Matt Towery

 It's because Miller's soul is never at rest. It ponders and searches, evaluates and re-evaluates. His critics have accused him of being "Zig-Zag Zell," a swipe at the many twists and turns in his political career. Miller started as the chief aide to controversial, right-wing Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, then transformed into a left-of-center opponent to a politically wounded Sen. Herman Talmadge, then re-emerged as the poster boy for the more moderate, Clinton-inspired Democratic Leadership Council. Finally he has landed as a conservative Democrat supporting a Republican president.

 But Miller's core political principles retain a fundamental consistency. Always a populist, Miller has found the Democratic leadership in the Senate far too elitist for his liking. The concept that a handful of Washington insiders could dictate positions that flew in the face of most of his home state's constituency was something he couldn't stomach.

 As for the charge that he has suddenly moved to the right -- in fact, the move has been in evidence for a long time. In the early and mid 1990s, Miller was a trailblazer among governors in leading the nation in the passage of laws requiring welfare recipients to work, and in sentencing dangerous criminal repeat offenders to life without parole. If Zell Miller has "Zig-Zagged" to a new philosophy, the first zig was a long time ago.

 What will he say Wednesday night on prime time TV? That's still under wraps. I can guess that he will acknowledge his speech for Clinton 12 years ago. He will also likely point out that back then, Clinton and he shared many of the same goals that brought a more moderate tone to the Democratic Party. Undoubtedly, he will deliver the strongest of defenses of George W. Bush, and it will be colored by the experiences of this former Marine drill sergeant. And given that Miller is nationally known for having created a lottery-based free college tuition for qualified students in Georgia -- dubbed the HOPE scholarship -- he likely will focus on the "hope" of the future.

 None of this will keep Democratic operatives from trying to paint him as a traitor to the party that brought him success, or as a hypocrite who enjoyed the Democratic national spotlight under Clinton, and now basks in the GOP convention of 2004. But the cool and calm Miller I spoke with on Saturday won't be rattled by his critics. For Zell Miller, it will be the last and greatest "Zig-Zag" of a career to be remembered.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
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