What did Zell know and when did he know it? -- Inspector Clouseau checks behind Political Insider’s Sherlock J. Galloway and Dr. Tom Baxter Watson
Democrats across the country have had no qualms about attacking Sen. Zell Miller, the highest-ranking member of their party to oppose John Kerry's election.
But one group of Democrats has been conspicuously low-key in its criticism: Miller's fellow Georgians.
An 8-30 article from the AP says "[t]he toughest question isn't why he made the leap, but when?" Continuing trying to come up with an answer to this question, the article quotes Rep. John Lewis:
"I don't understand what happened and how it happened," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a longtime Miller friend and the dean of Georgia's congressional delegation. "It's not like Zell Miller. This man is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat."
The AP notes that "[t]wo years ago it was practically impossible to turn on a television in Georgia without seeing a commercial showing Miller strongly endorsing one of the state's Democratic candidates."
The AP article's conclusion on the when question? It doesn't give one.
Is there an answer? Well, in reading the Political Insider today I thought that maybe Messrs. Galloway and Baxter were onto something that might shed some light on the when question.
The 8-30 Political Insider reports that in doing some investigative reporting, it came upon a link on the website of Republican state Senate candidate Nancy Schaefer. Ms. Schaefer was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor against Pierre Howard in 1994, when Miller was seeking his second term as governor, and the PI reports that such link has a page devoted to Miller's keynote speech at a dinner for Family Concerns, the conservative organization that Schaefer founded and heads.
1994 I thought, that was way back there, we might be onto something here.
The Pl quotes the following from Miller's speech for Family Concerns:
"I want you to know my Lord and Savior has forgiven me. And I hope you and Family Concerns can forgive me for my neglect and lack of understanding on the issues that were important to you and should have been to me."
I searched in vain in the PI article for the date of such speech (other than the obvious, that Ms. Shaefer is presently a candidate), knowing this might be our best lead to date on the when issue.
The next step? You guessed it. Google Nancy Schaefer to find her website. I did, and on her website is a link to Zell Miller. Voila! Eureka I exclaim.
A date is there, but dernit, no real help. Sen. Miller gave his speech containing the above quotes from the PI on May 3, 2004. Heck, we all knew it had to be before then.
Not being able to find an answer to the when question raised by the AP article noted above, I thought to myself. Asking the when question assumes there is an answer.
Sen. Miller in his book would object to this quesation, insisting that any such question be rephrased from when, to when if ever? To this he responds, it wasn't me folks, the Democratic Party left me, I didn't leave it.
This response by the Senator is beyond the scope of this post. But already the State Democratic Party and the talking heads are having fun this week with flashbacks and replays from days gone.
What isn't beyond the scope of this post are my thoughts on why most Georgia politicians, unlike many Democrats, do not criticize him.
As noted in the above-noted ajc article, many state party members believe attacking Zell would not help — and might actually undercut — their efforts to elect Democrats to state offices in November and beyond. I must add to this that Bobby Kahn, David Worley and Keith Mason must be excepted from such generalization.
The same folks, with my same exceptions, believe that with today's polarized electorate, Miller may be energizing Republicans, but he is not attracting a lot of Democratic defectors.
And also these folks, they recognize something that many Democratic voters do not care to recognize -- Zell remains one of Georgia's most popular politicians a potent political force in the state.
Is there anything to the headline in the above-noted ajc headline that some may hold our hope for future help by Zell? Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist, this so, and notes in this article that leading Democrats in Georgia may already be focused on their own races in 2006, when they may turn to Miller for an endorsement.
I ask, is there anything else? And I say yes, a big yes.
A lot of them just like Zell personally, the same thing I have said before about myself on this blog. Forget the politics part.
Forget the politics and GOP versus Democrats stuff. I have known him forever, and he is just a likeable type guy.
For much of the public who do not know him personally, a reason they like him is summed up in the following comment about Sen. Miller from Dick Yarbrough:
"He says what is on his mind. He always has. The media have a major case of the tut-tuts because he isn't saying what they want to hear. As if Zell Miller gives a quart of mule spit what the media thinks. I like that."
And I am not saying the following is true, but the following thing that Dick Yarbrough says about Max Cleland is not the sort of thing you will hear said about Sen. Miller:
"Democrat Max Cleland had an unfortunate accident in Vietnam when somebody dropped a grenade and he lost both legs and an arm. He has put his life back together and I greatly admire him for that. I didn't admire him as a senator. He spent more time cuddling up to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party than he did representing the people of Georgia. When Cleland was Georgia's secretary of state, he always spoke to me. When he was elected senator, he acted as if he didn't know who I was. I didn't like that."
As far is did Zell ever change, this is what Mr. Yarbrough says in an open letter to the Senator:
"In this day of sound bites and polling data and political consultants, you tell it like it is."
"Some people say to me, 'What in the world has happened to Zell Miller?' I reply, 'Nothing. The governor who bailed out Bill Clinton's floundering campaign for president and made the keynote address at the 1992 Democratic Convention is no different than the senator who is pushing for the re-election of Republican President George W. Bush. He is acting on his convictions.'"
It is hard not to like someone who can laugh at himself. In early April the Political Insider printed the following letter that Zell had sent to the Washington Post:
"It was a clever little article on Sunday ('Miller Accused of Flip-Flopping Over Kerry'), but incorrect. The Kerry campaign had no more to do with coining the nickname Zig-Zag Zell than Al Gore did with inventing the Internet.
"The nickname was first hung on me nearly a quarter of a century ago in a 1980 race for the U.S. Senate by my then-opponent and now-close friend Norman Underwood. Since then, by the way, I've won five statewide races in Georgia and carried that nickname along with me on every one.
"I also take exception to the comment by Kerry aide Stephanie Cutter that it's going to be lonely out there for me. I believe that in the South, fully one-third of Democratic voters will support George Bush for president -- maybe more.
"And by the way, that same night that I introduced John Kerry so pleasantly, he spoke of how happy he was that Zell Miller was back in politics and in Washington. I wonder if Jumpin' John has flip-flopped on that?"
And regardless of how one might feel about Zell, who will say the man can't make a speech. We will be exposed to a current and some former ones this week.
The following is part of one you no doubt saw some sound bites from and maybe the whole thing. It is part of what he had to say on the Senate floor about this year's Superbowl halftime show (he called the speech the Deficit of Decency' in America):
"The Old Testament prophet Amos was a sheep herder who lived back in the Judean hills, away from the larger cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Compared to the intellectual urbanites like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he was just an unsophisticated country hick.
"But Amos had a unique grasp of political and social issues and his poetic literary skill was among the best of all the prophets. That familiar quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. about 'Justice will rush down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream' are Amos's words.
"Amos was the first to propose the concept of a universal God and not just some tribal deity. He also wrote that God demanded moral purity, not rituals and sacrifices. This blunt speaking moral conscience of his time warns in Chapter 8, verse 11 of The Book of Amos, as if he were speaking to us today:
That 'the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.
'And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east. They shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.'
"'A famine in the land'. Has anyone more accurately described the situation we face in America today? 'A famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'
"But some will say, Amos was just an Old Testament prophet - a minor one at that - who lived 700 years before Christ. That is true, so how about one of the most influential historians of modern times?
"Arnold Toynbee who wrote the acclaimed 12 volume A Study of History, once declared, 'Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state America is in today.'
"Toynbee died in 1975, before seeing the worst that was yet to come. Yes, Arnold Toynbee saw the famine. The 'famine of hearing the words of the Lord.' Whether it is removing a display of the Ten Commandments from a Courthouse or the Nativity Scene from a city square. Whether it is eliminating prayer in schools or eliminating 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. Whether it is making a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage between a man and woman or, yes, telecasting around the world made-in-the-USA filth masquerading as entertainment.
"The Culture of Far Left America was displayed in a startling way during the Super Bowl's now infamous half-time show. A show brought to us courtesy of Value-Les Moonves and the pagan temple of Viacom-Babylon.
"I asked the question yesterday, how many of you have ever run over a skunk with your car? I have many times and I can tell you, the stink stays around for a long time. You can take the car through a car wash and it's still there. So the scent of this event will long linger in the nostrils of America.
"I'm not talking just about an exposed mammary gland with a pull-tab attached to it. Really no one should have been too surprised at that. Wouldn't one expect a bumping, humping, trashy routine entitled 'I'm going to get you naked' to end that way.
"Does any responsible adult ever listen to the words of this rap-crap? I'd quote you some of it, but the Sergeant of Arms would throw me out of here, as well he should. And then there was that prancing, dancing, strutting, rutting guy evidently suffering from jock itch because he kept yelling and grabbing his crotch. But then, maybe there's a crotch grabbing culture I've unaware of."
But as bad as all this was, the thing that yanked my chain the hardest was seeing that ignoramus with his pointed head stuck up through a hole he had cut in the flag of the United States of America, screaming about having 'a bottle of scotch and watching lots of crotch.' Think about that.
"This is the same flag that we pledge allegiance to. This is the flag that is draped over coffins of dead young uniformed warriors killed while protecting Kid Crock's bony butt. He should be tarred and feathered, and ridden out of this country on a rail. Talk about a good reality show, there's one for you.
"The desire and will of this Congress to meaningfully do anything about any of these so-called social issues is non existent and embarrassingly disgraceful. The American people are waiting and growing impatient with us. They want something done.
"I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of S.J. Res. 26 along with Senator Allard and others, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. And S.1558, the Liberties Restoration Act, which declares religious liberty rights in several ways, including the Pledge of Allegiance and the display of the Ten Commandments. And today I join Senator Shelby and others with the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 that limits the jurisdiction of federal courts in certain ways.
"In doing so, I stand shoulder to shoulder not only with my Senate co-sponsors and Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama but, more importantly, with our Founding Fathers in the conception of religious liberty and the terribly wrong direction our modern judiciary has taken us in.
Everyone today seems to think that the U.S. Constitution expressly provides for separation of church and state. Ask any ten people if that's not so. And I'll bet you most of them will say 'Well, sure.' And some will point out, 'it's in the First Amendment.'
"Wrong! Read it! It says, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Where is the word 'separate'? Where are the words 'church' or 'state.'
"They are not there. Never have been. Never intended to be. Read the Congressional Records during that four-month period in 1789 when the amendment was being framed in Congress. Clearly their intent was to prohibit a single denomination in exclusion of all others, whether it was Anglican or Catholic or some other.
"I highly recommend a great book entitled Original Intent by David Barton. It really gets into how the actual members of Congress, who drafted the First Amendment, expected basic Biblical principles and values to be present throughout public life and society, not separate from it.
"It was Alexander Hamilton who pointed out that 'judges should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty.' Bound down! That is exactly what is needed to be done. There was not a single precedent cited when school prayer was struck down in 1962.
"These judges who legislate instead of adjudicate, do it without being responsible to one single solitary voter for their actions. Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence was a brilliant young physician from Pennsylvania named Benjamin Rush.
"When Rush was elected to that First Continental Congress, his close friend Benjamin Franklin told him 'We need you. . . we have a great task before us, assigned to us by Providence.' Today, 228 years later there is still a great task before us assigned to us by Providence. Our Founding Fathers did not shirk their duty and we can do no less.
"By the way, Benjamin Rush was once asked a question that has long interested this Senator from Georgia in particular. Dr. Rush was asked, are you a democrat or an aristocrat? And the good doctor answered, 'I am neither'. 'I am a Christocrat. I believe He, alone, who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.' That reply of Benjamin Rush is just as true today in the year of our Lord 2004 as it was in the year of our Lord 1776.
"So, if I am asked why - with all the pressing problems this nation faces today - why am I pushing these social issues and taking the Senate's valuable time? I will answer: Because, it is of the highest importance. Yes, there's a deficit to be concerned about in this country, a deficit of decency.
"So, as the sand empties through my hourglass at warp speed - and with my time running out in this Senate and on this earth, I feel compelled to speak out. For I truly believe that at times like this, silence is not golden. It is yellow."
One of my yellow dog Democrat friends had the following response to Miller's comments: "Zell Miller is an idiot. He's lost it."
And this friend was worked up and mad. Me, I was laughing so hard about Zell talking about the following stuff that my stomach hurt too much to let all of his carrying on about his social and political views faze me at all:
Compared to Isaiah and Jeremiah, Amos was just an unsophisticated country hick; made-in-the-USA filth masquerading as entertainment; the pagan temple of Viacom-Babylon; the scent of this event will long linger in the nostrils of America; I'm not talking just about an exposed mammary gland with a pull-tab attached to it; Wouldn't one expect a bumping, humping, trashy routine entitled 'I'm going to get you naked' to end that way; Does any responsible adult ever listen to the words of this rap-crap; And then there was that prancing, dancing, strutting, rutting guy evidently suffering from jock itch because he kept yelling and grabbing his crotch. But then, maybe there's a crotch grabbing culture I've unaware of; the thing that yanked my chain the hardest; etc.
Liking Zell personally as I do, do I think he should switch parties? Hell, who am I to say. If he told me what to do and I did not agree with it, you can imagine what I would tell him in a respectful manner.
Liking Zell personally as I do, do I think he should be giving the keynote address at the Republican National Convention?
No, but Zell will be Zell. Always has been, always will be.
Do I have anything else to add? Yes, folks in the other Georgia sometimes have good ideas, believe it or not.
A case in point. My neighbor in Laurens County (yes, the county that had the messed up ballots in the Court of Appeals' election) Rep. DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) has some thoughts that in fairness to the Democratic Party ought to have gone through Sen. Miller's mind.
Rep. Porter questions why Miller didn't work within our Party to move it closer to the political middle. As Rep. Porter so eloquently puts it:
"I wish he was working more on ways to correct the Democratic Party rather than going and giving a speech at the Republican Convention," said Porter, House speaker pro tempore. "I wish he was giving that speech at the Democratic Convention."
(see 8-29-04 article in ajc.)