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Interview with Charlie Harman, January 8, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:08 - Early life and introduction to politics

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Partial Transcript: I wonder if we could begin just by telling us a little bit about your childhood and upbringing.

Segment Synopsis: Harman recalls growing up in Atlanta during the 1950s and 1960s, emphasizing the political events that shaped his views. Harman talks about developing an interest in politics while studying at the University of Georgia and also interning in Senator Richard B. Russell's office.

Keywords: 1952 presidential election; 1956 presidential election; 1966 Atlanta race riot; 4-H; Adlai Stevenson; Atlanta airport; Billy Payne; Buckhead, Georgia; Buddy Darden; Charles Campbell; Dwight Eisenhower; Earl Leonard; Ivan Allen Jr.; Johnny Isakson; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Republican Party; William B. Hartsfield; Zell Miller Institute; county unit system; school desegregation

00:09:14 - Interning for Richard B. Russell

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so you were actually up in Washington during the 1970 gubernatorial campaign and everything.

Segment Synopsis: Harman describes what his six-week stint as an intern for Senator Richard B. Russell's Washington office was like, particularly how it inflamed his passion for politics. Harman notes that the networking opportunities the internship presented him were likely what landed him a future job with Sam Nunn.

Keywords: 1972 senate election; Congressional Baseball Game; Fletcher Thompson; Hubert Humphrey; Richard Nixon; Senate Armed Services Committee; Walter Mondale; casework

00:17:19 - Early involvement with Sam Nunn

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Partial Transcript: You said were impressed with Nunn and you mentioned the primary.

Segment Synopsis: Harman explains why he supported Sam Nunn in the 1972 Democratic primary over the other candidates and why he retained that loyalty in Nunn's general election race against Fletcher Thompson. Harman then details his early involvement on Nunn's campaign staff in 1978, after which he joined Nunn's senate staff in 1980.

Keywords: 1984 election; David Gambrell; Ernest Vandiver; Henry Turner; Herman Talmadge; Jimmy Carter; Joe Brannon; John W. Stokes; Panama Canal; Richard Ray; campaign ads; casework; field reprentative; fundraising; midterm elections; national security

00:27:29 - Senator Nunn's Chief of Staff

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Partial Transcript: So you become chief of staff in 1987.

Segment Synopsis: Harman talks about his role as Nunn's chief of staff and what Nunn accomplished during his tenure as a senator. Harman then discusses what Nunn has done since leaving the Senate in 1996, particularly in the realm of nuclear arms reduction.

Keywords: 1980 senate race; 1988 Democratic National Convention; The Best President the Nation Never Had; Armed Services Committee; Bob Redding; Bobby Kahn; Charlie Hatcher; Ed Naggy; George Mitchell; Herman Talmadge; Julie Abbott; Leadership Council; Mack Mattingly; Norman Underwood; Nuclear Threat Initiative; Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation; Roland McElroy; Strom Thurmond; Wyche Fowler; administrative assistant; agriculture; constituent service; economic policy; press secretary

00:38:50 - Bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate

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Partial Transcript: This may be a question that's probably better posed to the senator, but were there any concerns about the institution changing?

Segment Synopsis: Harman remembers the efforts for bipartisan legislation in the Senate when he served under Sam Nunn and Saxby Chambliss. Harman then laments the loss of bipartisanship he sees in the current U.S. Senate, with newer senators being more polarized and moderate incumbents, such as Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), retiring.

Keywords: 2008 presidential race; Armed Services Committee; Barry Goldwater; Bill Clinton; Bobby Kahn; Gang of Eight; Goldwater-Nichols Act; Gulf War; Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner; John Warner; Lisa Murkowski; Norman Schwarzkopf; Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction; Paul Coverdell; Susan Collins; Wyche Fowler; deficit spending

00:47:09 - Georgia Chamber of Commerce

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Partial Transcript: So what drew you back to Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Harman summarizes his time between leaving as Nunn's chief of staff in 1992 and returning as Saxby Chambliss's chief of staff in 2006, in which he worked as the president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the head of the Government Affairs Division of Blue Cross Blue Shield. Harman comments on the political shifts of the Georgia business community from Democrat to Republican during that time.

Keywords: 1990 gubernatorial race; 2002 election; Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Coca-Cola; Delta Airlines; George H.W. Bush; George Israel; Georgia Power; Guy Millner; Johnny Isakson; Lindsay Thomas; Paul Coverdell; Ronald Reagan; Sam Nunn; Sonny Perdue; Zell Miller; health insurance

00:54:16 - Political issues of the Chamber of Commerce

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Partial Transcript: So walk me through those major issues, some of those public affairs issues.

Segment Synopsis: Harman lists the political issues that concerned the Georgia Chamber of Commerce while he was the organization's president, including changing the state flag and the campaign for establishing the HOPE scholarship for higher education. He emphasizes the organization's belief that efficient transportation was an economic necessity for Atlanta.

Keywords: 1996 Olympic Games; Bob Irvin; David Ralston; Del Dunn; Fletcher Thompson; Georgia Lottery; Georgia World Congress Center; Gwinnett County; Interstate Highway System; Johnny Isakson; Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; Phil Landrum; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; commuter rail; party leadership

01:04:58 - Zell Miller's senate service

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Partial Transcript: Before--I want to talk about your assessment of 2002, but very briefly in that '96, 2006, was Senator Coverdell's sudden death.

Segment Synopsis: Harman recalls his brief stint as Zell Miller's transitional chief of staff, gaining the position when Miller himself was appointed after Paul Coverdell's death in office. He reflects on Miller's four years in office, praising Miller for his willingness to cross the party aisle.

Keywords: A National Party No More; Bush tax cuts; Keith Mason; Mark Cohen; Phil Gramm; Steve Wrigley; national Democratic Party

01:10:29 - Working as Saxby Chambliss's chief of staff

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Partial Transcript: You finally went full-time back to Washington--actually, 2002.

Segment Synopsis: Harman comments on the 2002 elections in Georgia, saying he did not believe Republicans would break through statewide that year. Harman then elaborates that he decided to work for Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss because he saw Chambliss as one of the few senators willing to work across the party aisle.

Keywords: David Perdue; Donald Trump; Johnny Isakson; Nathan Deal; Paul Coverdell; Roy Barnes; Rusty Paul; Sam Nunn; Saxby Chambliss; Senate Agriculture Committee; Senate Armed Services Committee; Senate Intelligence Committee; Sonny Perdue; Zell Miller; national debt

01:19:59 - Republican governance of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: We are now in a period of Republican dominance.

Segment Synopsis: Harman observes that the Georgia Republicans mainly came to power as a suburban and exurban party and as such, has largely excluded rural voters. He criticizes Georgia Republicans for focusing too much on social issues and lower taxes and not helping people outside their voter base.

Keywords: Gilmer County, Georgia; Nathan Deal; Pierre Howard; Religious Freedom Restoration Act; Sonny Perdue; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; balanced budget; campus carry; geographic differences; healthcare; rural hospitals; sales tax; two-party competition

01:27:15 - Democratic Party of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: That gets me to the question: why do you think Georgia Democrats were able to hold on to power so long in Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Harman explains that the economic growth and leadership Democratic leaders brought to Georgia is what enabled them to stay in power longer than Democrats in other Southern states. He then details what he believes is inhibiting the party from returning to power, namely racial and ideological divisions within the Democratic Party, most apparent in its primary races.

Keywords: Atlanta Braves; Atlanta Falcons; Atlanta, Georgia; Carl Sanders; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival; George Busbee; Georgia World Congress Center; HOPE Scholarship; Hartsfield-Jackson Airport; Herman Talmadge; Jason Carter; Joe Frank Harris; John Barrow; Michelle Nunn; Pierre Howard; Religious Freedom Restoration Act; Richard Russell; Sam Nunn; Stacey Abrams; Stacey Evans; Zell Miller; business community; campus carry; demographic changes; education; national Democratic Party; social issues

01:40:28 - Effects of Donald Trump in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: We've already mentioned President Trump but going back to the issue of "does political philosophy matter anymore", what do you think the effect of a Trump presidency--

Segment Synopsis: Harman considers the reasons why rural white voters--and even white voters in metro Atlanta--support Donald Trump in such high numbers. He concludes that because of Donald Trump's immense popularity among Georgia Republicans, his presidency will help hold off the tide of demographic changes that otherwise would favor the Democratic Party.

Keywords: 2017 6th congressional district special election; John Kelly; Trump tax cuts; agriculture; business community; economic growth; exurbs; free trade; immigration; judicial nominations; political realignment; working-class white voters

01:46:52 - Effect of Donald Trump around the country

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Partial Transcript: Do you think--you've mentioned that the policies, the political philosophies, may not always align, especially in a state that is as reliant on free trade as Georgia is, with the ports in Savannah and Brunswick.

Segment Synopsis: Harman describes the widespread appeal that Donald Trump has around the nation, particularly in the western states and in rural areas. Harman predicts that, because of this enthusiasm, Donald Trump will win another term 2020 presidential election, despite the Democratic nominee's best efforts.

Keywords: "Rockefeller Republicans"; Colorado; Democratic primary; Georgia Bulldogs; Lisa Murkowski; Mitt Romney; Nevada; Susan Collins; pecans; personality-driven politics; political tribalism; reapportionment; regulations