Our AJC colleague Nicholas Fouriezos caught up with Gov. Nathan Deal this morning at a photo op involving a slew of NASCAR and Atlanta Speedway racing execs -- including a certain six-time Sprint Cup Champion named Jimmy Johnson.
After a group posing and the requisite gift-exchanging, the governor answered some of the more salient questions of the week -- from Ebola to Hamas.
On Ebola: Emory University Hospital is now hosting two American case workers who have contracted the deadly Ebola disease while working in west Africa. That has caused some to worry, but Deal made it clear that he’s not one of them.
"We just have to understand that [Emory and other healthcare professionals] have taken the utmost precautions," Deal said. "I don't think we should have any reason to be concerned about it."
On the other hand, the governor pointed out that no one in state government was part of the decision chain that brought two missionary workers to Georgia. Deal said the planning and cost of bringing the two patients to Atlanta were handled by the feds and that no state resources were used in transporting them.
"We simply wish the patients well in their recovery," Deal said. "It's nice to know we have facilities here that can deal with some of these difficult situations.”
On missed votes, in Congress and elsewhere: Earlier this week, we scrutinized Democrat Jason Carter's missed votes while he prepared to launch his gubernatorial campaign, and also published a counterpunch from Carter – which criticized Deal's missed votes as a state senator and then, later, as a congressman.
Deal had his response ready. "Obviously, when you're running for a statewide office and you're in Washington and 600-plus miles away, there are going to be times when you miss votes," said Deal, referring to his 2009 gubernatorial bid launched at the tail end of his U.S. House career.
Deal claimed most of the times he missed were on non-controversial, early-in-the-week votes.
"As far as my missing votes as a state senator, I suggest that he recall that for those last two years I was the president pro tempore of the Senate," Deal said. "The president pro tempore is often called upon to preside in the absence of the lieutenant governor. And when you're the presiding officer chair, you don't vote."
(Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for the Carter campaign, quickly said this via email: "None of those votes are from when Deal was presiding or excused.")
Finally, there was the topic of Hamas: You’ll recall that the governor co-authored a Washington Times op-ed last week that very nearly called out former President Jimmy Carter as an anti-Semite when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That was followed this week by an article on the current Israeli-Gaza conflict in Foreign Policy, co-authored by the former president. It argued that the West should recognize Hamas as "a legitimate political actor."
"There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict," the piece added. "These are war crimes."
Deal took specific exception to the latter comment.
"I certainly don't agree with things like that," Deal said. "I think they are inflammatory and I don't think they're true."
Deal said his rival should clarify his own views on the issue.
"[Jason] has taken the position that his grandfather is his greatest support mechanism," Deal said. "I would like to know where he stands on his grandfather's pronouncement."