After delivering his brilliant speech at the Republican National Convention last Wednesday attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s record on defense, Sen. Zell Miller (D.-Ga.) appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
But host Chris Matthews did not seem particularly interested in letting Miller lay out the factual basis for his argument.
Even the Boston Globe reported on Kerry’s views:
- “[C]andidate Kerry in 1984 said he would have voted to cancel many of them–the B-1 bomber, B-2 stealth bomber, AH-64 Apache helicopter, Patriot missile, the F-15, F-14A and F-14D jets, the AV-8B Harrier jet, the Aegis air-defense cruiser, and the Trident missile system. He also advocated reductions in many other systems, such as the M1 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Tomahawk cruise missile, and the F-16 jet.”
When he could not find airspace between Matthews’ questions to explain that Kerry had campaigned for the Senate in 1984 expressly promising to cancel many of the weapons systems President Reagan was then building in the cause of forcing the Soviets to give up the Cold War, Miller became exacerbated. In the end, he facetiously lamented that the days of dueling were over–inferring he would rather meet Matthews at 40 paces than on a television show where Matthews controlled the questioning.
Here is an excerpt from the Miller-Matthews exchange.
Chris Matthews: All right, let me ask you. Senator, you are the expert. . . . Didn’t you many times vote against whole packages of spending, when you would have gladly gone for a smaller package?
Sen. Zell Miller: Well, I didn’t make speeches about them and I didn’t put them in my platform. Right here is what John Kerry put out as far as his U.S. Senate platform was, he was talking about he wanted to cancel the MX missile, the B-1 bomber, the anti-satellite system. This is not voting for something that was in a big bill.
Matthews: Which of those systems was effective in either Afghanistan or Iraq? The MX certainly wasn’t, thank God, nor was the other.
Miller: Look, this is front and–wait, this is front and back, and it’s two pages. I have got more documentation here than they have got in the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. I knew you was going to be coming with all of that stuff. And I knew that these people from the Kerry campaign would be coming with all this kind of stuff. That’s just baloney. Look at the record. A man’s record is what he is.
Matthews: I agree.
Miller: A man’s campaign rhetoric–what?
Matthews: I’m just asking you, Senator, do you mean to say–I know there’s rhetoric in campaigns. I just want to know, do you mean to say that you really believe that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy do not believe in defending the country?
Miller: Well, look at their votes.
Matthews: I’m just asking you to bottom-line it for me.
Miller: Wait a minute. I said I didn’t question their patriotism.
Matthews: No. Do you believe that they don’t believe in defending the country?
Miller: I question their judgment. What?
Matthews: Do you believe they want to defend the country?
Miller: Look, I applaud what John Kerry did as far as volunteering to go to Vietnam. I applaud what he did when he volunteered for combat. I admire that, and I respect that. And I acknowledge that. I have said that many, many times.
Miller: But I think his record is atrocious.
Matthews: Well, let me ask you, when Democrats come out, as they often do, liberal Democrats, and attack conservatives, and say they want to starve little kids, they want to get rid of education, they want to kill the old people–
Miller: I am not saying that. Wait a minute.
Matthews: That kind of rhetoric is not educational, is it?
Miller: Wait a minute. Now, this is your program. And I am a guest on your program.
Matthews: Yes, sir.
Miller: And so I want to try to be as nice as I possibly can to you. I wish I was over there, where I could get a little closer up into your face. But I don’t have to stand here and listen to that kind of stuff. I didn’t say anything about not feeding poor kids. What are you doing?
Matthews: No, I’m saying that when you said tonight–I just want you to–
Miller: Well, you are saying a bunch of baloney that didn’t have anything to do with what I said up there on the–No, no.
Matthews: OK. Do you believe now–do you believe, Senator, truthfully, that John Kerry wants to defend the country with spitballs? Do you believe that?
Miller: That was a metaphor, wasn’t it? Do you know what a metaphor is?
Matthews: Well, what do you mean by a metaphor?
Miller: Wait a minute. He certainly does not want to defend the country with the B-1 bomber or the B-2 bomber or the Harrier jet or the Apache helicopter or all those other things that I mentioned. And there were even more of them in here. You’ve got to quit taking these Democratic talking points and using what they are saying to you.
Matthews: No, I am using your talking points and asking you if you really believe them.
Miller: Well, use John Kerry’s talking points from the–from what he has had to say on the floor of the Senate, where he talked about them being occupiers, where he put out this whenever he was running for the U.S. Senate about what he wanted to cancel. Cancel to me means to do away with.
Matthews: Well, what did you mean by the following.
Miller: I think we ought to cancel this interview.
Matthews: Well, I don’t mean. . . .Well, that would be my loss, Senator. That would be my loss. Let me ask you about this, because I think you have a view on the role of reporters in the world. You have said and it has often been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. Was there not–
Miller: Do you believe that?
Matthews: Well, of course it’s true.
Miller: Do you believe that?
Matthews: But it’s a statement that nobody would have challenged. Why did you make it? It seems like no one would deny what you said. So what’s your point?
Miller: Well, it evidently got a rise out of you–
Matthews: Well, I think it’s a–
Miller: Because you are a reporter.
Matthews: That’s right.
Miller: You didn’t have anything to do with freedom of the press.
Matthews: Well, you could argue it was not nurses who defended the freedom of nursing. Why did you single out freedom of the press to say it was the soldiers that defended it and not the reporters? We all know that. Why did you say it?
Miller: Well, because I thought it needed to be said at this particular time, because I wanted to come on–
Matthews: Because you could get an applause line against the media at a conservative convention.
Miller: No, I said it because it was–you’re hopeless. I wish I was over there. In fact, I wish that we lived in–I wish we lived in the day–
Matthews: I’ve got to warn you, we are in a tough part of town over here. But I do recommend you come over, because I like you. Let me tell you this.
Matthews: If a Republican senator broke ranks and–all right, I’m sorry. A Republican senator broke ranks and came over and spoke for the Democrats, would you respect him?
Miller: Yes, of course I would.
Miller: I have seen that happen from time to time. Look, I believe–
Matthews: What does Jim Jeffords say to you?
Miller: Wait a minute.
Matthews: Jim Jeffords switched parties after getting elected.
Miller: If you’re going to ask a question–
Matthews: Well, it’s a tough question. It takes a few words.
Miller: Get out of my face. If you are going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer.
Matthews: Senator, please.
Miller: You know, I wish we–I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel. Now, that would be pretty good.
Don’t ask me–don’t pull that–
Matthews: Can you can come over? I need you, Senator. Please come over.
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