This sure ain’t a good week for Republican self-righteousness. Aside from the firestorm over Karl Rove’s possible involvement in outing a CIA agent, a federal crime against national security, it looks like the most visible and vociferous convert to Roverie, Zell Miller, may have gotten caught pocketing state funds when he left the governorship of Georgia back in 1999. The story, broken by an Atlanta television reporter named Dale Cardwell, is that Miller took home a $60,000 balance in the Governor’s Mansion account upon leaving office. Speaking through a flack, Miller admitted taking the money, and claims it was part of his compensation as Governor. But Cardwell quickly and definitively established otherwise, by contacting every other living former Governor, along with legal and budget officials from both political parties. Looks like Miller is totally busted, though it’s not yet clear he’ll be prosecuted so long as he coughs up the funds pronto.As regular readers know, I worked for Miller during his first term as Governor, back when he was a loud ‘n’ proud Democrat. And I personally never saw any signs that the man had a greedy or crooked streak, or was into conspicuous consumption of anything other than pride and bile. Still, it’s hard to understand how he’d think he could pocket Mansion funds. In most states, and certainly in Georgia, Governors’ Mansions are clearly public property, used frequently for public business; that’s why they are staffed by public employees and benefit from public funds. And the Governor lives there as a public employee as well. Converting “excess” Mansion funds to private use is about as clearly wrong as selling off the furniture.But whatever Miller thought he was doing, he sure as hell should have reconsidered it before setting himself up in recent years as a paragon of virtue and a scourge of alleged Democratic “indecency.” Instead, here he is, a favorite of a White House awash in mendacity and scandal allegations, and most recently, a big supporter of the scandal-ridden Ralph Reed–and now he’s got his own scandal to contend with.Whether or not Zell Miller has committed any crime or misdmeanor, he’s certainly living down to the reputation of his new political friends, just when they are almost daily getting caught in all sorts of unsavory gigs. If he manages to get out of his own mess, he should finally and definitively retire from the business of telling other people what to do.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I read a Thomas Friedman column this week that really required a smackdown. So I supplied one at New York:
How much political capital should Democrats invest in a probably doomed effort to save the political career of Liz Cheney? Earlier this week, Never Trump Republican Linda Chavez penned a column urging Wyoming Democrats to take a dive this November in order to give the incumbent a chance to survive as an independent, assuming (as it safe) that Cheney will be purged in her own party’s primary. And now, in an apparent coincidence, in comes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggesting a far more radical step by Democrats to align themselves with the small slice of Republicans who follow Cheney’s example in repudiating Donald Trump. He wrote:
“Is that what America needs in 2024 — a ticket of Joe Biden and Liz Cheney? Or Joe Biden and Lisa Murkowski, or Kamala Harris and Mitt Romney, or Stacey Abrams and Liz Cheney, or Amy Klobuchar and Liz Cheney? Or any other such combination.”
Friedman phrases this as a question, but clearly he thinks it’s a good idea given the “existential moment” America would face if Trump is allowed to regain the presidency in 2024. It’s a bit of a loaded question, too, since it postulates that nothing short of a previously unimaginable “sacrifice” by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans alike can stop Trump — and that it would, in fact, succeed in stopping Trump.
I certainly agree that Democrats dumping Kamala Harris to give their vice-presidential nomination to a conservative Republican who opposes legalized abortion and is a militarist by conviction and heredity would be a “sacrifice,” to put it very mildly. It would also be very, very weird. Friedman cites the recent establishment of a mind-bending coalition government in Israel to thwart Bibi Netanyahu as a development comparable to what he is suggesting. But as he acknowledges, Israel has a parliamentary system in which multiparty coalitions are the rule rather than the exception. A presidential system in which parties invariably run separate tickets for the top job is another thing altogether.
The U.S. has had exactly one example of multiparty fusionism in a presidential election. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Republicans nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee — then serving as U.S. military governor of Tennessee — to run with Lincoln on a “Union” ticket. The experiment did not turn out well, beginning with Johnson’s drunken inaugural address in 1865 and continuing with the racist solidarity he exhibited toward ex-Confederates after Lincoln’s assassination, culminating in his impeachment and near removal from office. There are important reasons politicians sort themselves out into major parties, which should be apparent in an era of polarization over issues other than the scofflaw behavior of Donald Trump.
Is the threat of Trump’s return to the White House the equivalent of the U.S. Civil War? Not in itself, I would contend, though that horrific development could lead eventually to grave conditions comparable if not equal to a civil war. The premise that a Biden-Cheney fusion ticket would uniquely doom Trump to failure is even more dubious. There has never been much evidence of a mass following for Never Trump Republicans, and such as it is, it is mostly composed of people who would (and did in 2020) gladly vote for Biden and Harris. The baleful effect that replacing Harris with Cheney on the ticket would have on Democratic turnout could easily offset or exceed the alleged benefits of bipartisan and trans-ideological fusion.
So Democrats should say thanks, but no thanks, to Friedman for the idea of submitting their party to some sort of unwieldy and unnatural coalition of national salvation, so long as there is the slightest possibility of beating Trump the old-fashioned way. Liz Cheney deserves great respect for the courage she has shown in defying Trump at the expense of her own career, and if Biden is reelected with her support, perhaps she deserves an ambassadorship, a minor Cabinet post, or a major sub-Cabinet position. But she has no business being at the top of the line of succession to a Democratic president.