Jul 08 2005

Zell Miller Series: March To The Left

Published by at 1:45 pm under All General Discussions

I am beginning a series of posts on Zell Miller’s excellent book “A National Party No More” which is much better than I would have expected. So good in fact I wanted to excerpt Zell’s own words and highlight what the democrat party has lost in becoming the marginalized, hard core liberal party of the leftward fringes. Having grown up in a democrat family, and having a grandfather as a democrat congressman, I knew the party had shifted so far left that I could no longer relate to it, and soon I came to openly oppose it. But it was not until I read this great book by a lifelong democrat that I realized how far this slow transition had gone in the last 30-40 years. So here is the first in a series of posts on the great man from Georgia.

When Zell went to Washington DC to fill the seat of Republican Paul Coverdale, he was in for a culture shock so severe it caused him to revolt from the national democrat party. One experience simply stunned him, the hard pull of the liberal core to basically destroy the careers of Southern democrats in a useless and mindless political battle on Homeland Security (page 69-73)

I’ve always thought the most important decision any office holder makes is whom they really want to help. In that regard, in the fall of 2002, in the heat of a campaign season, the Democratr leadership laid on the straw that broke this old camel’s back. It was the caucus position on homeland security. What came to be the main point of contention was whether any of the 170,000 employees of the new Department of Homeland Security could be moved around by the president in time of national emergency without all the hidebound restrictions of the Civil Service System complicating and delaying it. Every president before George W. Bush had that kind of authority, but because 2002 was an election year, the employee’s labor union wanted to flex its muscle. They found a willing chairman in presidential candidate Joe Leiberman, whose Government Operations Committee had written the bill. The bill was driven by the American Federation of Government Employees and their cock-of-the-walk-president Bobby Harnage, who is always spoiling for a fight because, whether he wins it or not, the fight always helps to increase the 37.5 percent of government workers who are unionized. Their twin group, AFSCME, by the way, helped bring the state government of California to its knees. If allowed to continue unchecked and unchallenged, they will put the federal government in the same position.

In a floor speech on September 18, seven weeks before the general election, and at a time when incumbent Georgia Senator Max Cleland led 54 to 33 percent in the polls, I told the Senate:

Mr. President, Let no one forget that this debate on homeland security is being held in the shadows of the fallen towers of the World Trade Center. The smoldering fires may have gone out, the acrid smell may no longer burn our nostrils, the strains of “Amazing Grace” from the bagpipes may no longer fill the air, but, make no mistake about it, the need to protect this country and prevent this from ever happening again is just as urgent.

So, how does the United States Senate meet this[,] one of the greatest challenges of our times? I’ll tell you. We talk and talk and talk. Then we pause to go out on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God Bless America” with our best profile to the camera. And then we come back inside and show our worst profile to the country….We must give the president the flexibility to respond to terrorism on a moment’s notice. He’s got to be able to shift resources, including personnel, at the blink of an eye. [skipping a few paragraphs]…

Will we tie the hands of our president or give him the same unfettered flexibility other presidents have had before him?

Don’t let this be one of those votes you’ll look back on an ask yourselves for the rest of your lives, “What was I thinking of?”

The next day in a press conference, I tried again:

Of all the many things for my party to have a knock-down, drag-out fight over, the issue of national security is absolutely the worst. I can think of a no more unattractive picture our party could have projected six weeks out from an election. We are not doing our party any good by feeding the perception that the Democrats are undermining the president of the United States on terrorism. And to Joe Six Pack in that Wal-Mart parking lot, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

I then brought my finger across my neck and said, “We’re slitting our own throats”…[skipping a few paragraphs]…

On election night, November 5, a ghost even scarrier than Marley appeared in Georgia and in Missouri. As I had warned, this one did slit throats. Triple amputee and decorated Vietnam hero Max Cleland was defeated, dropping eight points in those few weeks – weeks that time and time again, eleven to be exact, the Senate Democratic leadership urged him to vote with those special interests. And in Missouri, Jean Carnahan, a fine senator and widow of my friend, Mel Carnahan, met the same fate. …[skipping a few paragraphs]…

Immediately after the election,, the bill passed with the Democrats not saying the first word about protectionism for union and federal employees, which weeks before they had dwelled on.

I hold out little hope the liberal democrat senators, safe in their seats, have learned their lesson.

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