“Tell the truth, or trump. But TAKE THE TRICK.”
— Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar
That turns out to have been Zell Miller’s operating principle for a long time, according to an account (long preceding Miller’s apostasy) by Carville and Begala. It turns out that when the “mess of dark pottage” quote was brought out in a 1990 debate, Miller won the day:
Miller wheeled on his accuser and said that back in 1964 when the Atlanta Constitution had printed that so-called quote he’d marched down to the paper’s offices and demanded and received a correction. He’d never say a thing like that.
But it turned out Miller had been … trumping.
Al May, the veteran political reporter for the Atlanta Constitution, interviewed Miller as Paul drove them and Shirley Miller to an event in rural Georgia. May made small talk for a little while. Then he sprang the trap. “Zell,” he said, “I’ve talked to all the editors who were around back then, checked the morgue and the archives, and you never asked for a retraction and the paper never printed one.”
“I know,” Miller said, biting the words off the words like they were bitter herbs.
“So why’d you say all that in the debate last night?”
Miller leaned in close to May and said, “Because, Al, I was trying to mislead the people of Georgia.”
Carville and Begala’s account suggests — contrary to my earlier assertion — that Miller was never a sincere or consistent Dixiecrat. But it also suggests that his relationship with the truth has long been a distant one. Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan in the Washington Post have a good dissection of the whoppers in Miller’s RNC speech.