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ZELL’S BELLS (PART 1)! We emitted low chuckles at Zell Miller’s clowning. But why are faux Dems on the rise?


THE TEARS OF A CLOWN: It doesn’t take Zell Miller long to commence with the heartfelt boo-hooing. In the opening paragraph of his clowning new book, Miller weeps and wails, as if by rote, about the abuse he’ll endure:

MILLER (page 1): There will be those who ask, “What is this about, The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat?” I can hear the liberal Washington crowd right now. Gold Medalists in the Sneering Olympics, hissing, “In the first place, Miller’s no Democrat.”
Poor Zell! The “liberals” in Washington will sneer at his book! And that’s not the only cross he will bear. As he types on, the burdens pile up:
MILLER (continuing directly): On the other hand, there are some die-hard Republicans back in Georgia who will break out their choicest cuss words and swear, “He’s no conservative.” And you can bet that some old drinking buddies from many years ago will slap their knees and hoot, “What conscience?”
“Liberal” and “conservative” are terms of art, but Miller’s drunken old friends have it right. In fact, Miller is one of the biggest fakers our corrupted public discourse now offers. In Georgia, he’s long been known as “Zig Zag Zell” for his self-serving liberal-to-conservative flips, and Georgia commentators have long derided his dim and dumb corn-pone demagoguery. “LEAVE MAMA OUT OF IT,” Jim Wooten implored in a 1994 Atlanta Constitution column. Wooten complained about the way Ol’ Zell kept crying about his impoverished childhood. “Zell Miller is a thousand luxury suites removed from [childhood] poverty,” the scribe noted. But when it came to “gubernatorial po’-mouthing,” no one was “in the league with” Ol’ Zell. “Politicians lose it when they start talking about mama’s suffering,” Wooten complained, noting Miller’s lifelong habit of boo-hooing behind his mother’s torn skirts. Meanwhile, Wooten suggested that the fake, phony Miller had long since stopped caring about Georgia’s poor. “I used to be young, too. Ain’t now,” the scribe wrote. “Used to know the young and their problems firsthand. Don’t now.” Ol’ Zell was a phony, Wooten seemed to be saying. Or as Miller’s drunken old friends might have said: To what “conscience” does this fake man refer?

Miller, of course, was totally wrong in the first of his heartfelt predictions. In fact, “Washington liberals” have done little “sneering” about his laughable new book. (Full title: A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat.) Despite the nasty clowning in which he engages, Miller has received great respect from elite TV hosts from Russert to Borger. Wooten noted Zell’s fakery long ago, but Washington’s docile press elite is in no mood for such observations. In recent months, Miller’s clowning has gone unobserved—but his nasty attacks have been given wide currency. Indeed, if it’s nasty “cuss words” you want to enjoy, you need to go check out Ol’ Zell.

While north of Boston in recent weeks, we took great delight in Miller’s great clowning. We’ll note some highlights as the week proceeds—and we’ll ask, at the end of the week, who could be funding such nonsense.

SPEAKING OF WELL-CHOSEN CUSS WORDS: Ol’ Zell knows all about nasty “cuss words.” What’s the most quoted part of his book? It’s the passage where he insults those Dem White House hopefuls. As usual, Miller speaks from both sides of his mouth. “They are good, smart, and able folks,” he begins. But within the same paragraph, he is soon saying this:

MILLER (page 62): Whenever the candidates encounter a Political Action Committee group, they preen and flex their six-pack abs for “the Groups” like body builders in a Mr. Universe contest. Or, perhaps more appropriately I should compare them to streetwalkers in skimpy halters and hot pants plying their age-old trade for the fat wallets on “K” street.
Later, of course, Ol’ Zell complains about the “shrill” rhetoric of those demonized Dem interest groups. But in the current publishing context, Faux Dems like Miller can earn beaucoup dough peddling slimy comments like this. Who is behind the ongoing March of Faux Dems? We’ll speculate at the end of the week. In the meantime, Miller seems to have an especially vivid idea of what streetwalkers are wearing in Washington. And for a price, he’ll say odd things about folks who are “good, smart and able.”

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: As we’ve noted, faux Dems are very much on the rise. Tammy Bruce is another clowning example—see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/16/03, 12/17/03, 12/18/03 and 12/19/03. By the end of the week, we’ll pose a great question. In whose lab is this species being hatched?

SPIN OF THE YEAR (PART 1): Incomparably, we said it would happen. Back in September, Jonathan Chait wrote a foolish New Republic piece explaining why he “hated” George Bush (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/30/03 and 10/1/03). “I hate the way he walks,” Chait wrote—“shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo.” Chait was pulling no punches this day. “I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more,” the scribe wrote. Before we proceed, can we make one small point? Can we note how much the overwrought scribe sounded like “a teenage boy feigning machismo?”

At any rate, we explained what would happen. We said that Chait’s column was going to be cited by “every conservative spinner from now until Kingdom Come.” Why would they eagerly cite what Chait said? Because the hapless pundit had willingly modeled the RNC’s scripted Spin of the Year. For months, pseudo-con hacks had been spreading the spin-point: Those who disagree with Bush are in the grip of irrational hatred. And from that day to this, Chait’s column has been cited as an example of what’s wrong with our sorrowful discourse. Last week, in the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson cited Chait’s “hatred” of Bush once again. Chait is the poster boy for those who would say that opposition to Bush is just built on strange hatred. He served up a fat, juicy softball last autumn. Spinners keep hitting Chait out of the park.

Those who disagree with Bush are in the grip of irrational hatred. Today, we name it our Spin of the Year. We’ll examine the way the spin-point is used as the week continues.