With Zell Down In The Valley Of Hell
MR. RUSSERT: Zell Miller may be a Democratic senator from Georgia but he has endorsed George W. Bush for re-election, and he will speak at the Republican convention at the end of this month. Senator Miller, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
SEN. ZELL MILLER, (D-GA): Thank you, Tim. Good to be with you.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me take you back to 1992. Here you are at the Democratic convention, and this is what you had to say:
I was born during the worst of the Depression on a cold winter's day in the drafty bedroom of a rented house, and I was my parent's hope for the future. Franklin Roosevelt was elected that year, and would soon replace generations of neglect with a whirlwind of activity, bringing to our little valley a very welcome supply of God's most precious commodity - hope. My father, a teacher, died when I was two weeks old, leaving a young widow with two small children. But with my mother's faith in God - and Mr. Roosevelt's voice on the radio - we kept going. So, you see, I know what Dan Quayle means when he says it's best for children to have two parents. You bet it is! And it would be nice for them to have trust funds, too.
But we can't all be born rich, handsome and lucky ... and that's why we have a Democratic Party.
How soon he's forgotten.
My family would still be isolated and destitute if we had not had FDR's Democratic brand of government. I made it because Franklin Delano Roosevelt energized this nation. I made it because Harry Truman fought for working families like mine. I made it because John Kennedy's rising tide lifted even our tiny boat. I made it because Lyndon Johnson showed America that people who were born poor didn't have to die poor. And I made it because a man with whom I served in the Georgia Senate - a man named Jimmy Carter - brought honesty and decency and integrity to public service.
But what of the kids of today? Who fights for the child of a single mother today? Because without a government that is on their side, those children have no hope. Too many mothers today cannot tell their children what my mother told me - that working hard and playing by the rules can make your dreams come true. For millions, the American dream has become what the poet called "a dream deferred." And if you recall those words, he warned us that a dream deferred can explode. And when a child has no hope, a nation has no future.
The more things change, the more the remain the same
I am a Democrat because we are the party of hope. For 12 dark years the Republicans have dealt in cynicism and skepticism. They've mastered the art of division and diversion, and they have robbed us of our hope.
Robbed of hope, the voices of anger rise up, rise up from working Americans, who are tired of paying more in taxes and getting less in services. And George Bush doesn't get it?
Americans cannot understand why the rich can buy the best health care in the world, but all the rest of us get is rising costs and cuts in coverage, or no health insurance at all. And George Bush doesn't get it?
Americans cannot walk our streets in safety, because our "tough-on-crime" president has waged a phony war on drugs, posing for pictures while cutting police, prosecutors and prisons. And George Bush doesn't get it?
Americans have seen plants closed down, jobs shipped overseas and our hopes fade away as our economic position collapses right before our very eyes. And George Bush does not get it!
Four years ago, Mr. Bush told us he was a quiet man, who hears the voices of quiet people. Today, we know the truth. George Bush is a timid man who
hears only the voices of caution and the status quo. Let's face facts: George Bush just doesn't get it. He doesn't see it; he doesn't feel it, and he's done nothing about it. That's why we cannot afford four more years.
If the "education president" gets another term, even our kids won't be able to spell potato.
If the "law and order president" gets another term, the criminals will run wild, because our commander-in-chief talks like Dirty Harry, but acts like Barney Fife.
If the "environmental president" gets another term, the fish he catches off Kennebunkport will have three eyes.
And folks, after January, George Bush is going to have plenty of time to go fishing.
Things haven't changed much since 1992, have they?
MR. RUSSERT: You're talking about Ronald Reagan and former President Bush. What's changed?
SEN. MILLER: Oh, the Democrats have changed. This time, it's the Democrats who have the party of division and diversion.
Then And Now
"Republicans sold us out with a generation of trickle-down economics that blew the deficit sky-high, drove poverty through the roof, and squeezed the middle class like a lemon at a county fair. They gave themselves the goldmine, and they gave the rest of us the shaft." - Zell Miller, 2/25/96
"I want to be doing everything I can to help President Bush be re-elected, and Dick Cheney. I think they're doing a superb job." - Zell Miller, 5/15/04
Zell Miller gave his speech tonight at the Republican National Convention. A transcript is here. This speech was likely designed for white males in Midwestern or Southern states who feel betrayed by the Democratic Party, or who are wavering from the Republican Party and need to be given reasons for siding with the GOP. I'm a white male, born and bred in the South, but not a Bush voter this year.
Zell Miller, in spite of the RNC calling him "the conscience of the Democratic Party", means little to me. In return, my opinion means little in the scheme of things.
My opinion, for what it's worth, is that Miller's appearance and rhetoric were the most frightening since Pat Buchanan at the infamous '92 Houston convention. My opinion is that I would have an ounce of respect for Miller if he had condemned Jimmy Carter in 1976/1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992/1996 instead of supporting them then and attacking them now that his political years are over and he has a book to sell.
My opinion is that swing voters have heard so much fear-mongering and scare tactics over the past 4 years that this speech is far more likely to make them run like hell from what the current GOP stands for.
My opinion is that aside from regurgitating misleading and/or false attacks on John Kerry, the speech was counterproductive, if not a total failure, that the speech in no way represented the best of either the Republicans or Democrats in Georgia, and the only benefit I can see is that perhaps the speech was designed to make the next speaker, Dick Cheney, seem warm and human.
My opinion is that there are many reasons why Democrats have joined the Republican Party, and Zell Miller managed to capture exactly none of those reasons. Given the rumors that Miller's speech was actually *toned down* by Republican operatives, one wonders how his true speech would have come across to such a "compassionate" and "moderate" convention.
MR. RUSSERT: It's interesting, because your views of Senator Kerry seemed to have changed. This is what you said of March of this year. "...after hearing the agenda [Kerry has] laid out for our country - I cannot support him in his race for the presidency. There are too many issues about which John Kerry and I disagree. And there are too few similarities between John Kerry and the great Democratic leaders I've known."
SEN. MILLER: I was very impressed with John Kerry when I first came to the Senate, because I knew this man was an authentic American hero. And anyone that has a Silver Star and Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, I respect and admire and thank them for their service. But let's make one thing clear, Tim. I am not for President Bush's re-election because I am against John Kerry.
Time after time in our history, in the face of great danger, Democrats and Republicans worked together to ensure that freedom would not falter. But not today. Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators. Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.
[links to how well we support our troops]
"The job will be done when the government stops asking veterans for increased co-payments, enrollment fees and other charges to shift the burden of care to more veterans and drive more than a million veterans out of the system," he said.
Bob Campbell, an Air Force veteran from Dalton, Ga., who served in Vietnam, said Bush is the one who was hard to believe. He said the president isn't fighting enough for veterans benefits, even though he told the American Legion that he was in Tuesday's speech. He said he "stopped paying attention when he told the fifth lie" and will be supporting Kerry.
SUPPORT OUR TROOPS - A Question of Commitment
Support our Troops is a call to arms; it is not a mere slogan. Grantham University is stepping up to support America’s troops in a very real way by initiating an aggressive recruiting campaign aimed at supporting troops who were denied their previous jobs upon returning home from the war on terror. "We need good people, and there are none better than our men and women in uniform,” says Grantham University Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Macon.
Mr. Macon said the University is responding to recent media reports that cited increasing numbers of National Guard and Reserve troops who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are encountering new battles with their civilian employers at home. These troops are finding that jobs they thought secure were eliminated, benefits reduced, and promotions forgotten. "I don’t understand a company that would deny jobs to the very people who are serving to protect their business," Mr. Macon says. "These men and women are prepared to pay the ultimate price to prevent the ‘stench of terrorism’ from again rising out of the Middle East. As my family and I rest comfortably at home each night, I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of thanks to the hundreds of thousands of brave Americans in uniform who are making it possible for all us to be truly safe here at home.
There is something inherently wrong when business turns its back on the very people America counts on for protection."
MR. RUSSERT: Might we need more American troops in Iraq?
SEN. MILLER: I think you have to go by what the military leaders tell you.
I don't think politicians make those kind of decisions.
I think military leaders make those decisions.
Fighting For Freedom
"For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest." - Zell Miller, GOP Convention
Treason is defined in dictionaries as one of several acts including; "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." Those who commit acts of treason are defined in those same dictionaries as "traitors." How do anti-war protests come to constitute a treasonous act? Well, for one, our enemies to inspire continued resistance use news reports and pictures of anti-war gatherings as propaganda. Alas, but would they see the err of their ways and put a moratorium on their protestations until the war is over. Don’t bet on it.
The demonization of anti-war protesters in 2003 is but an acho of the hatreds we faced in 1970 when we earlier also tried to say: "Support our troops -- Bring them home!" There is grave danger whenever anti-war protesters are wrongly smeared and excessively ridiculed.
Just before our Kent massacre, on April 7, 1970, Republican pro-war Governor Ronald Reagan in California said: "These students seek disruption...if it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with!"
Days before we were shot down at Kent State in May, 1970, Republican pro-war President Nixon denounced anti-war protesters as "bums".
The day before our Kent massacre, Ohio Republican pro-war Governor James Rhodes provoked the Kent State bloodbath when he screamed against Kent State protesters: "We are going to eradicate the problem...they're worse than the communists...they're the worst type of people we harbor in America!"
Just as President Nixon, Vice President Agnew, Ohio Governor Rhodes and pro-war news media fueled vicious hatreds in 1970, we face a similar formula for disaster in 2003. Now it's pro-war Republicans including "president" Bush Jr., Vice President Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Fox-TV, Bill O'Reilly, William Bennett and too many others on cable-TV, talk-radio and elsewhere in the pro-war, pro-Republican, pro-greed news media.
As in 1970, the seeds of hatred in 2003 America are planted each day and now again we face a deadly crisis which may soon result in another modern US civil war on our campuses and in our streets.
"No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home." - Zell Miller, GOP Convention
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Pat Roberts, Republican, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman, sat here a couple of weeks ago and said if the Senate knew back in 2002, October, that the weapons of mass destruction that the intelligence agency said existed, did not exist at the levels that had been said, the Senate would not have voted to authorize the war.
SEN. MILLER: Well, I'm not sure that's correct, but I know this, that John Kerry was on that Intelligence Committee for eight years.
MR. RUSSERT: But you believe the Senate still would have voted for the war even in the absence of weapons of mass destruction?
SEN. MILLER: Oh, yes. I think so. I think that it was something that we needed to do both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
(Russert missed a prime opportunity to let Miller pin back his own ears by not following up on this question. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Miller is accusing John Kerry of being "weak on national security.")
"No pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Together, Kennedy/Kerry have opposed the very weapons system that won the Cold War and that is now winning the War on Terror. Zell Miller, GOP Convention
This is the same Miller who in 2001 praised John Kerry as someone who "has worked to strengthen our military."
If anyone is weak on national security, it is Zell Miller. He is completely prepared to allow the nation to be defended by weapons systems that had major problems that cost billions to solve. Zell drools over these weapons systems like a gun groupie, but where's his support for the guy getting shot at???? It's all high-priced weapons systems and nothing for the grunt on the ground, like Zell claims to have been once himself - has he forgotten?
[From the GOP Convention speech - each weapon system link goes to an article outlining the problems that made knowledgeable Senators, from both parties, leery of supporting them further]
Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security but Americans need to know the facts.
The B-1 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, dropped 40 percent of the bombs in the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The B-2 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein's command post in Iraq.
The F-14A Tomcats, that Senator Kerry opposed, shot down Khadifi's Libyan MIGs over the Gulf of Sidra. The modernized F-14D, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora.
The Apache helicopter, that Senator Kerry opposed, took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War.
The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capital and this very city after 9/11.
I could go on and on and on: against the Patriot Missile that shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel ...
... against the Aegis air-defense cruiser ...
... against the Strategic Defense Initiative; against the Trident missile; against, against, against. This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?
Why not? That's what seems to be the weapon of choice as far as George Warmonger Bu$h is concerned!
Kerry catalogued what he said was a long list of administration shortcomings on Iraq -- failing to heed the advice of senior generals on the number of troops needed for postwar operations, failing to secure the country's borders, failing to share responsibility with NATO or the United Nations, shortchanging the training and equipping of the Iraqi police and more. Kerry said, "I would never have diverted resources so quickly from Afghanistan," where the Taliban has been forced from power but Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaida remain free. "I wouldn't have ignored my senior military advisers. I would have made sure that every soldier put in harm's way had the equipment and body armor they needed. I would have built a strong, broad coalition of our allies around the world. And if there's one thing I learned from my service, I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace," he said.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to your standing as a Democrat. The Chatham County Democratic Committee down there in southeastern Georgia, near Savannah, issued this on their Internet. "Zell gets divorced, a loyal Democrat no more. The Democratic Party of Chatham County, Georgia, does hereby divorce former Democratic Governor Zell Miller. Statements and actions of the formerly-Democratic U.S. senator have irretrievably broken the bonds that formerly existed between us and we view any previous ties to Miller as null and void."
SEN. MILLER: Well, they let me keep my dogs, and I appreciate that. Look, these people are as out of touch as some of the Democrats are somewhere else. I can tell you right now that as far as the Democrats in Georgia are concerned, most of them agree with where I am on this, supporting President George W. Bush.
That is not surprising, considering Miller's roots. Miller, like the Republican Party, opposes affirmative action. According to the 9/13/98 Augusta Chronicle, "Miller got started as executive secretary to Gov. Lester Maddox," soon became Maddox's chief of staff, and rode his name to prominence in Georgia. This, despite the 2/14/04 Washington Post noting that Maddox was an open segregationist who "chased African Americans out of his restaurant with an ax handle," and who as governor refused to order flags at half-mast when Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. Similarly, as a congressional candidate in 1964, Miller not only pledged to vote against the Civil Rights Act, he attacked those who were pushing it with racially incendiary language. He said President Lyndon Johnson "is a southerner who has sold his birthright for a mess of dark porridge." But George W. Bush held a fundraiser on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday only miles from the civil rights leaders' grave. I guess that's OK with Zell - I'm sure he would approve.
SEN. MILLER: I'll tell you something else, I watched him very closely the other night. How can a person say--how can they talk about the glory of Old Glory whenever they voted three times for an amendment--against an amendment that would have protected the flag against abuse? He's not for family values. He's completely out of sync as far as...
MR. RUSSERT: You mean the constitutional amendment in terms of burning or desecrating the flag?
SEN. MILLER: Yes.
"It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag." - Zell Miller, GOP Convention
In an effort to thwart two Supreme Court rulings that flag burning is symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment, Representatives Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and John Murtha (D-PA) introduced HJ Res. 33 in the House, which was passed on June 24th. In turn, Senator Hatch (R-UT) has introduced a similar measure in the Senate, SJ Res. 14, which is scheduled to receive a vote later this fall. The House passed a similar flag amendment during the 105th Congress (H.J. Res 54), but supporters of the bill could not muster enough support to even bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. If the amendment had passed the Senate and been ratified by at least 38 states, it would have become the first amendment to limit Americans’ freedom of expression.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the world's safer now than it was pre the invasion of Iraq?
SEN. MILLER: Oh, sure, I do, and I think that it's very obvious that it is. I mean, we have not had another attack since 9/11. And just think of the opportunities that they have -- been out there. I mean, yes, it's safer than it was. This is one of those things where you've got to have continued vigilance, and we've got to do everything we can. But certainly it's safer, because the war is going on over there instead of over here right now.
Read this and tell me if it sounds safer to you:
The Los Angeles Times reports, across Iraq, "U.S. forces are being attacked 60 times per day on average, up 20 percent from the three-month period before the hand-over." Over the last two months "after the U.S. handed sovereignty back to Iraq amid hopes of reduced violence, more than 110 U.S. troops have been killed and much of the country remains hostile territory." More troops have died in each of the months following the formal hand-over of sovereignty (54 in July and 63 in August) than in the month preceding the hand-over (42 in June). Since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in May 2003, 836 U.S. troops have died – 85 percent of the total.
The security situation in Iraq is so unstable, Ambassador John D. Negroponte "has urged the Bush administration to shift money away from infrastructure improvements and use it to improve security and job opportunities." Specifically, "more than $3.3 billion in aid that had been set aside for improvements in Iraq's utilities, electricity, water and sewage needed to be spent for other purposes to show quickly results that could be seen by discontented Iraqis." Early reconstruction efforts lead by the Coalition Provisional Authority "did not take into account the problems arising from the spread of the anti-American insurgency." As a result, just $600 million of $18 billion allocated for reconstruction has been spent.
A tentative agreement to quell violence in Sadr City was reached Monday night between Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government, but it was rejected by prime minister Ayad Allawi, supposedly because of restrictions the deal placed on American forces. U.S. forces would have been "limited to performing reconstruction work; anything more aggressive than that would require the permission of the Iraqi government." The developments raise "the prospect of more violence from Mr. Sadr's Shiite insurgency." As a result, "the Iraqi government may not be able to direct its full political and military resources to quelling the continuing Sunni insurgency in other parts of the country."
Many of the current problems could have been avoided if the administration had followed through on its pledge to "capture or kill" al-Sadr in April. The administration later abandoned that policy and "agreed to let Iraqi authorities deal with the cleric." Subsequently, according to a secret U.S. intelligence report leaked to the Washington Times, followers of al-Sadr "imprisoned, killed and mutilated Iraqis who opposed his insurrection." According to the report, Iraq police found "approximately 200 mutilated bodies taken by the Muqtada militia for speaking out against Muqtada al-Sadr" in buildings formerly controlled by al-Sadr.
According to an Iraqi source, "Allawi had recently come under intense pressure from Shiite political parties that fear that the entry of Mr. Sadr into the political mainstream could diminish their own potential success at the polls." One group applying pressure was said to be "the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which was long based in Iran and which has close ties to Ayatollah Sistani." Some believe Allawi prefers "to kill or capture Mr. Sadr, in hopes of striking a death blow to his increasingly popular movement." According to another Iraqi political leader, Allawi "appeared to be reverting to his roots as a former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, where political dissent was often silenced with the gun."
That should be OK with Zell.
Out Of Touch, Out Of Time
MR. RUSSERT: John Kerry came out to address the Democrats and said, "I'm John Kerry," and he in fact is ready to serve his country, accept his duty as commander in chief. Do you have any doubt that he would not be a strong, effective commander in chief?
SEN. MILLER: Oh, yes, I have a lot of doubts. If he had had his policies adopted in the Senate instead of the Ronald Reagan policies being adopted, we would still be in the Cold War. We'd still have a Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall would still be up.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, Senator, how can you say that?
SEN. MILLER: This is a man who voted to cut every single one of the weapons systems that won the Cold War. This is a man that voted against the weapons system that we're using to fight the war on terror. This is a man who voted against increases in intelligence funding. He wanted to cut intelligence funding.
MR. RUSSERT: But on defense and intelligence authorization bills, you have the same voting record as John Kerry.
SEN. MILLER: I didn't try to cut -- now ultimately he came along and voted for some, but I sure didn't try to cut this defense budget.
MR. RUSSERT: The Atlanta Constitution, your hometown paper--Atlanta--well, not your hometown paper, one of your papers in your state, let me correct that, said this. "In his seamless self-delusion over the last year, Miller says his Democratic Party has left him, not the other way around. On that score, he's like the out-of-step GI who insists it's everyone else in the platoon who's on the wrong foot. Soon, and very soon, Zell needs to come home and take to his rocking chair. Clearly the world is too much with him."
I've never really left that mountain valley. Shirley and I, our children and their children still live in the Appalachian town of Young Harris, Ga. And tonight, one of my sons is sitting in front of the television set in the living room of that same rock house my mother and her neighbors built so many years ago. - Zell Miller, 1992 Democratic Convention
MR. RUSSERT: Some Democrats in Georgia--and here is John Lewis, who's the dean of the congressional delegation, believes that you were elected with the support of a lot of Democratic working people, black and white. This is what Mr. Lewis said. He "called Mr. Miller's decision to appear at the [Republican] convention on behalf of President Bush `a shame and a disgrace.'... This is the same Zell Miller who said 40 years ago that President Johnson had sold his soul when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the same Zell Miller who as elected by the working people of Georgia--the teachers, union members, farmers and both black and white voters in the state. I do no understand what he is so angry about, but apparently he has lost his way.'" Why are you so angry at the Democrats?
SEN. MILLER: John is a very good friend, and I can remember another quote of not too long ago where he said, "Zell Miller was a courageous man who had led a courageous life." I'm not angry. I'm just disillusioned. I'm disillusioned with a party that has gone completely so far to the left that in the South we don't even have a chance of electing Democrats statewide anymore because they are associated with the National Democratic Party, they're associated with the Kerry-Edwards-Daschle wing of the Democratic Party. And this group is so far to the left that they are completely off the charts.
Maybe, Senator, it's you. Maybe you are the one that's off the charts - way off the right edge.
So go on back to that mountain valley, Zell, and sit on your front porch in your rocker and watch your grandchildren grow up - while you can. If Bu$h retains the pResidency, that period might not be too long.
Tonight, let our message be heard in every living room in every home in America. Wherever families and friends are gathered, let them know this. We have a leader and a party and a platform that says to the everyday working people of this country: We will fight your fight. We will ease your burden.
We will carry your cause. We will hear all the voices of America, from the silky harmonies of the Gospel choirs to the rough-edged rhythms of a hot country band, from the razor's edge rap of the inner city to the soaring beauty of the finest soprano. We hear your voice, America. We hear your voice. We will answer your call. We will keep the faith. And we will restore your hope. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. - Zell Miller, 1992 Democratic Convention.
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