- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

In an unprecedented move, President Bush’s campaign has scheduled a prominent Democrat, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, to make a prime-time speech to the Republican National Convention in New York.

Mr. Miller, who gave the keynote address at the 1992 Democratic convention that nominated Bill Clinton for president, has agreed to address the Republicans in prime time, possibly on Sept. 2 when the delegates will nominate Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to head the ticket once again, confided a Republican with close ties to those planning the convention.

The Republican also said the convention will open with a national-security theme, with addresses by former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. Neither Mr. Miller’s camp, nor the RNC would comment on the topic.

“He is the chairman of Democrats for Bush-Cheney, he has a very articulate critique of the Democratic Party and John Kerry,” said Republican campaign adviser Charles Black. “That is something Democrats and independents need to hear.”

Democrats expressed outrage yesterday on learning that Mr. Miller would go so far as to address the “enemy’s” nominating convention less than a month after the Democrats are expected to nominate John Kerry to head their ticket.

“I can’t imagine what they hope to get out of Zell Miller — do they really think they need help with angry white males?” said Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic National Senatorial Committee.

Mr. Miller, a former governor of Georgia who is not seeking another term in the Senate, has been speaking before conservative and Republican audiences for more than two years and has been critical of Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts senator.

“Look, John Kerry couldn’t find Main Street with both hands. You can’t make a chicken swim, and you can’t make John Kerry anything but an out-of-touch ultraliberal from Taxachusetts,” he has said.

Republicans’ showcasing Mr. Miller for millions of TV viewers is expected to help Mr. Bush in two ways.

“It would solidify some Democrats in the South who are thinking about voting for Bush and open the minds of some Democrats outside the South who sort of don’t like Kerry but haven’t yet come around to making up their minds for Bush,” Mr. Black said.

Polls continue to show the Nov. 2 presidential election extremely close, and the outcome could depend on Democrats keeping their troops in line for Mr. Kerry or the Republicans persuading some lukewarm Democrats that it is OK to vote for Mr. Bush on Nov. 2.

Mr. Miller’s drift away from the national Democratic Party of his birth began, he has said, when he realized it had spun away from him on key issues.

“Something’s very wrong when a so-called national party [Democrats] cannot send its national chairman, or its titular head, or its Senate leader, into a third of this country because it would do more harm than good by being there,” he said.

Mr. Miller, who invariably stands to shake hands with whoever approaches his table, began separating from his party with the election of Mr. Bush, voting to approve John Ashcroft as attorney general and co-sponsoring Mr. Bush’s first tax cut — both acts considered as high apostasy by fellow Democrats.

By 2002, Mr. Miller was showing up where few Democrats dared tread. He won thundering approval for a speech to the National Rife Association annual meeting in Reno, Nev. The NRA had endorsed Mr. Bush in 2000.

In November, Mr. Miller wowed admiring, mostly Republican participants at the annual, conservative Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, Fla., and in January gave another keynote speech, this time at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Earlier this month, he delayed flying to Normandy, France, for the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion in order to address the New York Conservative Party’s annual banquet.

His book, “A National Party No More,” angrily denounces the knee-jerk liberalism and political correctness that he claims have taken over his party. He has been hardest on his party’s candidate, saying before a meeting of Georgia Republicans that Mr. Kerry is “so out of touch with the average American it would be comical if it were not so dangerous.”

By contrast, he has said of the GOP’s standard-bearer, “I know we have a strong commander in chief guided by the right principles, and I know that my family and the people of this nation are more secure with George W. Bush in the White House.”

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