News - Henry Hank" Johnson"
For his ill-conceived show & tell
Let's call this one a "Scalawag Lite," a shot over the bow, a cautionary, knuckle-rapping wake-up call to an inexperienced public official who needs a few lessons in garden-variety diplomacy.
Although Henry "Hank" Johnson, 47, a South DeKalb attorney, has served on the County Commission two years, he still suffers from occasional bouts of foot-in-mouth disease. A stupefying 10-minute diatribe at the end of the board's Nov. 12 meeting showed him in rare form.
Johnson began harmlessly enough by grandstanding his disapproval for offensive remarks aimed at gays by a school employee at a student assembly two months ago. Then he derailed: "If there's a statement that's bigoted, such as someone calling a particular group of people 'faggots,' then I think that's wrong ... because the next thing you know, it will be 'niggers' or 'crackers,' and 'spics' and 'wetbacks.'"
Yes, we certainly want to discourage tactlessness in public speech.
But Johnson was just warming up. From behind his desk, he pulled a shiny pair of oxfords, followed by old work boots and a tractor cap, to illustrate that DeKalbites unhappy with the recent statewide GOP surge should prepare to get down and dirty in protecting their interests. Fair enough.
Then, out came a bull whip, as Johnson observed, "Some may feel we're going backward," because of the elections. Also referencing "the hangman's noose" (although he'd forgotten to bring one), Johnson hinted that black Georgians who don't want a return to darker times should get involved in politics. Good message, bad delivery.
Next, the clincher. "I don't think there is anybody, er, any black person in the Republican Party who'd advocate we go back to this," he said, brandishing the whip.
So much for bipartisanism.
Finally, Johnson called an "African-American Town Hall Meeting" for that weekend at a local black church.
Just a hint, Hank: Even if a race-exclusive gathering is what you have in mind, that's not what a savvy politician calls it.
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