Miller to Assist ‘Truth Squads’

Posted July 21, 2004 at 7:02pm

Wayward Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (Ga.) has agreed to join the GOP’s “truth squad” monitoring the Democratic National Convention next week.

“I told them … that I would be available, and if they wanted me to take part in anything, I would be glad to,” said Miller of his collaboration with the Republican National Committee’s counter-message center that will be set up in Boston.

Cementing his already strong alliance with Republicans, Miller — who will participate from Georgia — said he was making himself available to Republican public relations aides as they attempt to provide reporters with opposition responses to the Democratic Party’s message during next week’s convention.

“He’s going, generally, to be available for the broadest level of positioning,” said one senior Senate GOP aide with knowledge of the arrangement.

Miller, a frequent and acerbic critic of his own party even as he continues to refuse to entertain the notion of switching political parties, said he wanted to take an active role in criticizing Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), during the party’s nominating convention.

“I’m going to be in Georgia, but I’ll be a spokesman if [Republicans] want me to be a spokesman on something. I’ll be glad to give you my home phone number and you can call me,” Miller told reporters.

Miller, who will retire from the Senate after just one term at the end of this year, has already accepted an invitation to speak at the Republican National Convention in New York at the end of August. Miller also has endorsed Bush’s re-election bid and has agreed to campaign against Kerry.

As part of the GOP “truth squad” during the Boston convention, Miller will help Republicans counter what Democrats hope will be a positive message highlighting Kerry’s biography as a decorated Vietnam War hero and presumptive vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards’ (N.C.) humble beginnings.

Democrats, who say they are used to Miller stabbing them in the back, were not surprised, but said Miller should just go ahead and switch his party affiliation.

“At least [Sen.] Jim Jeffords [I-Vt.] had the courage and the decency to change parties,” said one Senate Democratic aide, who did admit: “Zell Miller is the perfect ambassador for the GOP outreach effort to ‘angry white men.’”

Besides Miller, Republicans will also rely on several other House and Senate lawmakers, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.), according to GOP sources.

Most Republican lawmakers participating in the truth squad, like Miller, will participate via satellite or telephone from their home states, the GOP sources indicated. The “truth squad” also hopes to be able to provide reporters covering the convention with real-time rapid responses such as talking-point papers and other factoids.

Since his appointment to fill the Senate seat of the late Republican Paul Coverdell in 1999, Miller has aligned himself with Republicans and almost uniformly votes with Republicans against Democratic positions.

At the Georgia state GOP convention in May, Miller was quoted in news reports as calling Kerry “an out-of-touch ultraliberal from Taxachussetts” and suggesting that a Kerry presidency would be “dangerous” to national security.

Miller’s 2003 book, “A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat,” savaged his party’s leadership for moving toward a more liberal agenda that alienated Southern Democrats.