You all know that my father, Congressman William Miller of New York, was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1964. He was the choice of a man known as “Mr. Conservative,” Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.
The Goldwater-Miller ticket lost by 16 million votes and there are many who believe that I must have been the reason for my dad’s resounding defeat.
In my own defense, I was only 3 years old. At that point, the only words I was able to speak did not yet involve politics. In 1964, my vocabulary was limited primarily to insightful observations about bedtime (“No!”) and dessert (“More!”).
What I didn’t know until this week — and learned when I read Nate Silver’s amazing analysis of the vice presidential nominees of both parties going back more than a century — was that my father was not nearly as conservative as people assume, particularly compared with other Republican nominees.
My dad was a man of deeply held conservative principles, but they were not reflexive. His conservatism was based on what he believed, not what pols or polls told him to think. In fact, according to Silver’s chart, of all of the GOP’s vice presidential nominees going back to 1904, there were only three who were more “liberal” than my father!
The GOP’s three least conservative running mates were: Henry Cabot Lodge in 1960, Nixon’s choice in the race against JFK; Nixon himself in 1952 and 1956, when he was Ike’s No. 2 (he was actually America’s No. 2, but I digress); and George Herbert Walker Bush, when he was Reagan’s vice president in 1980 and 1984.
Compared with Paul Ryan, my dad would be considered a Kenyan socialist. The pouty-mouthed congressman from Wisconsin is THE MOST CONSERVATIVE vice presidential choice in modern political history — more conservative than Dan Quayle, more than Bob Dole and far more than his mentor, Jack Kemp. My dad was a principled conservative who could work across the aisle for the good of the country. Paul Ryan wouldn’t have voted for him.
What Paul Ryan hopes is that we will judge him on his abs, not his absolutism. He wants us to see him as extremely nice, not dangerously extreme.
You know what? According to Silver, Paul Ryan is even more conservative than Dick Cheney! I didn’t know there was even a place to stand that was to the right of Darth … er, Dick Cheney.
Don’t you just fall off the edge of the earth?
(Photo: Getty Images)