engaged in political combat with Democrat Zell Miller years ago, the tenor between the two parties was a lot different.
Isakson came to Warner Robins on Wednesday after attending a memorial for Miller in Atlanta. Isakson was a state senator in Georgia when Miller was lieutenant governor, and Miller presided over the Senate. In 1990, Isakson ran against Miller for governor and lost. He later succeeded Miller in the U.S. Senate when Miller chose not to run for re-election.
"Times were tough then, but they were respectfully tough," Isakson said when asked about the differences between the political climate then and now. "Zell was a respectfully tough lieutenant governor and a respectfully tough United States senator. He got his job done, but he never went below the pale.
"Today in politics it seems like everyone is trying to see who can hit the furthest below the belt to win points."
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He said both parties are equally to blame for the current state of politics.
"It has become very combative, very media driven, very professionally managed by people who make a career of telling you what to say and when to say it instead of really sitting down and negotiating with other people across the table," he said. "It’s not what it used to be, but it's still the best system on the face of this Earth."
Isakson touted the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill approved March 23, which included $405 million toward buying new planes for the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or J-STARS, at Robins Air Force Base. The money had already been scheduled for this year as a part of the $7 billion plan to buy new planes for J-STARS, but it was still notable because the Air Force has been trying to stop the plan.
It could still be that the Air Force succeeds in ending J-STARS, but Isakson said the money in the budget is significant in that it at least keeps J-STARS recapitalization alive for now.
"It was a big step forward to get the $405 million," he said.
J-STARS, which accounts for about 3,000 jobs at Robins, including part-time guardsmen, is scheduled to fly into the mid-2020s even if the Air Force does not buy new planes.