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
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.