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Bill Shipp - While Perdue traveled, Legislature was left to its own devices

What did I tell you, Sonny? "Don't go to China." And what did you do, Sonny? You went to China. OK, so you made history, too.

You must be the first Georgia governor to sympathize with Communist China's policies regarding Tibet, and you even did it on Chinese soil. Your name will undoubtedly be etched on a Great Wall plaque. However, that is not the history I am talking about.

You also must be the first Peach State governor in modern history who dared set foot outside Georgia and the United States during the closing days of the Legislature. I can't believe you did that.

Georgia government gets along just fine without a governor for most of the year, as you have already demonstrated. However, his Excellency's presence ought to be required in Atlanta during any General Assembly session. Georgia needs a guv most at that time.

We must have a single strong sentinel to guard the vaults. One never knows what our lawmakers might do while the Big Mule wanders the globe.

Once upon a time, Georgia elected governors who were more than simply state chief executives. They also were rulers of the General Assembly. The governors picked the speakers of the House, all committee chairs and all committee members. As a result, legislative leaders counted themselves among the governors' best buds. Those governors of old were plenty smart fellows too. They did not venture outside the Capitol or even turn off the sound system while the lawmakers were in session. The governors knew that the solons, without special attention, were not to be trusted, even if they proclaimed themselves as the governor's eternal guardians.

Legend has it that Govs. Ernie Vandiver, Carl Sanders, George Busbee, Zell Miller and Roy Barnes often slept in their offices to guard against nocturnal tricks in the legislative chambers.

Most of those governors publicly counted the Legislature's influential members on their A-lists of cordial acquaintances. Gov. Perdue has no A-list, except perhaps one with his tax lawyer on it. In fact, Sonny may have more enemies in the Georgia House and Senate than any other recent governor.

No sooner had Sonny hopped on Delta for the long flight to the Orient than the lawmakers began to plot against him and against each other.

First, the House approved a long list of tax cuts, responsible and irresponsible, to send to the Senate for a vote. House Speaker Glenn Richardson was certain his pal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, would be only too happy to sort out the good tax cuts from the bad, as well as protect the governor's flank here at home while he tours the Forbidden City.

House members can now go home proudly boasting to be "tax cutter" representatives. The Senate can tell its constituents: "We did the responsible thing. We could not just grant tax cuts willy-nilly as the House did." Which path is likely to work best among tax-hating Georgia voters?

While Sonny examined China's precious antiques, House and Senate leaders huddled to welcome Sonny home and override any veto the governor tries.

Something else happened, too. As soon as Delta's big bird soared, Sonny vanished from The List of possible vice presidential nominees.

While Democrats prepared to finish the dirty work of their primaries, pundits busied themselves compiling short lists of vice presidential nominees for both parties.

Southerners were everywhere, but Sonny's name was nowhere to be found. Barely a month ago, Sonny was mentioned all over Washington as a VP possibility. Now he's vanished, though the VP rolls are replete with Sons, and even a Daughter, of the South:

Republican: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Sonny's gone.

Democrats: Former Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee and former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia. Once again Sonny is absent. It would be difficult to envision Sonny as the running mate for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, though I bet he would accept the position if he were invited.

The more important thing in this political spring is that Georgia has elected a governor who sees nothing wrong with abandoning his post as the Legislature prepares to close, or in the midst of any similar crisis.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, via e-mail at shipp1@bellsouth.net, or via the Web at billshipponline.com.