DON’T WE ALL feel Bill Clinton’s pain as he helps his "legacy" crumble? It’s not only that he is no longer in the spotlight, it’s that fewer and fewer people, with the exception of the left wing college crowd, care what he thinks. To paraphrase Rush Limbaugh, Clinton doesn’t know how to act as a former President. He can’t stay out of the limelight – not the limelight of adoration, mind you, but the limelight of scorn and ridicule.
His political legacy of divisiveness and fuzzy liberal thinking is no longer in vogue. In the political races in Virginia and New Jersey the Democratic candidates ran centrist campaigns and won. They didn’t campaign against conservative values; they embraced them. They didn’t campaign against gun owners; they walked a fine line between gun control and gun rights. In Virginia, Mark Warner, the newly elected Governor, worked with Southern Virginia gun owners and met with the National Rifle Association in order to neutralize gun owner support for his opponent. Even the Virginia Democratic Party Chairman stated in the Washington Post, "If we get off on gun control as a defining party issue, we are not going to be successful."
Many Democrats have discovered that in the wake of September 11 the American electorate has rejected the failed liberal policies of Clinton and his cronies. This discovery was foreshadowed in late August when Zell Miller, Georgia’s Junior Senator and former two-term Governor, wrote a short and pithy Letter to the Editor in the Washington Post in which he politely but incisively took issue with Bill Clinton’s handpicked Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, using vilification against opponents hurting not only Democrats but the entire country.
I have been fortunate to know Zell Miller since 1978, when I went to Georgia to lobby for the National Rifle Association. I remember him being friendly and willing to listen. In 1994 we renewed that acquaintance and I worked with him both during his re-election campaign that year and his second term as Governor.
During his last term as Georgia’s Governor, he published a small book titled, Corps Values. I purchased a number of copies to give to my friends who were former Marines and he was gracious enough to autograph them all. The one I kept for myself is among my treasured books. In Corps Values he states, "In the 12 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, although sometimes checkered and detoured, I have followed ever since."
Unlike Bill Clinton, who arrived 45 minutes late for his Georgetown speech, he is punctual. When he says 10 am, it is 10 am, not one minute later. I attended four Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners during his last term. The years that Zell was Master of Ceremonies, the dinner started on time and ended when promised: 9 pm; the one year he was absent, the event dragged on forever.
In the Marine Corps, he learned the value of brotherhood. He understands that the liberal thinking that holds tougher law enforcement and welfare reform to be racist is bogus, and his efforts in Georgia to pass legislation such a Hope Scholarships that are color blind has caused him to now "experience the criticism of liberals for holding the same views for which I used to be excoriated by conservatives." His values remain rock solid.
In the 1970s and 1980s, as Lieutenant Governor he was instrumental in helping Georgia gun owners pass several important state statutes such as a right-to-carry and a firearms pre-emption statute. In 1994 when Governor Miller was running for re-election, the Georgia Republican Party was mobilized and an anti-Clinton, anti-Democrat mood was sweeping the country. Everyone knew gun owners were a critical voting block and Zell courted them.
The NRA Political Victory Fund endorsed him for re-election based on Zell’s long history of supporting gun owners. It was a decision that irritated many Georgia Republican NRA members, but it was the right decision. Since that election, Governor Miller has often credited gun owners’ votes as the ones that were responsible for his 1994 reelection.
It appears that Governors-elect Mark Warner and Jim McGreevey followed Zell Miller’s formula for running as centrist Democrats. Now let’s see if they can have similar success in governing their respective states and leave as great a legacy of Corps Values as has Governor/Senator Zell Miller.