With the retirement of my old boss Zell Miller, I thought perhaps his outrageous political behavior of the last couple of years would come to an end. I mean, what’s the point of insulting your party when nobody really cares any more? Ah, but it now appears the fires of Zell’s odd rage still burn: along with Sean Hannity, he will be the featured speaker at a fundraiser for none other than Ralph Reed, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, and the past master of hypocritical political sleaze.There is, of course, a peculiar historical echo here: Ralph’s very first campaign, before he got religion, and before his notorious stint as deputy to Jack Abramoff in the College Republicans, was with Zell Miller’s unsuccessful 1980 race for the U.S. Senate. Miller lost the Democratic runoff to incumbent Herman Talmadge, who basically beat Miller by calling him too liberal for Georgia. Ironic, huh?Ralph was no more than a little pissant in that Miller campaign, so I doubt this is a matter of discharging some ancient debt. No, Zell’s determined to play out his rightward tangent to such an extreme that absolutely everyone will forget that he was ever a fine, progressive Democratic Governor. He rationalized his endorsement of Bush last year as a patriotic act of gratitude for W.’s national security leadership; that’s ostensibly why his role at the Republican Convention was focused on swift-boating John Kerry’s defense record. Last time I checked, Ralph Reed’s national security resume was pretty much limited to the campaign of calumny against war hero Max Cleland that he orchestrated in 2002. When I worked for Zell, I often walked by a statue of the great populist Tom Watson on the State Capitol grounds. As the historically minded among you may know, Watson capped his career with a long descent into bitter right-wing demagoguery. Zell Miller seems to be following the same trajectory, even in retirement.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I’m certainly old enough to remember lots of these pre-election “agenda” documents, and couldn’t help but mock the latest one at New York:
In Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 cult novel The Crying of Lot 49, a character who has taken too much LSD decides that if everyone on earth repeats the marketing phrase “rich, chocolatey goodness,” it will represent the voice of God. With or without drugs, a lot of people in politics have a similar delusion that getting candidates to make the same noises like chirping cicadas will produce electoral victories. It’s a particularly strong belief among congressional Republicans, who share the dubious conviction that Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” is what flipped control of Congress in 1994.
With the assistance of Gingrich and former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the House Republican Conference has released a new “agenda” document, entitled “Commitment to America.” The document, clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his “Democrat” Party. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot of specificity, unlike the unfortunate “agenda” that Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott released earlier this year to the near-universal horror of his colleagues, who don’t want to be identified with the proposed sunsetting of Social Security and Medicare.
The relatively anodyne character of Kevin McCarthy’s pet project doesn’t mean it is entirely useless. Candidates mouthing the approved pieties will presumably not be expressing their pithy views on Jewish space lasers or repeating QAnon slogans.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously an agenda for the nation that does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy — or one that suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut “wasteful government spending” without explaining what that means (in the indictment of Democrats that accompanies the agenda, there is much criticism of direct stimulus payments, which Donald Trump preferred to virtually every other form of government spending).
Most interesting was how House Republicans handled a red-hot issue they dare not ignore completely, given the obsession it commands among a very big chunk of the GOP party base: abortion. You have to look pretty hard to find it, nestled as it is under the unlikely heading of “A Government That’s Accountable,” and the downright misleading subheading of “a plan to defend America’s rights under the Constitution.” And it simply says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” So they checked off a box for anti-abortion activists in the manner least likely to draw curious or unfriendly attention to the extreme abortion views so many of them have expressed, which don’t poll well. Perhaps voters will be too mesmerized by the overall party message to notice. Repeat after me: rich, chocolatey goodness.