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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Final Descent Into Zell

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.

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