The Corner

In Defense of “Nervous Nellies” and “Wusses”

These are the elegant designations given by Michael Ledeen and Rod Dreher to conservatives who had reservations about Sen. Zell Miller’s speech last week. Ledeen writes, “I was frankly very discouraged to see so many of our people openly wondering whether it was a mistake to permit the unwashed to see a man who was angry about seeing his party go down the rathole.”

I know of two conservatives who expressed concerns about the Miller speech: Rich Lowry and me. I’ll speak only for myself. I didn’t worry too much about the political impact of the speech. I just thought that the speech could have been just as strong politically–and given “the unwashed” as good a chance “to see a man who was angry about seeing his party go down the rathole”–if it had not included a few noxious passages. Miller could have pointed out that neither Kerry nor Edwards had acknowledged our troops’ role in ending tyrannies in Afghanistan and Iraq–that would have been tough, but fair. Instead, he more or less suggested that it was wrong for the Democrats to try to unseat the president. (It’s as though conservatives, tired of being subjected to false attacks for allegedly calling all opposition to Bush unpatriotic, finally decided just to go ahead and make that attack in reality.) That’s not a reason to vote against Bush, as Miller’s most overheated critics suggest. But the speech is worth criticizing on the merits, whether or not it helped Bush politically.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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