The convention goes to Zell


Geraldine Sealey
September 2, 2004 7:27AM (UTC)

We haven't checked our encyclopedia of great American speeches yet -- by, say, Martin Luther King, Jr., or FDR or Lincoln -- but we're pretty sure none of the greats used the words "spitballs" or "mush." For this reason and many more, we don't expect faux Democrat Zell Miller's keynote speech to the RNC Wednesday night to end up in the history books.

"Where are the statesmen today?" Miller boomed from the podium. Good question -- not here.

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The Republican delegates, clearly hungry for some nasty attacks on the Democratic nominee, just loved Zell. They went wild for his zingers, seemingly relieved that they weren't getting polite Laura Bush again tonight. With Zell, they got what they came for. The crowd roared when Miller curiously claimed that "while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief." John Kerry, a manic obsessed with bringing down George W. Bush? With all of those false and hurtful attack ads on Bush's Vietnam service, maybe. Miller also said that if it was up to Kerry, "spitballs" would be among the only remaining weapons options left for U.S. troops. And he called Kerry a "'yes-no-maybe' bowl of mush.'"

At another point, Miller leveled this vague charge: "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." And of course, the crowd loved the obligatory France reference: "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending." All of it was lapped up by the partisans here.

Everyone in the hall is so concerned about Kerry's alleged "flip-flopping" this week, but the Republican delegates easily forgot Zell's previous nasty remarks about their party in another keynote address. Ten years ago this summer, Miller stood in Madison Square Garden and told the Democratic convention that Republicans were out of touch and for the rich and that 12 years of Republican rule "robbed us of our hope." But the GOP has forgiven Zell. He's served his purpose, and if nothing else, tonight he showed them a good time.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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