The Truth Hurts

The Keynote: For several years now, Republicans have been too polite or inarticulate, or both, to say what they really think of the Democratic Party. How clever, then, to find a Democrat to say it for them.

Ronald Reagan got in his digs. But you hardly noticed, so affable were his stories and so disarming was that twinkle in his eye. Even the opposition didn’t seem to take offense.

Ever since Reagan, GOP standard-bearers have seemed either reluctant to mix it up or ill-suited to the task.

George H.W. Bush didn’t seem to have a politically combative bone in his body. Even if he did, he couldn’t find the words to complete a sentence, let alone a zinger. And if Dan Quayle and “attack dog” ever appeared in the same sentence, we never saw it.

Bob Dole had the zingers, but delivered them so sardonically that he came across as the meanie that Republicans always fear of being labeled. Jack Kemp was too upbeat to ever be downright mean.

George W. Bush, it seems to us, has lived up to his pledge four years ago of keeping partisanship to a minimum. Even his tougher stump speeches have a certain gentlemanliness about them. Dick Cheney, for all his barbs, can hardly be called a firebrand.

Maybe that’s why Zell Miller’s keynote speech Wednesday night at the GOP convention took so many aback. In contrast to all those who too often hold their fire, Miller was a veritable Gatling gun.

But that’s not why we’ve reprinted his remarks in full on this page. It’s because of the remarks themselves — which border on historic — and, just as important, because of the man who made them.

Miller isn’t some hired gun. He’s a lifelong Democrat who has served his party honorably for 45 of his 72 years — as mayor, Georgia legislator, lieutenant governor, governor and U.S. senator.

He grew up under FDR and Truman and served in the Marines under President Eisenhower. And he remembers how different John F. Kennedy was from the Democrats of today.

He even gave the keynote speech at the Democratic convention in 1992, when he hoped a fellow governor from Arkansas could lead the party back to the center.

Somewhat like Reagan, Miller is someone who didn’t leave (and, in fact, still hasn’t left) his party, but who has seen his party leave him. And as was palpably clear to all who saw or heard him Wednesday, he’s none too happy about it.

Was Miller’s speech effective? You gotta be kidding. Seeing all the pro-Democrat TV news celebrities rendered speechless, with eyebrows singed and hair blown back, was proof enough.