In January, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was telling everyone about what the new, improved Democratic National Committee would look like under his leadership. But five months later, the only thing new about the organization is that its chairman calls Republicans “evil,” “corrupt” and “brain-dead,” as well as “liars” who “never made an honest living in their lives.”
If you are a Republican, Howard Dean says you “are all about suppressing votes: two voting machines if you live in a black district, ten voting machines if you live in a white district.” If you are a Republican, Dr. Dean says you believe that “kids ought to go to bed hungry at night” and you disagree with the idea “that people who work hard all their lives ought to be able to retire with dignity.”
Fortunately, Dean assures us, “We’re not going to stoop to the kind of divisiveness that the Republicans are doing.”
Well, thank goodness for that.
Terry McAuliffe, Dean’s predecessor, was a bit of a goon and a demagogue, but he never quite approached this level. He also knew how to raise money, unlike his successor. The one thing you can say of Dean is that he is doing his part to remove much of the political discourse from our national rancor.
Dean’s appearance two weeks ago on Meet the Press was his first exposure to the national media since his selection as DNC Chairman and it provided ample proof that he had been wise in hiding himself theretofore. Answering questions from Tim Russert, Dean was unapologetic about his April mockery of Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction before an audience of cackling leftists in Minnesota (he had made snorting noises to imply that the radio host has a cocaine problem). McAuliffe never did anything like that, even though he isn’t a medical doctor like Dean with “ethics” issues to consider when it comes to an issue like substance abuse.
And speaking of “ethics,” in that same television appearance, Dean also defended his statement in Massachusetts last month — decried even by Rep. Barney Frank (D) — that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) “ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers.” The exchange over this with Russert was priceless and speaks for itself:
MR. RUSSERT: ”Serve his jail sentence”? He — what’s he been convicted of?
DR. DEAN: He hasn’t been convicted yet, but he is also, in addition to the things that I just mentioned, under investigation in Texas by a district attorney down there for violating the campaign finance laws of Texas by funneling corporate donations, which is illegal, into certain campaign activities. This gentleman is not an ethical person, and he ought not to be leading Congress, period…
MR. RUSSERT: You said in December of 2003 that we shouldn’t prejudge Osama bin Laden. How can you sit here and have a different standard for Tom DeLay and prejudge him?
DR. DEAN: To be honest with you, Tim, I don’t think I’m prejudging him…
Even more important than Dean’s silliness is his failure to bring cash — or philosophical direction — to the Left. Donations to the Dean DNC have been just as umimpressive as I anticipated months ago. So far this year, the RNC has built an enormous advantage in money raised (more than two-to-one), new donors (more than three-to-one), and cash on hand (more than four-to-one). And what Dean is raising, he is spending to send Democratic organizers to Mississippi, Wyoming, North Carolina (which has no major statewide elections next year), and North Dakota. This may not be the wisest use of political money.
In terms of philosophy, Dean says the darnedest things, but he rarely adds any value to the conversation. If you were wondering what Howard Dean does when he isn’t calling someone “brain-dead,” this comes from his speech at last week’s Take Back America conference in Washington:
“Is there a problem with the defense posture when we pick on dictators that are irrelevant to the United States and then leave nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran alone? Yes. We will look in the long-term for the defense of the United States of America.”
I find this fascinating, because liberals were singing such a different tune during the 1980s when this was the Reagan policy (and it was a much better policy than Bush’s). Back then, the Left was positively insane with rage at the double standard. We were making peace with — or even in some cases supporting — dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, and Augusto Pinochet as part of a wider strategy to combat the liberals’ global communist allies. Dean’s embrace of such a policy now is proof that when it comes to bashing President Bush, it’s really “any port in a storm” for the Left.
Despite his shortcomings, Dean has at least brought a few new, awkward euphemisms to the political debate. Abortion is now “a woman’s right to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she gets.” Gay marriage is now “Civil Rights for all Americans.” If the rest of the party follows Dean’s lead with this kind of timorous rhetoric, I fear I’ll never get my wish of seeing Barbara Boxer offer an “abortion tax credit” on the Senate floor. (“After all, we have a child tax credit,” she would say. “Why do we discriminate against women who exercise their constitutional rights?”)
The choice of Howard Dean as chairman earlier this year was the result of Democrats’ failure to find another candidate who could stop him. Since then, the good doctor has taken up the task of euthanizing his own political party with such zeal that many suspect he is a GOP plant. Dean has exceeded all predictions of disaster, and now he’s poised to do even more damage to the DNC until they finally find some way of getting rid of him.
David Freddoso, a native of Indiana, is a political reporter for Evans and Novak Inside Report.