Michael Totten

The Zell Miller Speech

The polarization during this election season makes me lonely. There are few centrists left. Most have hitched their wagons to one partisan train or another. Hardly any honest dialogue remains.
When I see other people of a moderate persuasion writing sentences like these by Matthew Yglesias I feel a horrible sinking feeling that makes me want to stop blogging until mid-November. (I won’t stop, but I do wish I could hit a fast-forward button.)
Here is Matt on the speech by Democrat-in-name-only Zell Miller at the Republican National Convention:

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a more disgusting speech delivered in the English language. The fact that I couldn’t see a single person on the floor who seemed to feel anything less than the utmost enthusiasm for that lunacy was, well, a bit disturbing.

Come on, Matt. I have my own problems with the speech (see below) but it wasn’t anywhere near the worst ever. Have you not heard any of the hysterial speeches at anti-war rallies lately? Don’t tell me you have forgotten about those. Want some more recent examples from the left? Here’s one for you:

U.S. Rep. Major Owens, a New York Democrat, warned a crowd of feminist protesters that the Bush administration is taking America “into a snake pit of fascism.”
Owens also said the Bush administration “spits on democracy” and is leading the country down a path reminiscent of “Nazi Germany.”

And here is another:

A featured performer at a National Organization for Women rally accused President Bush of having “savagely raped ” women “over and over” by allegedly stealing the 2000 presidential election.
Poet Molly Birnbaum read aloud to a crowd of feminists gathered in New York’s Central Park on Wednesday night, as part of a NOW event dubbed “Code Red: Stop the Bush Agenda Rally.”
“Imagine a way to erase that night four years ago when you (President Bush) savagely raped every pandemic woman over and over with each vote you got, a thrust with each state you stole,” Birnbaum said from the podium. (If something is pandemic, it affects many people or a number of countries.)

Those speeches, Matt, were in English.
It’s not just the left that can be nasty. Some of the speeches at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston were a lot more disgusting than anything Zell Miller said yesterday. Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan prevented me from being a Republican for a decade all by themselves. I felt vaguely like a Democrat then, but I had no real party affiliation one way or another until I heard those two screwjobs declare war on their own country to roaring applause. I’m a bit older than Matt. Perhaps he doesn’t remember what it was like to be a non-Republican twelve years ago. It was, at least for me, one heck of a serious no-brainer.
Today it is much less so. Like Zell Miller, I’ve been seriously torqued at the Democratic Party. But I’m no Zell Miller. I really don’t get him. Why isn’t he a Republican? He seems to me a lot more right-wing than other Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Arnold Schwartzenegger. Granted they are all liberal Republicans, but they are still Republicans.
I don’t want to pick apart every sentence Zell Miller uttered. I do agree with some of what he said. He gave John Kerry one heck of a shellacking on military spending, for example. But in other areas he completely let himself go.

That’s the most dangerous outsourcing of all. This politician [John Kerry] wants to be leader of the free world.
Free for how long?

Please. Who, exactly, is going to make the world unfree? France? Don’t make me laugh. Al Qaeda? Even if they nuke New York City they won’t be able to enslave the United States.
One of the strangest things about Zell Miller’s speech is his trouble with the English language.

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.

Get a grip, Miller.
Of course the American and British militaries liberated Iraq. Removing a totalitarian regime cannot plausibly be called anything but liberation unless another similar regime is installed in its place. But let’s not kid ourselves. There are plenty of people in Fallujah who don’t feel liberated. They sang in their Saddamite chains. It’s horrible, but it’s true. Keeping them out of power required a military occupation. You can’t spin that away, and there isn’t any point in trying to do so. Occupations are sometimes necessary. Getting prickly and defensive about it prevents any serious discussion of the subject.
Keeping Shi’ite religious goons like Moqtada al-Sadr out of power similarly requires an occupation, even though the insurgents in question recognize that they have been liberated from the secular tyranny that predated that occupation. Liberation and occupation are not necessarily exclusive. What the American soldiers are not is colonists. They aren’t moving their families to Baghdad.

President Roosevelt, in his speech that summer [of 1940], told America “all private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger.”

Franklin Roosevelt is by far my favorite president of the 20th Century. But the man wasn’t Moses, and I’m not going to praise everything he said just because he was the one who said it.
My private life has not been and will not be repealed. Don’t any Republicans find that quote creepy? That’s the kind of crazy talk that makes up Kim Jong Il’s lunatic North Korean “juche” ideology.
I won’t be misunderstood here. Obviously FDR was not a totalitarian Stalinist. He certainly wouldn’t be my favorite president since Lincoln had that been the case. And Zell Miller is no Stalinist, either, nor anything like it. But come on. It would be scarcely possible for Miller or anyone else to find a worse quote from FDR to apply to the modern era. It really does bring to mind Christopher Hitchens’ description of life in North Korea where everyhing that is not absolutely prohibited is absolutely compulsory. Because that’s what you get when all private plans and private lives are repealed. I know very well that Pyongyang isn’t what Roosevelt or Miller had in mind, but that is what those words point to. Recycling them does make me wonder about Zell Miller’s instincts. I just can’t imagine favorably quoting something like that. I would have to become a very different person in order to do so.

But don’t waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution. [Emphasis added.]

Whoa there, Jackson. John Kerry is not Noam Chomsky. And John Edwards is no Michael Moore.
There are plenty of people on the left who think America is the problem, that America is eeeevil, that America is the new fascist police state. I’ve beaten them over the head with a rhetorical club on this blog for almost two years now. They are the most irritating people in the entire country, in part because plenty of them live in my neighborhood and I have to put up with their bullshit on a regular basis. I’ve also taken aim at mainstream liberals who refuse to call them out on the carpet. I expect a blowhard like Rush Limbaugh to make no distinction between a mainstream Democrat and a radical wingnut, but no one, and I mean no one, who is a Democrat himself has any excuse for not getting this right. If “the leaders of the Democratic Party” were as Zell Miller described them, Ralph Nader would be out of a job and Noam Chomsky would be a senator instead of a crank on the margins at Z Magazine.
Miller’s argument with Chris Matthews on Hardball was similarly offputting. (Click here to see the video.)
He makes some good points, but he’s still a bully and a loose cannon. Chris Matthews is not generally known for amiability or grace under pressure, but I think he handled Zell Miller’s steamrolling admirably. Miller can’t hold down a conversation with somebody who disagrees with him even when that person is ignoring the insults and the bullying. Matthews even professed admiration for Zell Miller, yet Miller still couldn’t resist threats of physical violence. He seems to have been knocked clean off his rocker by hatred for his own party. He’s been seized by Bush-hatred inverted.
He ought to be my kind of Democrat since we’re both alienated from the party for some of the same reasons. But he’s becoming a hallucinatory right-winger, incapable of grasping straightforward objective reality. It is painful for me to watch. The Democrats are a bit nuts right now, but it simply won’t do to match their craziness and hysteria with more of the same.
Zell Miller might have made me more likely to vote for George W. Bush by presenting a reasonable case. Instead I’ll be stuck cobbling together my own “liberal case for Bush” and seeing if it holds up enough for me to run with it. What Miller is doing is acting as a kind of anti-role model for me. Note to self. Don’t be like Zell.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias responds. And for the record, Matt, I do not think you are deranged. You’re on my blogroll, after all.
UPDATE: When Laura Bush was asked what she thought of Zell Miller’s speech she said “I don’t know that we share that point of view.”