- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

The South, says Sen. Zell Miller, is misunderstood and largely ignored by politicians.

And those politicians who are running for his Democratic Party’s nomination are too liberal, says the Georgia Democrat.

Specifically, he assails former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean for stereotyping Southerners last week by saying, “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”

Responds Mr. Miller: “Howard Dean knows as much about the South as a hog knows about Sunday. He doesn’t understand the South.”

And that was only the beginning of what Mr. Miller had to tell NBC’s Tim Russert during an exclusive interview yesterday on “Meet the Press.”

Beginning today, The Washington Times excerpts Mr. Miller’s new book “A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat,” in which he outlines the “self-destructive path” of his party.

In his book, Mr. Miller describes Mr. Dean as “clever and glib, but deep this Vermont pond is not” and says he belongs to “the whining wing of the Democratic Party.”

But it’s the caricature illustrated in Mr. Dean’s remarks that draws Mr. Miller’s ire, and reminded him of a 1988 Michael Dukakis event in Georgia where the Massachusetts Democrat’s presidential campaign hauled in bales of hay, turning the stage into a set from the TV show “Hee Haw.”

“This is not the South that Howard Dean thinks it is,” said Mr. Miller, adding that 5,500 officeholders in the South are black.

“Sure, we drive pickups, but on the back of those pickups you see a lot of American flags. It’s the most patriotic region in the country,” Mr. Miller said.

“And you see hardworking individuals [who] want to instill values in their children, and you see a very, very strong work ethic in the South. [Mr. Dean] doesn’t understand the South,” Mr. Miller said.

On “Meet the Press,” Mr. Miller addressed the question most often put to him in his three-year career in Washington, where he often crosses party lines to vote with Republicans: Why doesn’t he switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party? Or as Mr. Russert put it: “Why not just be intellectually honest and change your registration to be a Republican?”

Explained Mr. Miller: “It’s kind of like living in this old house. You lived in it all of your life. It’s getting kind of run-down, and it’s drafty. The commodes won’t flush. And last week, a family moved in down in the basement, and you don’t know even who they are or where they came from. And I would be comfortable, probably, in some other house much more than where I am,” Mr. Miller said.

“But I have been here all these years. I haven’t got many more years to live in it. It’s home. It’s always been home. And I’m not leaving it. Now, I know that doesn’t make sense to everybody that is just so tied up with political parties. But it makes sense to me, and it makes sense to my family, and it makes sense to my neighbors. And that’s all that matters with me,” Mr. Miller said.

The problem with the Democratic Party, Mr. Miller says, is it has been taken hostage by “special interests with their own narrow agenda so far to the left that they’re completely out of the mainstream.”

“These so-called national leaders, none of them can come South and try to help a fellow Democrat. Because they’re considered too liberal,” Mr. Miller said.

Citing Democratic Party leader Terry McAuliffe, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, House leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Tom Daschle, Mr. Miller said they would “do more harm than good.”

As for the current lineup of Democrats vying for the presidential nomination, Mr. Miller said they are all “good and decent people” whom he respects.

But with the exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Mr. Miller said the candidates “have managed to make this a double feature of the worst of the Democratic Party.”

Mr. Miller said he wants to throw his party a “life preserver.”

“I’m trying to tell them how to do it. They can call it ‘Bush Lite’ and ‘Republican Lite’ if they want to. That’s where the people are,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller, who says he has never met a tax cut he didn’t like, credited Mr. Bush’s tax cut for reinvigorating the economy and said it is the one issue on which Democrats lose.

“When Walter Mondale looked out and told the nation, ‘I’m going to raise your taxes.’ What? Goodness gracious, that’s not the way to campaign. He carried one single, solitary state,” Mr. Miller said.

Asked if putting a Southerner on the ticket for vice president would swing votes, Mr. Miller said the very question shows how misunderstood his region is.

“That’s what they think. They think that they can ignore the South and not pay any attention to the South and then, the last six months of the campaign, maybe they can find a Southerner that they will put on the ticket, and that that’s going to be the magic silver bullet that does it all,” Mr. Miller said.

“That is not how you campaign in the South. That’s the old strategy that has failed all the time,” Mr. Miller said.

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