is United States Senator from Georgia.
A House Divided Cannot Stand
From the floor of the Senate
[Zell Miller] 4/2/04
watching the harsh acrimony generated by the September 11 Commission – which, let me say at the outset, is made
up of good and able members – I’ve come to seriously
question this panel’s usefulness.
I believe it will ultimately play a role in doing great harm
to this country, for its unintended consequences, I fear, will
be to energize our enemies and demoralize our troops.
After being drowned in a tidal wave of all who
do enough before 9/11, I have come to believe that the Commission
should issue a report that says: “No one did enough in
the past. No one did near enough.”
Then thank everyone for serving, send them home
get on with the job of protecting this country in the future.
Tragically, these hearings have proved to be a very divisive
diversion for this country. Tragically, they have devoured valuable
time, looking backwards when we should be looking forward.
Can you imagine handling the attack on Pearl
Harbor this way? Can you imagine Congress, the media and the
public standing for
this kind of political gamesmanship and finger pointing after
that “day of infamy” in 1941?
Some partisans tried that ploy, but they were
soon quieted by the patriots who understood how important it
was to get on with
the war and take the battle to America’s enemies, and not
dwell on what FDR knew when.
You see, back then the highest priority was to
win a war, not win an election. That’s what made them “The
I realize that many well-meaning Americans see
the hearings as “democracy in action.” Years ago,
when I was teaching political science, I probably would have
had my class watching
it live on television and using that very phrase with them.
There are also the not-so-well-meaning political
operatives who see these hearings as an opportunity to “score
Then, there are the Media Meddlers who see this
theater” that can be played out on the evening news and
on endless talk shows for a week or more.
Congressional hearings have long been one of
most entertaining pastimes. Joe McCarthy. Watergate. Iran Contra.
They all kept us glued to the TV, and made for conversation around
the water coolers and arguments over a beer at the corner pub.
A Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. is the ultimate
aphrodisiac for political groupies and partisan punks.
But, it’s not the groupies, punks and television-sotted
American public that I’m worried about. This latter crowd
can get excited and divided over just about anything. Whether
it’s some off-key wanna-be dreaming of being the American
Idol, or what brainless bimbo The Bachelor or Average Joe will
choose or who will Donald Trump fire next week.
No, it is the real enemies of America that I’m
These evil killers who right now, right now are gleefully watching
the shrill partisan finger pointing of these hearings and grinning
like a mule eating briars.
They see this as a major split within the Great Satan America.
They see anger, they see division, instability, bickering, peevishness
They see the President of the United States hammered unmercifully.
They see all this and they are greatly, greatly encouraged.
We should not be doing anything to encourage our enemies in
this battle between good and evil. Yet, these hearings, in my
opinion, are doing just that.
We are playing with fire. We’re playing
directly into the hands of our enemy by allowing these hearings
to become the
great divider they have become.
Dick Clarke’s book and its release coinciding
with these hearings have done this country a tremendous disservice,
someday we will reap its whirlwind.
Long ago, Sir Walter Scott observed that revenge
sweetest morsel that ever was cooked in hell.”
The vindictive Clarke has now had his revenge, but what kind
of hell has he, his CBS publisher and his axe-to-grind advocates
These hearings, coming on the heels of the election the terrorists
influenced in Spain, bolster and energize our evil enemies as
they have not been energized since 9/11.
Chances are very good that these evil enemies
of America will attempt to influence our 2004 election in a
way as they did Spain’s. And to think that could never
be in this country is to stick your head in the sand.
That is why the sooner we stop this endless bickering over the
past and join together to prepare for the future, the better
off this country will be. There are some things - whether this
city believes it or not - that are just more important than political
The recent past is so ripe for political second-guessing “gotcha” and
Monday morning quarter-backing. And it is so tempting in an election
year. We should not allow ourselves to indulge that temptation.
We should put our country first.
Every administration from Jimmy Carter to George
W. Bush bears some of the blame. Dick Clarke bears a big heap
of it because
it was he who was in the catbird’s seat to do something
about it for more than a decade. Tragically, it was the decade
in which we did the least.
We did nothing after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center
in 1993, killing six and injuring more than 1,000 Americans.
We did nothing in 1996 when sixteen U.S. servicemen were killed
in the bombing of the Khobar Towers.
When our embassies were attacked in 1998, killing 263 people,
our only response was to fire a few missiles on an empty tent.
Is it any wonder? Is it any wonder that after that decade of
weak-willed responses to that murderous terror, our enemies thought
we would never fight back?
In the 1990's is when Dick Clarke should have
resigned. In the 1990's is when he should have apologized.
That is when he should
have written his book. That is, if he really had America’s
best interest at heart.
Some will say, “We owe it to the families” to
get more information about what happened in the past and I
that. But no amount of finger-pointing will bring our victims
So, now we owe it to future families and all of America now
in jeopardy not to encourage more terrorists, resulting in even
more grieving families, perhaps many more over the ones of 9/11.
It’s obvious to me that this country is
rapidly dividing itself into two camps: the wimps and the warriors.
The ones who want to argue and assess and appease,
and the ones who want to carry this fight to our enemies and
kill him them
before they kill us. And, in case you haven’t figured it
out, I proudly belong to the latter.
This is a time like no other in the history of this country,
and this country is being crippled with petty partisan politics
of the worst possible kind. In time of war, it is not just unpatriotic;
it is stupid, and it is criminal.
So, I pray that all this time, all this energy, all this talk
and all this attention could be focused on the future instead
of the past.
I pray we would stop pointing fingers, assigning
blame and wringing our hands about what happened on that day
David McCullogh has
called “the worst day in our history” more than two
And instead, pour all of our energy into how we can kill these
terrorists before they kill us - again.
For make no mistake about it. They watch these hearings. They
are scheming and smiling about the distraction and the divisiveness
they see in America. And while they may not know who said it
years ago in America, they know instinctively that a house divided
There is one other group that we should remember is listening
to all of this - our troops.
I was in Iraq in January and one day when I was meeting with
the 1st Armored Division, a unit with a proud history known as
Old Ironsides, we were discussing troop morale, and the Commanding
General said it was top notch.
And I turned to the Division’s Sergeant Major, the top
enlisted man in the division, a big, burly, 6-foot-3, 240 pound
African American and I said, “That’s good, but how
do you sustain that kind of morale?”
Without hesitation he narrowed his eyes, and
he looked at me and said “The morale will stay high just
as long as these troops know the people back home support us.”
Just as long as the people back home support us. What kind of
message are these hearings and the outrageously political speeches
on the floor of the Senate yesterday sending to those marvelous
young Americans in the uniform of our country?
I say Unite America! Before it is too late! Put aside these
petty partisan differences when it comes to the protection of
Argue and argue and argue and debate and debate
and debate over all the other things – jobs and education and the deficit
and the environment – but please, please do not use the
lives of Americans and the security of this country as a cheap-shot
political talking point. CRO
Statement delivered on the floor of the United States Senate