When you look at the slate of prime-time speakers the Republicans announced this week for their national convention in New York this August, it brings to mind Yogi Berra. It's deja vu all over again.
For entirely different reasons, it resurrects images of 1992 and 1996.
It brings back 1992 because that's when then-Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia was the most conservative prime-time speaker at the Democratic convention. This year, Miller (now a senator but still a Democrat) will be the most conservative prime-time speaker at the Republican convention.
To be sure, Miller is an excellent choice. He can be warm and witty -- while shredding adversaries. Just standing on the podium at the Republican convention, he will demonstrate how far Democrats have drifted from the values of Middle America.
In 1992, Miller helped persuade Americans that Clinton was a "New Democrat." Clinton's message that year -- he said he wanted to cut taxes, end welfare as we know it and make abortions "rare" -- was about as truthful as his 1998 grand jury testimony. But it worked: Clinton broke the Republican electoral lock on the South and defeated President George H.W. Bush.
The younger President Bush and Vice President Cheney will speak at this year's convention, of course, as will their wives. They can be counted on to give well-crafted and effective orations. But beyond them -- and the Democrat Miller -- all the speakers on the prime-time roster hail from more liberal precincts in the GOP.
They include: Education Secretary Rod Paige, Arizona Sen. John McCain, New York Gov. George Pataki, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Paige champions school choice -- but also massive spending increases --in a Cabinet agency Republicans once vowed to abolish. McCain authored a campaign finance law that restricts free speech. Pataki, Schwarzenegger, Bloomberg and Giuliani are all very liberal on social issues.
Bloomberg, who will open the GOP convention on Monday night, told NBC's Tim Russert in 2001: "I am pro-choice. I am pro-gay rights. I am in favor of gun control and against the death penalty . . . and I will try to convince others the error of their ways if they disagree."
From Pataki to McCain, this year's speakers list recalls 1996. That's when Pat Buchanan, whose presidential campaign I managed that year, and who won the Republican caucuses in Alaska, Louisiana and Missouri, as well as the New Hampshire primary, was banned from speaking.