July 8, 2015

Jody Hice Might Not Be Another Paul Broun After All

City Dope

Photo Credit: Blake Aued

His choice of Bulldog attire was, surprisingly, the most controversial thing about U.S. Rep. Jody Hice's recent speech to the Rotary Club.

“The battle over marriage will determine the future survival of America,” Jody Hice wrote in his 2012 book, It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America.

The overheated rhetoric in Hice’s book and on his talk-radio show led many to believe that we were getting Paul Broun Jr. Jr. when he was elected to represent Georgia’s 10th District (including most of Athens) last year.

It also led me to believe we’d be getting some fire and brimstone from the Rev. Hice when, at the Rotary Club last week, he made what was, to my knowledge, his first speech to an Athens audience since taking office. No such luck. “I’m not going to get too political here today,” he said right off the bat.

Sure, a Rotary Club meeting isn’t really the venue to bait your audience with red meat, but I feel fairly confident that former Rep. Broun would have at least dropped a few Stalin references. (He could never help it, to the point where it stopped being news.) One can only imagine how Broun might have reacted to the marriage equality ruling.

Speaking before a business-heavy crowd, Hice shied away from commenting on that, or the Charleston shooting or the Confederate flag. (And he dodged my efforts to ask him, saying he was in a hurry to get to his next event.) He did offer a couple of vague allusions to the Constitution and being in “the fight of our lives,” but mostly Hice talked about his crackerjack staff, what committees he’s on and how hard it is for a freshman congressman to find his way around D.C. He reassured the audience that he will listen to anyone, Republican or Democrat.

“It’s not of great concern to me if we disagree,” he said. “I’m your representative, and I’m here to represent you.”

There are two reasons Republicans are tamping down on the crazy: A presidential election is coming up next year, and the tea party senators elected on blue turf in the GOP wave of 2010 will be defending their seats. Accusing the president of being a socialist Kenyan Muslim who will lock us up in concentration camps is no longer the ticket to victory—or book sales—that it once was.

Hice did talk about one specific bill he’s sponsoring, which would alert local law enforcement when Immigration and Customs Enforcement releases an undocumented sex offender. That plays to his nativist base while being innocuous enough to avoid controversy.

And he faced a question about the trans-Pacific trade treaty, which put House Republicans in a quandary. They generally support free trade, while Democrats generally believe such treaties lead to corporations shipping jobs overseas. The problem for Republicans is the president they loathe wants fast-track negotiating authority. If you’re a tea partier, do you side with Obama or Nancy Pelosi?

Given that choice, Broun’s head would have exploded. Hice opted for Obama because, as he explained at length, the bill he voted for allowed congressional Republicans to set negotiating parameters. “My conviction was, I don’t trust the president enough to do it on his own,” he said.