Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Deficit of Decency

Some of the blips describing Zell Miller's A DEFICIT OF DECENCY mislabel it as an expansion of his keynote address at the 2004 Republican Convention. Although it does include that period, it's a continuation of his New York Times best seller A NATIONAL PARTY NO MORE (The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat).

Part memoir and part text book, Zell's (I know I should refer to him as Senator Miller, but somehow that just doesn't seem right.) 2003 New York Times bestseller warned his fellow Democrats that the party he'd been a member of his entire life was committing systematic suicide by making itself completely irrelevant to what once had been its core: Ordinary Americans. He was hoping they'd listen. A DEFICIT OF DECENCY picks up from there.

Himself a former Georgia governor, Zell had accepted an appointment by Georgia governor Roy Barnes to finish the term of Senator Paul Coverdell who'd died. Once in Washington, D(oesn't) C(are) as he calls it, Zell quickly became disgusted with how it works.

Instead of doing what's right . . . what's decent on behalf of the people they are elected to represent and the country as a whole, once there too many become focused on one goal: reelection. Their chances for future employment are enhanced through securing campaign contributions for themselves and the party, and toeing the party line without fail.

During an interview in late 2003 when asked who he'd be voting for in the 2004 election, Zell announced his intention to vote for George W. Bush and explained why. And as he expected, Zell instantly became the pariah of the Democrat party. The letter he received from Jimmy Carter, which is quoted in full, is especially revealing.

Zell takes us with him through his Keynote Address (both the version he delivered and the original that was cut back because of time constraints are quoted in full) at the Republican National Convention from its beginning when he was first contacted by the Bush Campaign to its delivery, and after the criticism heaped upon him and it his worry that he'd done damage rather than helped, the relief he felt when he learned days later how positively it had been received by voters.

But it isn't just elections that Zell says reveal of A DEFICIT OF DECENCY. It's in our tax code, policies allowing illegal immigration, sports, the entertainment industry, education, the U(nited) N(uisance) . . .

I suspect that the only two that ever have completely agreed with Zell are Gus and Woodrow, his two yellow Labrador retrievers. Still, A DEFICIT OF DECENCY is a good read and a comfortable one.

Zell's tone and writing style make the reader, this one anyway, feel like he's having a conversation with you while you're sitting with him on the steps of his front porch. Not everyone is able to talk about how their life and family formed the basis for their views and, while sliding in occasional quotes ranging from Alexis de'Tocqueville or Bud Selig to Mother Theresa, make sense.

Zell Miller can, and he does it well.

You may not agree with him on everything, but you understand exactly where he's coming from.

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