I rather like the summary Sidney Blumenthal provides of the key political event this week in the United States - Zell Miller addresses the Republicans, and the nation.
Backwoods preacher pours hellfire on Democrats
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian (UK), Friday September 3, 2004
Now Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton, and is Washington bureau chief of salon.com - a pesky, overly-intellectual online commentary site. But he nails it -
Yeah, well, that's about it.
The belligerence of the Republican convention's keynote speaker was so overpowering it easily obscured the monochromatic performance of Dick Cheney. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia did not vary his grim expression or his shouting like a backwoods preacher casting out the devil. But his raw rhetoric framed the most profound questions about patriotism and democracy in wartime.
The previous speakers, from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger, had been chosen for their lack of partisan regularity in order to better carry attack lines against John Kerry. Superficially, Miller was to be the crescendo of this tactical march to the podium, a Democrat regretting his party's fall from grace and singing the praises of the Republican president.
Miller had been a keynote speaker at the Democratic convention of 1992 that nominated Bill Clinton. His politics then were a vibrant southern populism against the special interests. In the Republican sweep two years later, however, Miller experienced a near-death experience, almost losing as governor because he suggested removing the Confederate battle-flag from its corner of the state flag where it had been placed during the white resistance to civil rights laws.
Afterwards, Miller tacked steadily rightward.
Upon leaving the governorship, he jettisoned his Democratic alliances and became a lobbyist for the Phillip Morris tobacco combine. Elected as a US senator, Miller played as though he had been betrayed, aligning himself with the Republicans. In this he was following the tragic trajectory of southern populists past, who had transformed themselves into their opposites.
"Today," Miller said, "at the same time 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 Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." In one sentence, he advanced a new stab-in-the-back theory, achieved the seamless merger of Iraq and Afghanistan, attributed political division to the Democrats (who had supported the war in Afghanistan and overwhelmingly backed the congressional war resolution on Iraq), and stripped the presidency down to its military function.
Ha! You can't have a Republican National Convention without mentioning the French!
... he offered a peculiar history of the constitution and the bill of rights. "It has been said so truthfully," said Miller, "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."
Kerry, by contrast, was plotting a betrayal to the United Nations and, even worse, "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending".
But the whole thrust?
"Miller's skewed history of the United States was intended to taint political debate itself as subversive."
That about sums it up.
Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, notes he has hear that when people in the White House first turn on their computers in the morning, they go first to Andrew Sullivan's blog." They ain't gonna be happy with this. But Andrew Sullivan is not a real Republican. He's gay. And was born in the UK. Yeah, he's a pro-Reagan, pro-Contra, pro-SDI, pro-Gulf War conservative... but he's GAY!
Here's part of his take on Miller, and Cheney who followed him -
THE MILLER MOMENT: Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
And note these items on Barack Obama in Just Above Sunset: August 1, 2004 - Cain's Question and August 15, 2004 - Who Gets to be Black?.
Barack Obama and Zell Miller are as different as night and day - or would that be as different as black and white?
But back to the dyspeptic Sullivan, and what he thinks of this Miller fellow.
Yes, only Brits use that gob-smacked term. But it works here.
THE "OCCUPATION" CANARD: Miller first framed his support for Bush as a defense of his own family. The notion that individuals deserve respect regardless of their family is not Miller's core value. And the implication was that if the Democrats win in November, his own family would not be physically safe. How's that for subtlety? Miller's subsequent assertion was that any dissent from aspects of the war on terror is equivalent to treason. He accused all war critics of essentially attacking the very troops of the United States. He conflated the ranting of Michael Moore with the leaders of the Democrats. He said the following: 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.
That macho invocation of the Marines was a classic: the kind of militarist swagger that this convention endorses and uses as a bludgeon against its opponents. But the term "occupation," of course, need not mean the opposite of liberation. I have used the term myself and I deeply believe that coalition troops have indeed liberated Afghanistan and Iraq. By claiming that the Democrats were the enemies of the troops, traitors, quislings and wimps, Miller did exactly what he had the audacity to claim the Democrats were doing: making national security a partisan matter. I'm not easy to offend, but this speech was gob-smackingly vile.
And further on the French come up again -
Yeah, well the Republicans can dismiss Sullivan. He's gay. What does he know?
THE FOREIGN AGENT: Another lie: "Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide." Miller might have found some shred of ancient rhetoric that will give him cover on this, but in Kerry's very acceptance speech, he declared the opposite conviction - that he would never seek permission to defend this country. Another lie: "John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday's war." Kerry didn't want to do that. Yes, he used his military service in the campaign - but it was his opponents who decided to dredge up the divisions of the Vietnam war in order to describe Kerry as a Commie-loving traitor who faked his own medals. What's remarkable about the Republicans is their utter indifference to fairness in their own attacks. Smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears is wrong when it is performed by the lying Michael Moore and it is wrong when it is spat out by Zell Miller. Last night was therefore a revealing night for me. I watched a Democrat convince me that I could never be a Republican. If they wheel out lying, angry bigots like this as their keynote, I'll take Obama. Any day.
He also had this to say about the Cheney speech which followed the Miller thing (my emphases) -
Lost another one to the side of the wimps, it seems. Sullivan has gone over.
CHENEY'S SPEECH: It was a sound one, certainly defensible in its sharp attacks on Kerry and heartfelt in its defense of the character of the president. But it was over-shadowed by the foul rhetoric that went before him, rhetoric he blessed with his opening line. On a substantive note, it is astonishing to me that neither he not anyone, in invoking the war on terror, has mentioned any developments in Iraq or Afghanistan over the last year. These speeches could have been written as Baghdad fell or at the latest, when Saddam was captured.
And this party and president claim to be war-leaders. Real war-leaders explain defeats and set-backs, they recognize the current situation, they grapple with reality. But this war is easy, it seems. There are no problems in Iraq. Everything is peachy. Democracy is breaking out everywhere; no mistakes have been made; no rethinking is necessary after the travails of the occupation (sorry, Zell). I understand the political need to put a gloss on things. But the surrealism of the rhetoric is, in some respects, an insult to the American people, who deserve a real accounting of where we are. Of all the difficult choices we have to make - in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia - nothing is spoken. There is not even a nod to reality. Just an assertion that only the Republicans have the balls to fight this war. It may well work in the election. But it speaks to the character of our leaders that they prefer bromides and denial to a real accounting and real leadership.
My comments - Shwarzenegger gave a speech the previous evening saying those who don't think the economy is just fine are "economic girly-men." Out of work, can't find a job? Suck it up! Arnold may have a net worth nearing a billion and used to get forty million a movie. Trust him. He knows. One summary I saw? "Once I was a skinny kid in Austria with a Nazi father and I was scared of the communists, but since then I've taken steroids and I'm rich. Also don't worry about troop strength because the soldiers we've already got still have some limbs left. Vote for Bush or you're a big faggy queer sissy nelly gay person."
But Sullivan says "smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears" is wrong.
Sullivan needs to grow up. That's the game now.
Oh yeah - Cheney had better disavow is daughter, quickly.... Alan Keyes is on his case.
As your recall, Barack Obama now faces Alan Keyes in the race for the open senate seat in Illinois. His first opponent dropped out after it was revealed that his glamorous Hollywood wife divorced him partly because he kept insisting she would really enjoy naked hot monkey sex with him in front of large crowds at sex clubs. She suggested she wouldn't like that at all. Oh well. Obama was far ahead in the polls anyway. The Illinois Republicans then tried to the run Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears football coach with the notoriously short fuse. But Ditka stepped away. There was some talk of the Republicans trying to get Ted Nugent to run - the former rock star, avid hunter and NRA guns-for-everyone enthusiast. He hates wimps and girly-boys too. But that went nowhere. So the Republican tapped Alan Keyes, of Maryland, to run against Obama.
And Keyes is a gas. And in tune with the zeitgeist for the party.
Keyes takes jabs at his own party
Jennifer Skalka and Ofelia Casillas - September 1, 2004
Oh man, the lines are drawn. On one side the manly men, with a vengeful God on their side, who asks no questions and punish those who do. On the other side? The girly-men, the fags, and, of course, the French, who shun God's rues about proper sex and think too much - the questioners, the doubters.
... As the Republican National Convention focused on unity Tuesday, Keyes lashed out at Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter.
... Keyes' first comments about Mary Cheney came during an interview Monday night on Sirius OutQ, a New York-based satellite station that provides 24-hour gay and lesbian programming.
After the candidate told the hosts that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," he was asked whether Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist."
"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition. Of course she is."
On Tuesday, Keyes defended his remarks, adding that if his daughter were a lesbian, he would tell her she was committing a sin and should pray.
The next sixty days are going to be a lot of fun.
Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, points to this - a Georgia Democratic Party-produced ad run on CNN by a local
Atlanta cable system. Zell Miller exposed. Amusing.