- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Sen. Zell Miller yesterday kicked off a national “Democrats for Bush” drive, labeling fellow Democratic Sen. John Kerry a tax-and-spend liberal who is weak on defense and national security.

“Fortunately, Democrats like us have a courageous and principled leader that we’re proud to support. It just so happens that he has a little ‘R’ after his name,” the Georgia Democrat said in a speech.

While Mr. Miller has been a vocal supporter of the president throughout his term, voting for the war in Iraq and supporting across-the-board tax cuts, it is unusual for a Democrat to categorically denounce a presidential candidate from his own party.

But Mr. Miller, who is not seeking re-election in November, says the Democratic Party has moved so far from the ideals once at its core that he no longer can support its actions.

“Frankly, I’ve had it up to here with the politicians who claim to represent my party but really represent nothing but special interest groups and their own partisan agendas,” he said.

“I remember when most Democrats were in favor of projecting America’s power abroad, because we believed that America was a great force for good over evil. … For decades, the Democratic Party maintained peace through strength. We worked with Republicans to ensure that freedom and democracy would not falter in the face of any threat,” Mr. Miller said.

“These days, it seems like some people in my party are motivated more by partisan politics than by national interest,” he said.

Marc Racicot, campaign director for Bush-Cheney ‘04, said in a conference call with Mr. Miller that the senator “has decided that he is going to be very intimately and very importantly involved in our campaign.”

Although neither Mr. Racicot nor Mr. Miller offered a list of Democrats who are part of Democrats for Bush, Mr. Miller told several members of his party during the phone call that he would be sending each a letter asking them to help recruit at least five more Democrats in their state who could be added to the group.

“Before it’s all over, I think you’re going to see a very impressive group of Democrats from around the nation supporting the Bush-Cheney team,” Mr. Miller said.

The maverick senator, who votes often with Republicans in the Senate, took aim at Mr. Kerry, saying the presidential hopeful’s record makes him wrong for America at “this defining moment in our history.” Mr. Miller also said, “John Kerry has the wrong idea about how our country should respond to the threat of terrorism.”

The Kerry camp took seriously the defection of one of its own, lashing out at the former Marine and questioning his patriotism for supporting the president.

“I can’t for the life of me figure out why a Marine who lives by the words ‘Semper Fi’ would want to stand with the Bush crowd that disparaged the patriotism of a tried-and-true hero, Georgia’s own Max Cleland,” said Kerry spokesman David Wade. Mr. Cleland, a former Democratic senator from Georgia, lost his re-election bid last year amid charges that the Bush administration had engaged in dirty politics during the state’s campaign.

Mr. Wade also said that few Democrats are likely to join the Democrats for Bush movement: “Sounds like Zell Miller’s Democrats for Bush crew will be a lonely bunch.”

The spokesman asserted that Mr. Miller’s voting record in the Senate on strengthening the military and providing for U.S. intelligence “is darn near identical to John Kerry’s over these last years.”

But Mr. Miller said Mr. Kerry’s ideals differ greatly from those of a former senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, who cut taxes and vowed to “bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

In addition, Mr. Miller said Mr. Bush has competently and strongly led America through a recession and a time of international turmoil. Throughout, the president “has acted with integrity and a clear sense of purpose.”

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