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First off, I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you have today off as well, I hope you are enjoying it.

So one of the top stories today on Daily Kos is Senator Saxby Chambliss (R. GA) breaking his pledge to Grover Norquist and agreeing to raising taxes.  Chambliss has also signaled that he will vote for immigration reform.  Sure, this sounds fine and dandy and for any other Republican, I would applaud him for doing the right thing and not caving to Tea Party pressure.  But there's one problem: I hate Saxby Chambliss.  I really do.  He has always been my top GOP Senator who I just absolutely loath.  Of course I can't stand him for all the reasons you probably do but I will always hate him for running the dirtiest campaign in Senatorial history against this guy:

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George W. Bush (R) is the President.  It's a little under a year since 9/11 happened and the nation is still in panic mode.  It's also getting close to the 2002 midterm elections.  At that pint, the Senate was tied, 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats with Vice President Dick Cheney (R) as the tie breaker.  Control of the Senate was in the balance and rested on the shoulders of a few Senate races.  One of those races happened to be the U.S. Senate race in Georgia between incumbent U.S. Senator, triple amputee and war hero, Max Cleland (D) and Congressman Saxby Chambliss (R).  

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Cleland was considered a moderate Democrat from Georgia.  Fiscally conservative but socially liberal.  Cleland was a Democrat who was willing to cross party lines to work with both sides on legislative issues and was willing to work with President Bush in the War On Terror.  But Cleland didn't always see eye to eye with all of Bush and the Republicans plans to battle terrorism.

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Chambliss was also George W. Bush's top candidate during the 2002 midterm elections:

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Bush repaid Chambliss for his support. The president made campaign visits to Georgia three times, most recently on Saturday. Chambliss credited the weekend trip to helping to win over late undecided voters. - USA Today, 11/6/02

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At the time of the 2002 election, Democrats were told not to make war with Iraq an issue:

The chairs of the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, Rep. Nita Lowey and Sen. Patty Murray, say their issues -- prescription drugs, patients' bill of rights, schools and jobs -- will prevail in November. Both have found on recent tours that Democrats are talking more about Social Security than about homeland security.

They advise candidates to do what they are already doing: getting close to Bush on the war on terror and protecting the country. House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt is going the distance. He has endorsed the invasion of Iraq and is pushing for passage of a homeland security bill by 9/11. Bush himself would be satisfied with the first of the year.

Questioning the president on anything -- on early knowledge of the attacks, exclusion of the FBI and CIA from the homeland security complex -- is considered risky business for Democrats. Said Sen. Bob Graham of Florida on "Face the Nation": "If the administration takes a stonewall position, and every word in their plan is biblical, and if you change it, you are unpatriotic." - Washington Post, 6/20/12

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Cleland understood his seat was at risk if he voted against the Iraq Resolution.  Here's an excerpt from the book, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq:

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So how did a triple amputee and Vietnam war veteran lose to a chicken hawk like Chambliss?  Cue the infamous ad:

Pretty disgusting stuff, right?  Juxtaposing a Vietnam veteran who lost both his legs and arm to a picture of Osama Bin Laden.  What's even worse was the ad worked and Chambliss would go on to win Cleland's seat and give the Republicans the majority in the Senate.  Now here's a little background info about what Cleland was voting against:

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The victory follows a heated campaign characterized by ugly campaign ads during the race's final weeks. One Chambliss ad, according to the Journal-Constitution, attempted to portray Cleland's procedural votes on setting up the proposed Department of Homeland Security as opposition to the president's efforts to defend the homeland.

Chambliss backed a version of the homeland security legislation that would set aside employee union rules to allow President Bush to hire and fire federal workers in the new department. Cleland supported a version more favorable to those unions, which contributed heavily to his campaign, the Journal-Constitution reported. - PBS News, 11/6/12

The ad also received a lot of media attention and outrage from even other Republicans and conservatives:

Shades of Lee Atwater, the fabled Republican cutthroat politico who helped pilot the first President Bush to victory. But even Atwater might have hesitated before going after a man who lost both legs and an arm in the service of his country. Chambliss did not participate in Vietnam. He had a bad knee, he told columnist Mark Shields, who was the first to call national attention to Cleland's bizarre situation -- veterans whose war wounds confine them to wheelchairs are often given a pass on patriotism, especially by those who never wore the uniform.

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But Chambliss was not deterred. On May 16 he issued a press release about Cleland's insufficient contribution to the defense of his country: Cleland had voted for an amendment to the Chemical Weapons Treaty that eliminated a ban on citizens of terrorist nations being on U.N. inspection teams in Iraq. It was a majority vote, 56 to 44, and among those in support were Sen. Bill Frist, the stately chairman of the Senate Republican campaign committee who handpicked candidate Chambliss. - Washington Post, 6/20/12
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, the Chambliss ad was immediately condemned, as the Post reported, by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona (who said of the ad, "[I]t's worse than disgraceful, it's reprehensible") and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (who threatened to run an ad denouncing Republican officials if they didn't pull it off the air). - Media Matters For America, 7/30/12
Even crazy conservative Democrat Zell Miller, who went on to support George W. Bush in 2004, condemned the ad and the Chambliss campaign:  

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"It's disgraceful for anybody to question Max Cleland's commitment to our national security," Senator Zell Miller (D. GA) said. Pointing to Cleland's record in the Vietnam War, during which he lost both legs and an arm, Miller said "Max Cleland is my hero," and his "opponent should be ashamed." - PBS News, 11/6/12

Senator McCain, who had been swift boated himself in the 2000 South Carolina Republican Primary by Karl Rove, found the ad incredibly disgraceful:

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I’d never seen anything like that ad. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield — it’s worse than disgraceful. It’s reprehensible. - Think Progress, 11/12/08

But that didn't stop them from campaigning for Chambliss' re-election campaign in 2008:

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In 2004, then-Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (GA) threw his support behind President Bush with an over-the-top speech attacking Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) at the Republican National Convention. Earlier this week, Miller continued his assault on liberalism while campaigning for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). “Saxby could well be the last man standing between a far-left liberal agenda sailing through the United States Senate,” said Miller. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a web-only ad yesterday featuring Miller’s comments. - Think Progress, 11/16/08

Unfortunately, the NRSC has made that video private and it's no longer available to view but Think Progress pointed out that while Miller was still in the Senate, this is what Miller had to say about requiring a 60 member cloture vote:
Though Miller is now stoking fears of a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, the Atlanta Constitution Journal notes that “as a senator, when Republicans controlled the chamber, Miller declared reliance on a 60-member cloture vote in the Senate, needed to shut off debate, to be undemocratic.” - Think Progress, 11/16/08
And here's McCain campaigning for his buddy Chambliss in 2008:

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The former GOP presidential nominee will stump for fellow Republican senator Saxby Chambliss today in Georgia.

The freshman senator most likely faces a run-off election December 2 against Democrat Jim Martin, a former state lawmaker.

At the start of the campaign, Chambliss was the heavy favorite in the race. But the contest tightened, and neither candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day, thanks in part to a third-party candidate who won 3 percent of the vote. The race appears headed to a runoff between Chambliss and Martin. - CNN, 11/13/08

It's not the first time McCain campaigned for a guy who smeared a decorated veteran's record.  Remember this from 2004?

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But what's worst is that Chambliss and the right still defend that attack ad:

Chambliss not only defended the ad, calling it a “lightweight ad” and “very fair,” but he also suggested that he would do it again:

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    CHAMBLISS: You know, that ad is a myth that just hangs around. If people had seen the ads that were run against me by my then opponent, they would think that is a lightweight ad. But, you know, politics is a contact sport. [...] We get down and we’re going to do it again. [...] [T]hat ad was very fair. - Think Progress, 11/12/08

So yeah, he's still an asshole.

Now Max Cleland was certainly not the most progressive Democrat in the U.S. Senate.  In fact, he voted in favor of the Bush tax cuts.  So I can't defend Cleland's Senate voting record completely.  But questioning Cleland's patriotism is just down right wrong and distasteful.  Any one with a functioning brain knows that Cleland is a true hero and loves his country.  He lost an arm and both his legs in battle for God's sake.  So it still baffles me how the people of Georgia could fall for Cmabliss' fear mongering and vote out a decorated war hero.  With Chambliss' win, it helped assure Karl Rove and the GOP that attacking decorated veterans like Cleland and 2004 Presidential candidate, John Kerry (D. MA) are effective ways to win elections.  It also allowed Bush and the Republicans to lead the national argument in defining security.  Flashback to 2004 when the House and Senate were voting over then Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R. IL) bill to reform the U.S. intelligence community:

The Hastert bill also goes in directions the Sept. 11 commission never even pondered, in part because the commission confined itself to enhancing national security. The legislation gives government attorneys the right to disclose grand jury matters in national security-related actions. It enhances the peremptory authority of immigration officers to expel undocumented immigrants (not undocumented immigrants suspected of a crime, mind you, just undocumented immigrants).

And -- a blast from the past -- it gives the president authority to eliminate the collective bargaining rights that some of the federal employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) retained after the 2002 legislation that established the DHS and stripped many, but not all, DHS employees of those rights. We can term this provision "Son of Cleland" after Max Cleland, the Georgia Democratic senator who opposed the 2002 bill because of its gratuitous attack on federal employees, and who lost his seat that fall to Republican Saxby Chambliss, who accused Cleland of threatening America's security. - Washington Post, 9/29/04

The mixture of the attack ad and his deep regret for voting for authorization caused Cleland to become severely depressed:

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after losing his U.S. Senate seat to an opponent who ran post-9/11 TV ads that showed the decorated Vietnam vet alongside Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, Cleland fell into a depression he was afraid he might not pull out of. It was public service, he says, that had given his life shape and meaning after he left three limbs on a battlefield in Khe Sanh. But without that role, the old darkness came back. Along with his job and his bearings, he lost his relationship with his fiancée. "That's emotionally and physically over,'' he told me. "That's gone.'' And for a time, he was once again a patient at Walter Reed, where he'd first been put back together nearly four decades earlier – and was now surrounded by vets from Iraq and Afghanistan: "I cried uncontrollably for 2 ½ years.'' - Politics Daily, 2009

Still feel like giving Chambliss applause for bucking the Tea Party?  I didn't think so.  

As I said before, I'm happy to see some Republicans come to their senses and if this was Susan Collins or Mark Kirk or Lisa Murkowski or even Lindsey Graham or outgoing Senators Scott Brown and Dick Lugar, I would totally applaud them for coming to their senses.  Even though Graham has been a douche bag lately about Benghazi but then again he might just be doing that to avoid being defeated in a primary by whoever the Club For Growth endorses in 2014.  But I just can't do it for Chambliss.  I normally don't hold long grudges against a lot of people.  In fact, politicians like Max Cleland who admit they caved to pressure and gave Bush the authorization to attack Iraq I can forgive.  It's not because Cleland is a Democrat, it's because Cleland since his loss has been doing everything and anything he can to help end the war in Iraq.  Cleland also loudly compared Vietnam to Iraq:

There is no plan B. There is no exit strategy. Military morale declines. The president's popularity sinks and the American people are increasingly frustrated by the cost of blood and treasure poured into a never-ending war.

  Sound familiar? It does to me.

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  The president was Lyndon Johnson. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense was Robert McNamara. The congressional resolution was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The war was the war that I, U.S. Sens. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John McCain and 3 1/2 million other Americans of our generation were caught up in. It was the scene of America's longest war. It was also the locale of the most frustrating outcome of any war this nation has ever fought. - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/18/03

On May 21st, 2009, President Obama made Cleland secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.  Cleland manages 24 cemeteries where some 200,000 American veterans are buried abroad:

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"It's been war for me for the last six or seven years, but Obama won – the public saw that Bush was bullfeathers – and that helps me. Public service is who I am and what I do, so I'm coming back to that.'' - Politics Daily, 2009

Politics can be a brutal sport to watch.  We the people are not strangers to brutal attack ads and Karl Rove opened the door of the electorate's dark side by swift boating McCain in 2000.  But the 2002 Georgia Senate race was the confirmation that low-blow campaigning has become the new normal in electoral politics.

Oh by the way, lets not forget how Chambliss made a huge ass of himself last year regarding fake photos of Osama Bin Laden's death:

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    “Let me make this clear, the photo I saw was shown to me by somebody who represented it as being a picture of him after he was shot. I have no idea where it came from,” Chambliss said.

    Chambliss was asked if he believed he was being shown an authentic photo. He responded, “Well it looked like it was a picture of bin Laden.” - AJC, 5/4/11

Again, it makes me so mad that voters in Georgia replaced Cleland with this moron.

By now, you should be able to understand why I can't forgive Saxby Chambliss.  I know Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins are the two top Republican seats Democrats want to win in 2014 but fate may be handing us a real opportunity in Georgia come 2014 in the form of a Tea Party challenger:

Joshua Miller of Roll Call, the insider’s newspaper of Capitol Hill, frames the race rather nicely in a story posted Monday evening.  In it he calls Chambliss “arguably the senator most exposed to a primary challenge.”  He quotes conservative activists such as the TEA Party Patriots Debbie Dooley as saying Chambliss is “not very popular among conservatives in the grass roots”.  Virginia Galloway was a bit more harsh, stating “sometimes when he sees himself being a statesman, conservatives see him as being a sellout.”

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Those are tough words for a two term Senator who was once the darling of Republicans when he managed to take away a Democratic U.S. Senate seat from former Senator Max Cleland.  Chambliss was virtually anointed by George W. Bush in his first Senate Republican primary and handily defeated longtime Republican activist Bob Irvin as Republican leaders and grassroots fell in line behind the President.  Now, 12 years later, many of those activists appear restless, and are more circumspect than appreciative of the word “seniority”. - Peach Pundit, 11/20/12

Since the 2008 election, conservatives in Georgia have soured on Chambliss.  His vote for the Wall Street bailout failed to help him reach 50% in his election with Democrat Jim Martin.  Chambliss was forced into a runoff and had to beg Republican voters to come back to him.  

gf120581's diary, Horse Head in my Bed: Saxby Chambliss and the GOP Primary Threat, highlights conservative's anger and disappointment with Chambliss.  It's in the Community Spotlight Section and it's an excellent read.

But what gf120581 points out is that we may have Senator Mark Warner (D. VA) to partially thank for Chambliss' loss.  Here's a section from The Maddow Blog that gf120581 points out:

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Why would the right be unsatisfied with Chambliss? For one thing, he's worked for over a year with Sen. Mark Warner, a moderate Virginia Democrat, on a debt-reduction plan that includes modest tax increases. For another, Chambliss seems inclined to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or at least something resembling it.

That, apparently, buys him a one-way ticket to Primary Town, his overall voting record notwithstanding. - The Maddow Blog, 11/21/12

Now here's the part of gf120581 that knocks it out of the ball park and gives me a sense of optimism:
Yep. And it's telling that even after the disaster of Indiana, where getting rid of Dick Lugar practically gift-wrapped the seat and handed it over to Democrat Joe Donnelly, the conservative base is still hellbent on purging anyone who even thinks of cooperating across the aisle. Chambliss is being faced with the same threat as former senators like Bob Bennett, Arlen Specter and the soon-to-be-gone Lugar and current senators like John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Lisa Murkowski received: "Make even one nice gesture to the other side and you're dead meat." - gf120581's diary, Horse Head in my Bed: Saxby Chambliss and the GOP Primary Threat
Ultra-conservative U.S. Congressmen Tom Price, Tom Graves and Paul Broun have been mentioned as possible primary challengers but Chambliss' staff doesn't believe either men will challenge him:

Tom Perdue, Chambliss' chief political strategist, said the senator, who had $1.4 million in the bank at the end of September, was definitely running for re-election. And Perdue didn’t begrudge members floating their names out there but expected none to jump in the race.

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“Those who are talking about running against him today, they have been friends over the years, and their interest is pretty much the same as Saxby’s, but a couple of them tend to lean to the side of the party that talks tough and can’t get things done,” he said. - Roll Call, 11/19/12

But both David Nir and gf120581 mentioned one other possible candidate, who I think will end up being Chambliss' opponent: former secretary of state Karen Handel:

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“She’s considering it,” says Rob Simms, a Republican campaign consultant who worked on Handel’s unsuccessful run for governor in 2010. Kay Godwin, the co-chairman of Georgia Conservatives in Action, says Handel is among those she’s hearing who could successfully challenge Chambliss.
Handel ended up losing the GOP nominee to congressman Nathan Deal.  Handel then went onto become the Vice President of the Susan G. Komen foundation and played a hand in the organization’s decision to cut ties with Planned Parenthood.  The decision was reversed after heavy criticism and led Handel to resign from the organization:
The 50-year-old Handel, who hails from Metro Atlanta, maintains a statewide organization of supporters and contacts, which would be critical for challenging the South Georgia-based Chambliss. And the Komen/Planned Parenthood episode burnished Handel’s pro-life credentials, which had been called into question in the gubernatorial primary. - The Weekly Standard, 11/21/12
The Weekly Standard points out if Price or Handel were to run against Chambliss, the GOP establishment would throw their support behind Chambliss.  Governor Deal fears that Price or Handel could but the Georgia GOP in disarray and could spoil this race:
Deal, the governor, has sour relationships with both Handel and Price. One rumor is that Deal himself engineered a redrawing of Price’s Sixth District to exclude the governor’s mansion in Atlanta. - The Weekly Standard, 11/21/12
I don't believe that the Tea Party is now dead after this past election.  They're a radical and tenacious force that just won't stop.  The teabaggers have  only caused this country to become more divided and they will be the death of the GOP.  The movement will die by their own demise.  There is nothing sweeter than Democrats winning on GOP turf.  We saw that with Joe Donnelly beating Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.  They've also helped us save our more vulnerable Senators like Jon Tester in Montana and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.  How sweet would it be to have the teabaggers throw away a race in a southern state and allow a Democrat to win?  So far I haven't heard a lot of Georgia Democratic candidates names being floated around for this race.  Congressman John Barrow's name has been mentioned but he is a Blue Dog and I think we can do better.  However, Barrow could be in the same position as Joe Donnelly was in Indiana where his district was redrawn and became redder.  A scenario like that might be all the motivation Barrow needs to run but it's still early and we have time to find our ideal candidate.  

Karma is certainly a bitch and it's coming back to give Chambliss a hard kick in the ass come 2014.  Whether he loses the primary or loses the general election, I will be happy to see Chambliss finally go down.  

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Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM PT: Thank you all so much for the great comments!  It really inspires me to keep writing these diaries and there will be more very soon!  Thank you all also for helping me get on the rec list.  The last diary you all helped me get on the rec list was about Senator Mark Begich's (D. AK) plan to strengthen Social Security.  So with both these diaries making the rec list, it is now clear that Mark Begich will be my top incumbent to write the most about and Saxby Chambliss will be my top GOP target in 2014.  My other top GOP target will be Governor Tom Corbett (R. PA).  I will also have diaries about other Senate races too!  Thank you all again and follow me so you'll know when I have a new diary!

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 04:38 PM PST.

Also republished by Kos Georgia.

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