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When Barnes needs a little help 

He gets WSB-TV to do his dirty work

Page 2 of 3

Unfortunately for WSB, that's so much baloney, and the station knew it at the time, I'm sure. The communications act is unambiguous when it commands: A station "shall have no power of censorship over the material" from a political candidate. Let's repeat for the Cox folks: no power of censorship. Even for Cox (sorry, guys).

Ominously, Stone hinted other stations would have "substantial liability" if they didn't do Cox's bidding. Talk about being ham-fisted.

Well, what's a candidate to do? On Halloween, Perdue unleashed his legal goblins and filed a lawsuit in federal court. His field marshals, led by state GOP boss Ralph Reed, called a press conference on the steps of the Capitol. This as it turned out was pretty rich theater.

First, WSB's Bill Nigut, normally a worthy pundit, couldn't decide if he was there as a reporter or as a defender of his station's shilling for Barnes. With a perplexed expression and stumbling words, he asked Perdue's mouthpieces: "How important is this ad?"

Perdue lawyer Bruce Bowers in turn was perplexed at Nigut's query. With explaining-to-a-child tones, Bowers responded: "A blockbuster."

The denouement came a few hours later. Stone told me that "based on guidelines from the [Federal Communications Commission], we will run the ad."

Here's the mystery. WSB, Stone and anyone else with a brain at Cox knew the attempted censorship was illegal and the copyright claim was bogus. Perdue was going to run the ad sooner or later. So why engage in a fit of self-embarrassment?

The answer is in the phrase "sooner or later." My spin on what happened -- based on my own shrewd deduction and some comments from friends at WSB and the AJC -- was that the little comedy was even more sinister than it appears.

While Cox knew it couldn't succeed in protecting Barnes from his own words, it could delay Perdue running his spot. That gave Barnes time to produce his own rebuttal advertisement that says Perdue will "do or say anything to get elected." Barnes had his spot at the state's TV stations by the time WSB feigned noble defeat and let Perdue's commercial get on the air.

I'm sure Barnes will reward Cox for this little bit of exceptional, unorthodox and highly unethical aid. The cash register at WSB is still ringing from all of the governor's advertising.

As I write this, I don't know if the GOP will succeed in breaking the Democrat's monopoly on the governor's office and the Georgia Assembly. That war cry has been the damn-near-every-column message from the AJC's ultra-right columnist Jim Wooten.

Several months ago, I was having lunch at a downtown eatery, Sylvia's, when Wooten and Saxby Chambliss sat at a table next to me. I thought about offering a "hello," but I got caught up in the Wooten-Chambliss dialogue. Hey, these are public people in a public space. No apologies for eavesdropping.

The repartee wasn't a reporter or editorialist interviewing a candidate. Rather, it was a campaign strategy meeting.

I was reminded of this last week at a pair of press conferences called by the GOP on the Capitol steps. State Republican Chairman Ralph Reed was the star, flanked by the party's lawyers and flacks. When Wooten arrived, it was a love fest. The Republican honchos couldn't stroke the columnist enough.

All of that wouldn't be so bad if there was a hint of intellectual honesty to Wooten's claim that the Democrats unfairly maintain their grip on state politics. The Dems do what political animals do. Republicans would do just the same if they had a chance.

What's wrong with Wooten's argument is that the GOP is its own worst enemy. For the most part, the Republicans refuse to field candidates who have the slightest whiff of credibility.

Sonny Perdue was one exception. Steve Stancil possibly another. Even with those guys, we're not talking "outstanding," merely "OK."

But Chambliss? An extremist who when he thinks the press isn't around doesn't mind cracking a racist joke. An intellectual dwarf. Any Republican running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia starts with about 40 percent of the vote. Whatever else Chambliss got was due to the use of extortion, fears and deceit by the Bush administration to get Republicans elected.

And the rest of the statewide offices? Give us (meaning Georgians) a break. The GOP roster for the statewide posts wouldn't even have been a good slate for a neighborhood association board.

I agree that we need to break the Democrats' lock on the state. But the GOP isn't the vehicle to do that.

Disclaimer: The Coxopoly includes a 25 percent stake in CL's parent company. Senior-Editor-slash-congressional-candidate John Sugg is still refusing to concede Tuesday's election to the ultra-right Republican dentist in the race. Sugg can be reached at john.sugg@suggforcongress.com or at 404-614-1241.

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