U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Marietta) heaped more praise on Perimeter cities than on his own party’s presidential nominee during a wide-ranging speech and press conference with the Perimeter Business Alliance Aug. 12.
Isakson lauded Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal as “your biggest advocate” and hailed Sandy Springs’ “renaissance.” But the senator would not say whether he will vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose many controversial statements and behaviors have caused some in the party to abandon him.
“A lot of things can happen” and there is still time to make a decision on whom to vote for, Isakson said. Regarding Trump’s recent comment about Second Amendment advocates stopping Democrat Hillary Clinton—a remark widely interpreted as an assassination joke—Isakson said, “I would never have made that statement.”
On paper, Isakson attended the event, held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel in Sandy Springs, to talk about federal funding of such area road projects as the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction. In reality, it was more like a campaign event as Isakson heads into a November ballot showdown with Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley.
In a press conference afterward, Isakson briefly addressed his Parkison’s disease, a diagnosis he revealed last year, saying, “My health is good. I feel good.”
In the press conference, Isakson repeatedly avoided direct comments about Trump, saying he would only comment on his own campaign. However, he said nothing positive about the nominee and criticized the content of some of Trump’s controversial statements.
“My job…is not to be an editorial cartoonist or editorial commenter on another race,” Isakson said, adding that anyone who says something “wrong” or “off-color” should be asked about it directly.
Trump has feuded in the media with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a U.S. Army soldier killed in the Iraq War, since Khizr Khan spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Isakson declined to comment directly about that situation, but said that with any such “Gold Star” parents of troops killed in the line of duty, “there’s no justification that I know of for them being an issue, period,” except to thank them.
Isakson cited connections to every Perimeter Center city, noting he grew up on Buckhead’s Piedmont Road, lived in Brookhaven for a decade, and helped clear brush for surveying the route of I-285 in woods that are now Dunwoody’s Georgetown and Sandy Springs’ Concourse Center.
“I killed more snakes on this property than anybody you’ve ever seen,” the senator said. “The only good snake’s a dead snake, as far as I’m concerned.”
Isakson long had the family’s real estate business office in Sandy Springs, and he praised the city’s new developments, such as its City Springs civic center.
“Sandy Springs was the epitome of strip zoning and poor planning and ugly [development],” he said. “It was urban sprawl at its worst. Now it’s probably the finest renaissance that I’ve ever seen…Sandy Springs is a living proof that anything can happen if people want to work together.”
Transportation and transit
The senator praised the work of the Perimeter Center Improvement Districts on kick-starting the 285/400 project, which is among the tactics underway to handle the area’s ever-increasing traffic. But he also recalled the business-minded advice he once got from the father of Atlanta developer Charlie Brown: “Son, remember this: Don’t ever complain about traffic…If you don’t have traffic, you ain’t got nothin’.”
MARTA CEO Keith Parker was among the officials in attendance, and Isakson praised him during the press conference. The senator said that more mass transit is needed and he believes North Fulton voters are ready to back a MARTA Red Line train extension.
“You can’t pave enough lanes to solve a problem,” and the “perfect combination” is a mix of roads and transit, he said. “Mass transit is a part of the puzzle. It’s not the end-all solution, but it’s certainly a part of the solution.”
Isakson touched on a wide range of national policy issues, including his proposed reforms of the Veterans Affairs department in the wake of scandals about veterans unable to get treatment quickly or at all. He said the problems are not as bad as reported, but acknowledged, “Yes, there have been suicides that could have been avoided,” among other problems. His reforms include the ability to fire VA officials for cause if they were incompetent.
The senator said he cannot confirm the findings of a recent Congressional panel’s report that intelligence officials doctored reports about the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But he returned to his frequently voiced opinion that the U.S. should lead an international coalition in a full-scale war against ISIS. “It’s time we started killing every single one of them,” he said to applause.
Isakson said the “single biggest problem in America” is “over-regulating the economy.” He also said he wishes regular people had more influence in federal policy-making.
“I get tired, quite frankly, with talk-show hosts…driving the whole agenda,” he said.