Wow. Even Susan Estrich, who usually seems to have forgotten she was ever a liberal (which I'm guessing has something to do with her token liberal pos
September 4, 2004

Wow. Even Susan Estrich, who usually seems to have forgotten she was ever a liberal (which I'm guessing has something to do with her token liberal post at Fox), wants blood: Thanks Suburban Guerilla:

The mask came off at the Republican convention on Wednesday night. After the video tribute to Ronald Reagan, the man whom his son described as a conservative without anger, the angry men took over.

The angriest of all was Zig Zag Zell. It was stunt casting gone wrong. Sen. Zell Miller calls himself a Democrat, but he has no friends left in the Democratic Party, and after last night, some Republicans must be shaking their heads and wondering whether they want to claim him as one of their own.

The substance of his speech was dubious at best. He attacked John Kerry for voting against the very weapons systems that Dick Cheney, as secretary of defense, had himself questioned. How could he justify this, Wolf Blitzer asked him after the speech. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. It's all here, he mumbled, seemingly unable to understand the question, much less answer it, even though it was repeated over and over. Why did you praise John Kerry when you came to the Senate, he was asked. Couldn't answer that one, either. He attacked John Kerry for describing the United States force in Iraq as occupiers, a term George W. Bush himself has used. Why? He couldn't explain that, either.

Earlier in the week, in an interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," Zell Miller found himself making the case for change, as he did when he nominated Bill Clinton for president to run against George H.W. Bush. He stopped mid-sentence, clearly confused. Change? That was 12 years ago. Confused? Clearly. He quickly switched gears, and began to argue for stability. Could it be true, as those who have known Zell longest are suggesting, that he may not be all there, that a minor stroke or early onset Alzheimer's has clouded his judgment? That's the word among Democrats in Georgia, and if you watched his performance on Fox, you had to wonder if they could be right.

But Wednesday night was worse. In the hall, partisan Republicans called it an old-fashioned stemwinder. On television, it came across as the tirade of a bitter old man. Who could forget that Zell Miller got his start in politics working for the angry segregationist Gov. Lester Maddox, who used to give out pick handles to his white customers at the Pickrick restaurant to use against blacks who might seek service? Zig Zag is not a new nickname for Miller, but one he earned years ago, for the ease with which he switched positions to suit his ambitions.

Dick Cheney was not so angry. Or happy. Or engaged. Or anything. Passion was almost altogether missing from his performance. So was one of his daughters, who supposedly did not join the family on stage afterward for personal reasons. Even though she works full-time for her father, apparently there was no place on the podium for the vice president's openly gay daughter. Too bad. It might have brought some energy to what was the flattest moments of the week. Was the vice president that bored? That uninterested, patronizing or contemptuous? Hard to tell. What he certainly wasn't was engaged with his audience, or interested in anything other than attacking John Kerry or addressing the war on terror. No Ronald Reagan he. No Arnold Schwarzenegger, either.

Rich Lowry, the editor of The National Review and as partisan a Republican as you can find, called it the worst night of the convention. It was one of the worst nights of any convention I can remember. It was enough to make you yearn for the much-criticized Bush twins and their "Sex in the City" jokes.

But it's not simply a problem of style. In three days, no one has said a word about jobs, health care, education, children, seniors, prescription drugs, the environment, the cost of health insurance, clean air, clean water, urban sprawl, housing, poverty, cancer, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the working poor, the price of oil, etc., etc., etc.

This has been a convention about fear and terror, about anger and hate, not about America's families sitting around their kitchen tables.

Every poll says swing voters care most about the economy. They ain't heard nothing yet.

To find out more about Susan Estrich, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at


Originally Published on Friday September 3, 2004
To See Earlier Columns Friday September 3, 2004 Wednesday September 1, 2004

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