Zell Bryan Miller
|Birthplace:||Young Harris, Towns, Georgia, USA|
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About Zell Miller, Governor, U.S. Senator
Zell Bryan Miller (born February 24, 1932) is an American politician from the US state of Georgia. A Democrat, Miller served as Lieutenant Governor from 1975 to 1991, 79th Governor of Georgia from 1991 to 1999, and as United States Senator from 2000 to 2005.
Miller crossed party lines and backed Republican President George W. Bush over Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
Miller did not seek election to a full term in 2004. After leaving the Senate he joined the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, as a non-lawyer professional in the firm's national Government Affairs practice. Miller was also a Fox News Channel contributor.
Early life and military career
Miller was born in the small mountain town of Young Harris, Georgia. His father, Stephen Grady Miller, died when Miller was an infant, and the future politician was raised by his widowed mother, Birdie Bryan. As a child, Miller lived both in Young Harris and Atlanta. Today, Miller lives in the old Young Harris home. Miller spent his first two years of college at Young Harris College in his home town. He holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in history from the University of Georgia.
Less than a month after the Korean War armistice (a cessation of hostilities), Miller wound up in a drunk tank in the North Georgia Mountains. Miller claimed later that this incident was the lowest point of his life. Upon his release, Miller enlisted in the Marines. During his three years in the United States Marine Corps, Miller attained the rank of sergeant. He often refers to the value of his experience in the Marine Corps in his writing and stump speeches; in his book on the subject, entitled Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know I Learned in the Marines, he wrote:
"In the twelve weeks of hell and transformation that were Marine Corps boot camp, I learned the values of achieving a successful life that have guided and sustained me on the course which, although sometimes checkered and detoured, I have followed ever since."
In addition to his political offices, Miller has taught a variety of classes at Young Harris College, the University of Georgia, and Emory University.
Miller's father and mother were both involved in local politics in the North Georgia mountains. Miller, a Democrat, was Mayor of Young Harris from 1959 to 1960, and was elected to two terms as a Georgia state senator during the 1960s. In 1964 and 1966, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. He endorsed segregation in both races. He later served in several positions in state government and in the Georgia Democratic Party.
Miller's first experience in the executive branch of government was as Chief of Staff for Georgia governor Lester Maddox. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 1974, serving four terms from 1975 to 1991, through the terms of Governors George Busbee and Joe Frank Harris, making him the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Georgia history. In 1980, Miller unsuccessfully challenged Herman Talmadge in the Democratic primary for his seat in the United States Senate.
Miller was elected governor of Georgia in 1990, defeating Republican Johnny Isakson (who later became his successor as U.S. Senator) after defeating Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and future Governor Roy Barnes in the primary. Miller campaigned on the concept of term limits and pledged to seek only a single term as Governor. He later ran for and won reelection. James Carville was Miller's campaign manager.
In 1991, Miller endorsed Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas for President of the United States. Miller gave the keynote speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In two oft-recalled lines, Miller said that President George H. W. Bush "just doesn't get it," and he remarked of a statement by Vice President Dan Quayle:
“I know what Dan Quayle means when he says it's best for children to have two parents. You bet it is! And it would be nice for them to have trust funds, too. We can't all be born rich and handsome and lucky. And that's why we have a Democratic Party. My family would still be isolated and destitute if we had not had F.D.R.'s Democratic brand of government. I made it because Franklin Delano Roosevelt energized this nation. I made it because Harry Truman fought for working families like mine. I made it because John Kennedy's rising tide lifted even our tiny boat. I made it because Lyndon Johnson showed America that people who were born poor didn't have to die poor. And I made it because a man with whom I served in the Georgia Senate, a man named Jimmy Carter, brought honesty and decency and integrity to public service.”
As governor, Miller was a staunch promoter of public education. During this time, he helped found the HOPE Scholarship, which paid for the college tuition of Georgia students who both established a GPA of 3.0 in high school and maintained the same while in college, and who were from families earning less than $66,000 per year. The HOPE Scholarships were funded by revenue collected from the state lottery and from state income taxes. In December 1995, his office announced a proposal for $1 billion more in spending on education. HOPE won praise from national Democratic leaders. The HOPE Scholarship program still to this day provides Georgia students with an opportunity to attend a public college or university, who otherwise may have no opportunity to do so.
Miller's biggest election battle came in 1994. Some have said that the 1994 election was a turning point in Miller's career, arguing it gave him a desire to prove himself a cultural conservative. One cited piece of evidence is that in the late 1990s through the early 2000s, he gradually shifted from being pro-choice to pro-life.
Upon leaving the Governor's office in January 1999, Miller accepted teaching positions at Young Harris College, Emory University, and the University of Georgia. He was a visiting professor at all three institutions when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Miller's successor as governor, Roy Barnes, appointed Miller to a U.S. Senate seat following the death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell in July 2000. While the Democratic Party's historic control of Georgia politics had waned for years, Miller remained popular. He easily won a special election to keep the seat in November 2000. During the campaign to keep the seat, Miller spoke warmly of his late friend Coverdell, praised Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, and promised to work for bipartisanship in the Senate.
As Coverdell had last been elected in 1998, Miller had four years remaining in the Senate term before his retirement from politics in January 2005, following the conclusion of the 108th United States Congress.
Throughout Zell Miller's career as a U.S. Senator he showed increasing support for Republicans and increasing criticism of Democrats, leading some to question whether his fellow Democrats in the Senate had given him a lukewarm reception. However, given his beginnings as a conservative southern Democrat, it is likely he found his views drastically different from the more liberal ideology of the national party.
During 2001 and 2002, when liberal Republican senators from New England like James Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee threatened to (and in Jeffords' case, did) leave their party over ideological disputes, rumors abounded that Miller would become a Republican in order to return control of the Senate to that party. These rumors were dispelled with Miller saying, "I'll be a Democrat 'til the day I die."
In 2002, Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) was involved in a contentious re-election campaign against Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss. The race galvanized Democrats across the nation, who said Chambliss had questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a disabled Vietnam veteran. Miller remained true to the Democrats in this case, campaigning hard for Cleland despite their ideological differences. But after Chambliss won, Miller formed a close working relationship with him. He also moved even further to the right, presumably because it had become increasingly difficult for a Democrat to win statewide in Georgia.
In 2003, Miller announced that he would not seek re-election after completing his term in the Senate. He also announced that he would support President George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election rather than any of the nine candidates then competing for his own party's nomination. He maintained this position after fellow Senator John Kerry became the Democratic nominee, and Miller, who had been a keynote speaker at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, was subsequently announced to be a keynote speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
In 2004, he cosponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment to the United States Constitution. If it had been ratified, it would have declared that marriage in the United States only consists of the union of a man and a woman, and would have prohibited state and the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and same-sex domestic partnerships. On March 11 of that year, he introduced the Broadcast Decency Responsibility and Enforcement Act, that would have created a Council of Decency to advise the Federal Communications Commission on standards of decency in broadcasting. The Council would have consisted of three individuals from the ministry, three broadcast industry representatives, and three school teachers. The money from penalties from obscene, indecent, and profane broadcasts would have been given to faith-based organizations.
Later that year, he proposed a Constitutional amendment to repeal the 17th Amendment. If the amendment had been ratified, the members of state legislatures would elect members to the United States Senate, rather than the residents of the states.
Miller established himself as a conservative on virtually all economic issues. He was the first Democrat in the Senate to publicly declare his support for the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, a broad-based tax cut which was criticized by opponents for favoring the rich and being fiscally irresponsible. Miller was the only Democrat to vote against an amendment to that same bill submitted by Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to scale back portions of that tax cut in order to spend more on education and debt reduction. He strongly opposed the estate tax and voted a number of times for its repeal. He also advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Miller argued in his book A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat (authored and published in 2003) that the Democratic Party lost its majority because it does not stand for the same ideals that it did in the era of John F. Kennedy. He argued that the Democratic Party, as it now stands, is a far left-wing party that is out of touch with the America of today and that the Republican Party now embraces the conservative Democratic ideals that he has held for so long. The book spent nine weeks in the New York Times Best Seller list for hardback non-fiction, rising to fourth position.
Despite Miller's frequent disagreements with his own party, he did occasionally support some of their positions. For example, he was a strong supporter of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. In Miller's view the provisions of the bill, limiting donations to candidates for political office, should have gone even further. Miller voted with all his fellow Democratic senators for the Bipartisan Patient Protection Act, and later he voted with virtually all fellow Democrats to allow American consumers to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. This bill was strongly opposed by American pharmaceutical companies. Miller also, in October 2003, voted with most of his party to prohibit the enforcement of the ban on travel to Cuba. And despite his support of a Federal Marriage Amendment, on June 15, 2004, Miller again voted with all his fellow Democratic senators to include sexual orientation in hate crime laws with the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill to enable the Act was approved by a voice vote in the Senate and added to a Department of Defense Authorization bill, but was removed following a veto threat by President George W. Bush, opposition by the House Republican leadership, and opposition to unrelated provisions of the bill regarding the Iraq War.
Democratic Congresswoman Denise Majette sought to fill Miller's Senate seat, but lost the 2004 election to Republican Johnny Isakson, who was endorsed by Miller.
Speech at 2004 Republican National Convention
In his keynote convention speech, delivered on September 1, 2004, Miller criticized the current state of the Democratic Party. He said, "No pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two senators from Massachusetts – Ted Kennedy and John Kerry." He also criticized John Kerry's Senate voting record, claiming that Kerry's votes against bills for defense and weapon systems indicated support for weakening U.S. military strength.“
The B-1 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, dropped 40 percent of the bombs in the first six months of Enduring Freedom. The B-2 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein's command post in Iraq. The F-14A Tomcats, that Senator Kerry opposed, shot down Khadafi's Libyan MIGs over the Gulf of Sidra. The modernized F-14D, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora. The Apache helicopter, that Senator Kerry opposed, took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War. The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capital and this very city after 9/11. I could go on and on and on: against the Patriot Missile that shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel; against the Aegis air-defense cruiser; against the Strategic Defense Initiative; against the Trident missile; against, against, against. This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?”
The speech was well received by the convention attendees, especially the Georgia delegates. Conservative commentator Michael Barone compared the speech to the views and ideology of Andrew Jackson.
Miller's combative reaction to post-speech media interviews received almost as much attention as the speech itself. First, in an interview with CNN, Miller had a dispute with Judy Woodruff, Wolf Blitzer, and Jeff Greenfield when they questioned him on his speech, particularly on whether he had misinterpreted the context and full content of Kerry's votes, and the fact that Dick Cheney, as Defense Secretary, had opposed some of the same programs he attacked Kerry for voting against.
Shortly thereafter, Miller appeared in an interview with Chris Matthews on the MSNBC show Hardball. Here, Miller became visibly angry. Matthews criticized the premise of Miller's assertion that Kerry had actually voted against such defense programs by noting that in voting on appropriations bills, senators often vote against a version of a bill without wishing to oppose every item in that bill. Matthews also asked Miller to compare his assertion that a military under Kerry would be armed with only "spitballs" with rhetoric from Democrats that Republicans "want to starve little kids, they want to get rid of education, they want to kill the old people" and whether such level of rhetoric was constructive. When Miller expressed irritation at this line of questioning, Matthews pressed Miller with the question "Do you believe now – do you believe, Senator, truthfully, that John Kerry wants to defend the country with spitballs?" Miller at first said that he wished the interview had been face-to-face so that he could "get a little closer up into your face." Miller angrily told Matthews to "get out of my face," and declared: "I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel." At the conclusion of the interview, Matthews asked "Let's be friends," which Miller ignored. Miller later said about the interview, "“That was terrible. I embarrassed myself. I’d rather it had not happened."
Remarks on Bush re-election
After Bush was re-elected, Miller referred to the Republican victories in that election (including a sweep of five open Senate seats in the South) as a sign that Democrats did not relate to most Americans. Calling for Democrats to change their message, he authored a column, which appeared in the Washington Times on November 4, 2004, in which he wrote:
“Fiscal responsibility is unbelievable in the face of massive new spending promises. A foreign policy based on the strength of 'allies' like France is unacceptable …A strong national defense policy is just not believable coming from a candidate who built a career as an anti-war veteran, an anti-military candidate and an anti-action senator. …When will national Democrats sober up and admit that that dog won't hunt? Secular socialism, heavy taxes, big spending, weak defense, limitless lawsuits and heavy regulation – that pack of beagles hasn't caught a rabbit in the South or Midwest in years.”
Support for Republicans
Although nominally a member of the Democratic Party, Miller has endorsed Republicans since at least 2004. He backed Republican President George W. Bush over Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election and since 2003 has frequently criticized the Democratic Party, and has publicly supported several Republican candidates. In 2006, Miller did voice-overs (narrations) for Republican candidate commercials in Georgia state elections (George "Sonny" Perdue and Ralph Reed).
He declared early in 2008 that he would not support either Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. He supported Senator John McCain instead. After Obama was elected President and Democrats increased their majorities in the House and Senate, he endorsed Republican Saxby Chambliss in the Senate run-off against Democrat Jim Martin and criticized Obama over "spreading the wealth".
In 2012, Miller served as the national co-chair to the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. The same year, Miller endorsed Doug Collins, the Republican candidate in the 9th District of Georgia congressional race.
Life after politics
In August 2005, President Bush appointed Miller to the American Battle Monuments Commission.
In 2005, Miller was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association.
He is a Freemason.
The former Student Learning Center (SLC) at the University of Georgia was renamed to the Zell B. Miller Learning Center (Miller Learning Center or MLC for short) in October, 2008.
Miller's health took a downward turn in the late 2000s when he developed shingles and subsequently suffered two falls that resulted in broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a broken back. Today Miller walks with a cane and has an electronic device implanted in his body that dispenses a pain killer when activated by remote control.
Justice Sunday II
Miller was a speaker at "Justice Sunday II," an event organized by conservative Christian evangelicals to combat alleged liberal bias in the Federal Judiciary of the United States. The event was organized by Tony Perkins and James Dobson, and held in Nashville, Tennessee on August 14, 2005.
Miller criticized the United States Supreme Court, saying that it had "removed prayer from our public schools … legalized the barbaric killing of unborn babies and it is ready to discard like an outdated hula hoop the universal institution of marriage between a man and a woman."
Books and References