The time a Democrat fired up a Republican convention

It may be a long time before we again see political theater like the moment a Democratic senator gave us in 2004, when Sen. Zell Miller gave a stemwinder of a speech to the Republican National Convention in 2004.

He brought down the house when he said it was soldiers, not reporters “who have given us freedom of the press.”

He minced no words, attacking top Democrats.

“No pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry,” he declared.
“This is the man who wants to be the commander-in-chief of our U.S. armed forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?” he said of John Kerry, the presidential candidate.

“I can identify with someone who has lived that line in ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘Was blind, but now I see,’ and I like the fact that he’s the same man on Saturday night that he is on Sunday morning,” he said of President Bush. (read full speech)

Appearing on MSNBC during the same convention, Miller challenged Chris Mathews to a duel and explained the meaning of “metaphor.”

So savage — even by today’s standards — was Miller’s attack that even the White House distanced itself from it. Miller and his wife were removed from the list of dignitaries scheduled to sit in the president’s box when Bush gave his acceptance speech a few nights later.

Miller was the talk of the nation and most every late night comedy show.

In the same place — Madison Square Garden — 12 years earlier, Miller said Bush’s father was “a timid man who hears only the voices of caution and the status quo” and a “commander-in-chief [who] talks like Dirty Harry but acts like Barney Fife.”

Miller died this morning at 86. He had Parkinson’s.