BY ZELL MILLER
Monday, September 13, 2004 12:01 a.m.
My critics in the national media are working overtime trying to paint me as an angry nut who got the facts all wrong in my speech to the Republican National Convention. Since there's not enough time to challenge all of these critics to a duel, let me set the record straight here and now.
First, the anger. A lot has been said about my angry demeanor. I've made enough speeches to know that you're supposed to connect with the audience by telling a joke or a humorous anecdote or some amusing tale. It's a tried-and-true formula that I've used for most of my life. But this was not a normal speech in a normal time.
Today, we are at the most serious moment of history that we may ever know, and I wanted to connect with the seriousness of this moment, not the audience.
Now, about those facts. I charged that John Kerry is weak on national security, and I listed some of the many weapons systems he has opposed over the years. My critics tripped over themselves to point out that Dick Cheney opposed some of the same weapons systems when he was defense secretary.
But, like with so many things in life, timing is everything. Mr. Kerry was proposing the cancellation of many of these weapons systems at the height of the Cold War--the worst possible time to weaken our military strength. It would be comparable to a senator in 1943 proposing to scrap the B-29 Bomber or Sherman tank or Higgins landing craft. By contrast, Mr. Cheney waited until after we had won the Cold War to propose modernizing our forces and replacing older weapons systems. There's a huge difference. Whether it's the Cold War of yesterday or the war on terror today, Mr. Kerry has sought time and time again to weaken our military at the exact moment we need to show our strength.
I also charged that John Kerry and his fellow Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator, and that nothing makes this old Marine madder. My critics pounced on that one, too. Aren't you aware, they sneered, that President Bush has used the term "occupiers"?
Do they mean when the president said this in April?--"As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation--and neither does America. We're not an imperial power, as nations such as Japan and Germany can attest. We are a liberating power." Are the people of Iraq not liberated from a terrible dictator? Did we not transfer sovereignty over to the Iraqi people exactly when we said we would?
John Kerry and his crowd derisively call American troops "occupiers" because it fits with their warped belief that America is the problem, not the solution. While more than 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq are enjoying freedom, Mr. Kerry is still fretting over whether the U.N. crowd likes us or not. The American people will not abide a commander in chief who gets squeamish over America's role as a liberating force in the world.
And my critics love to point out that I had nice things to say about John Kerry when I introduced him to a Georgia Democratic dinner in 2001. That's true and I meant it. But, again, timing is everything. I made that introduction in March 2001--six months before terrorists attacked this country on Sept. 11. As I have said time and again, 9/11 changed everything. Everything, that is, except the national Democrats' shameful, manic obsession with bringing down a commander in chief. John Kerry has been wrong many times, but he's never been more wrong than in his failure to support our troops and our commander in chief in this war on terror.
So, my critics can call me a psychopath and fire spitballs at me and froth at the mouth when an ex-president sends me a nasty letter. That's the freedom of speech they all enjoy, courtesy of the American soldier.
But for David Gergen and this newspaper's Al Hunt, among others, to call me a racist was especially hurtful. For they know better. They know I worked for three governors in a row, not just one: Carl Sanders, Lester Maddox and Jimmy Carter. They knew I was the first governor to try to remove the Confederate emblem from the Georgia flag. And by the way, when I called each of Georgia's former governors to tell them what I was about to attempt, Jimmy Carter's first question to me was, "What are you doing that for?" Mr. Gergen and Mr. Hunt also know I appointed the only African-American attorney general in the country in the 1990s and more African Americans to the state judiciary than all the other governors of Georgia combined, including that one from Plains.
So, they can call me names and ridicule my angry demeanor all day long. But facts are facts. And the fact is, John Kerry has a long record of proposals to weaken our national security in a time of war. And I would never put my family's safety in those hands.
Mr. Miller is a Democratic senator from Georgia.