Skip to comments.“I’m Mad as Zell, and I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore.”
Posted on 09/02/2004 4:54:22 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
There are speeches yet to go at the Republican Convention, as I write this. President Bush will speak tonight, and of course the most important speech given at any party convention is the one by its nominee. Still, without fear of being proven wrong, in my opinion the most powerful and evocative speech at this Convention was given yesterday. By a Democrat, Senator Zell Miller.
The title which summarizes his work is just one letter different from the catch phrase made famous in the Oscar-winning performance of Peter Finch in the 1976 classic, Network. Finch played Howard Beale, the TV anchorman who went mad on camera and committed the ultimate sin of speaking truth on the air. At a critical point in the movie, he gets up from his desk, walks up to the camera with his face in the lens, and demands that Americans go to their windows, throw them open and yell, Im mad as hell, and Im not going to take it any more.
[Cut to a scene of scores of Americans yelling out their windows in the rain. Cut to a scene of the programmer, played by Faye Dunaway (who also won an Oscar), getting the news from affiliates that people are yelling all over the country.]
Paddy Chayefsky was the writer (and also won an Oscar); he recognized that satire only works when soundly based in reality. In the real world, broadcast studios were, and still are, one of the places where telling the plain, unvarnished truth is totally inappropriate. The same, of course, applies to courtrooms, used car lots, singles bars, and every meeting of diplomats since the world began.
So most important about Zell Millers speech, it contained more truth and less of the obligatory lies than any other political speech in decades. Furthermore, the truth in his speech could only be stated by a Democrat. If a Republican made the exact same speech, it would easily be dismissed as the sort of thing those nasty Republicans say. Only Zell, as a lifelong Democrat and elected official, had the street cred to make those statements and be taken seriously.
As I write this, by stark coincidence Im listening to Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, claiming that Zell Miller is just trying to sell books. He says that Miller, who has held office as a Democrat for almost a half century, is not an insider. And he says that Miller is just using scare tactics. Note that McAuliffe does not try to contradict the facts which Miller put on the table.
Zell Millers speech was not written to be read in cold type on a page, or electrons on a screen. It was written for the ear, not just the mind. It needs to be heard, not just read. The text is available many places on the Internet. But I suggest, if you have broadband, find the speech and stream it into your computer. Experience it in original form. You might burn it to disk and show it to friends and neighbors. Some of you will be so impressed that youll go that far.
This was an extraordinary piece of work, done by a seemingly ordinary man. But its wise never to underestimate a man who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially if hes also a Marine.
Nothing here can do justice to that speech, but I can repeat the major themes that Zell addressed. First was family and security. He spoke of his children and grandchildren. He said, And like you, I ask which leader is it today that has the vision, the willpower and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family? The clear answer to that question has placed me in this hall with you tonight. For my family is more important than my party. There is but one man to whom I am willing to entrust their future and that man's name is George Bush.
Zell recounted the history of statesmen in past generations, Republicans and Democrats, who were careful not to undermine the decisions of their opposing party in protecting America. Then Zell turned to his second theme, the denigration of American servicemen and women. He said, Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.
Like an axeman chopping wood with full strength behind each blow, he slammed home the examples of Presidents, Democrats and Republicans, who used the military power of the United States to protect and liberate others, not to defeat and subjugate them.
Zell ended that section with this comment, that also introduced his third theme: Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.
Zell Miller then stated in plain terms the values that American servicemen have created and preserved by there sacrifices. I present these exactly as in his speech text. Read these aloud to get a feel for how they sounded.
For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.
No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.
But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution.
Those are powerful statements. The first line, about freedom of the press, started the fight you might have heard about between Chris Matthews and Zell Miller on MSNBC. Matthews asked what Miller meant by that? Miller said, It is a metaphor. You know what a metaphor is, dont you.? That verbal fight on live TV continued until Zell challenged Chris to a duel metaphorically speaking, I believe.
In that contretemps, a TV host who tends to bully his guests, stuff words in their mouths, and step on them as they are trying to answer the questions just asked, got his comeuppance. It was a heartwarming spectacle. But I digress.
Zell then ran through all the weapons systems that the US military had used effectively, and where and when, that John Kerry had voted against. He closed with, This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?
Miller then turned to the importance of Kerrys history in the US Senate. He declared, Twenty years of votes can tell you much more about a man than twenty weeks of campaign rhetoric. Campaign talk tells people who you want them to think you are. How you vote tells people who you really are deep inside.
Finally, Zell turned to the character contrast between John Kerry and George Bush. Here was his conclusion about Bush: He is not a slick talker but he is a straight shooter and, where I come from, deeds mean a lot more than words. I have knocked on the door of this man's soul and found someone home, a God-fearing man with a good heart and a spine of tempered steel. The man I trust to protect my most precious possession: my family.
You will hear many people talking about Zells speech. The most common adjective you will hear is angry. Was Zell angry? You bet your bottom dollar he was. The question is why was this former Marine, former Governor, Senator, and lifetime Democrat, so angry? Most politicians are afraid to show their true emotions. This wasnt pretend emotion that Zell showed. It was real. It was true. And the question is, what effect will it have? What is its larger meaning?
I used Howard Beale, the newsman gone mad, as the example at the start because Howard Beale did not CREATE the anger that he expressed. He was only a focus for ordinary Americans to express the anger they already felt. Beale provided a snowball which grew into an avalanche as it rolled downhill.
Last night, Zell Miller did much the same thing. He put into words a submerged anger that a majority of all Americans hold towards the Democrats (mostly) who have belittled and undercut the Americans of courage and commitment who have voluntarily gone in harms way. Zell did not create that feeling. But he did an excellent job of expressing that feeling to all Americans who heard his speech as given, who read it on the page, or who get the opportunity to hear it later on.
I recommend everyone who has not seen the movie Network, or who has not heard Zell Millers speech, get copies of both. See them as a pair. The soul of a very good nation is on display in both. But along the way, the first reveals the fraud of most of broadcast TV; the second reveals the fraud of most of national politics.
Neither is a pretty picture. Both are necessary subjects. And you may come away from that experience saying to yourself, or even shouting out your window, Im mad as Zell, and Im not going to take it any more.
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About the Author: John Armor is a civil rights attorney who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net
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F.Y.I. John / Billybob
I want the bumpersticker!! Or at least a button or stamps--0cents.com, are you online??
Zell's speach can, in my humble opinion, be summed up as follows:
This is NOT your father's Democrat Party!
Further; his passion in saying it will play well with those most in need of hearing it.
"I'm Mad as Zell, and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore!"
I love the word "comeuppance". It's so nice to see Matthews and Kerry get their comeuppance.
Zell Miller = Patroit
I'd like one also.. lol
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I thought that Zell's speech was going to be directed to the Democrats across the country who feel betrayed by the left wing hijackers. He was going to give them sound reasons and logic and an emotional basis for voting for W. He would appeal to the conservative sides of those who vote Democratic after adding the various interest group messages and reaching a total plus some residual guilt.
He did in fact deliver the message, very plain and clear with sufficient emotional overtones. Several of his statements may have actually drawn blood. Reminisicent of the 1850's, the Senator from Gerogia called out the Senators from Massachuttes. Zell's message was an anguished cry to history to let future generations know that within the mass of Democrats there is at least one who can see the disaster looming if the leftists are allowed to regain control.
I expected the speech to be a permission slip to those who can't quite cut the ties to old Democrat allegiances and vote for a Republican. I expected an alter call.
I now realize the alter call was not a real possibility because all present were actually in the choir. I wonder though just how many Democrat souls in TV land were saved by Zell's speech. I suspect there are many.
(And definite bumper sticker, T-shirt, etc. line!)
While I always enjoy your writings, this one is especially great to read. Zell will go down in history as a man of great courage, conviction, and faith. He restored my faith in those on the other side, well, a few of them anyway.
Great essay, John. Zell was fantastic.
You nailed it again, CBB!
John / Billybob
I do, too! I have several people at work who want one if I can find them.
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