Until Wednesday night, I was under the impression that Andrew Jackson had died in 1845. But on Wednesday night, he appeared at the podium of the Republican National Convention under the guise of Georgia Sen. and former Gov. Zell Miller. In the accents of the mountain South, with a directness that left his sentiments unmistakable, with a hatred for what he considers betrayal of America, and out of a fierce love of family and country, Miller delivered the keynote for this Republican convention in the same place as he had delivered one of the keynotes for Bill Clinton's convention in New York 12 years before. I watched Miller from the same spot in the hall as I watched him in 1992. Then I stood next to James Carville, who had worked on Miller's 1990 campaign for governor and embraced him in the moments after the speech. This time I stood next to Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who wondered how he would be greeted in the Democratic cloakroom, and New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu. The 1992 speech was real good. The 2004 speech was electrifying. Zell Miller was a United States Marine"no better friend, no worse enemy." You know which side of Zell Miller you want to be on.
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First comes family. "Like you," Miller started off, "I ask which leader is it today that has the vision, the willpower, and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family?" Andrew Jackson took part in many duels, mostly because of aspersions on his wife's character. One such adversary aimed away from Jackson who stood unscathed. Calmly, Jackson aimed his gun and shot the man through the heart. David Hackett Fischer in Albion's Seed describes the diaspora of the Scots Irish from the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland and Ulster in Northern Ireland: These were fighters, proud men and proud women, lusty and loyal, fond of song (think country music), and ever ready to fight to defend their honor. Andrew Jackson was one such. Zell Milleror Andrew Jackson in his imageis another. You do not want him to think you are a threat to his family.
Zell Miller is, technically, a Democratic colleague of John Kerry in the United States Senate. But in his speech, Miller took as dead an aim at Kerry as Jackson did against the man who impugned his wife's honor and, like Jackson, hit his target. "There is but one man to whom I am willing to entrust [my family's] future, and that man's name is George Bush." And he does not cotton well to politicians who for political reasons call our soliders' names. Miller came to the Senate reluctantly, after Paul Coverdell, a Republican whom he had worked with in the Georgia legislature, died suddenly in July 2000. Gov. Roy Barnes had to ask Miller two or three times to accept appointment to the Senate; everyone knew that Miller could win the special election to the rest of Coverdell's term because of his popularity as governor, but Miller did not want to serve in Washington, and he certainly did not want to be engaged in the hyperpartisan politics of Capitol Hill after achieving great things in the more bipartisan politics of the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta.