GOP rolls out Zig Zag Zell for keynote


Geraldine Sealey
August 19, 2004 8:12PM (UTC)

The Republicans announced their convention keynote speaker this morning. It's ... a Democrat. Sort of. It's Bush supporter Zell Miller, known not so affectionately by many Democrats as Zig Zag Zell for his vacillations between points left and right -- and by John Kerry's campaign for criticizing his Senate colleague after not long ago calling Kerry one of America's "authentic heroes." From the sound of RNC chairman Ed Gillespie's announcement of the keynote today, the GOP will attempt to portray Miller's appearance at the Garden as proof of Bush's Big Tent.

"Senator Miller's support is indicative of the broad support the Republican Party has earned under President Bush's compassionate conservative leadership as Americans reject the 'out of the mainstream' direction of John Kerry's Democratic Party," said Gillespie. "In 1992, Sen. Miller delivered the keynote address in the very same arena at the Democrats' convention. We're honored he'll be taking the stage at the Garden this year for President Bush."

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How "in the mainstream" is the GOP keynote choice these days? Just a few examples of Zell's zaniness:

He thinks the 9/11 commission "energized our enemies" for daring to investigate why and how the 2001 attacks took place. He reiterated this position on Meet the Press just a few weeks ago -- a fringe stance you won't even hear from the Bush White House, which tried to prevent the formation of the commission.

He believes the failed hate amendment that would have enshrined discrimination against gay Americans into our most cherished public document reflects "American values." Senate Republicans didn't even support the measure enough to keep it alive. On Meet the Press this month, Miller said: "And how can a person say that they are for American values and for the American family whenever they vote or not vote but oppose an amendment to the Constitution that would define marriage as a union between man and woman?"

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He was chastised by civil rights groups last fall for likening opposition to a conservative black judicial nominee to a "lynching." A Southern politician should, shall we say, know better. Zell's quote: "This African-American woman will not be given an up-or-down vote, because the Democrats in this chamber refuse to stand and let her do it ... They're standing in the doorway, and they've got a sign: conservative African-American women need not apply. And if you have the temerity to do so, your reputation will be shattered and your dignity will be shredded. Gal, you will be lynched."

And as for Miller's vocal critiques of his party's nominee (we mean Kerry), Tim Russert showed what an ineffective spokesperson Miller is for the GOP on Kerry's Senate votes.

"SEN. MILLER: This is a man [Kerry] who voted to cut every single one of the weapons systems that won the Cold War."

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"MR. RUSSERT: But aren't you..."

"SEN. MILLER: 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."

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"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." Oops. Let's just say the GOP keynote choice is no Barack Obama.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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