OUT OF LEFT FIELD
A Tip of
the Hat to Howard Dean
Rah, Rah John Kerry!
But a word for Mr. Dean
By STAN ISAACS
Okay, the Democrats ABB (Anybody But Bush) campaign has produced John Kerry as the winner. It is undoubtedly time for all Democrats to close ranks behind Kerry for the greater good of the country. But yet, but yet
Consider a few words for Howard Dean, the man who, to use an old expression, was screwed in his bid for the Democratic nomination. To use a more pungent old expression, make that "a royal screwing."
In the wake of Kerrys victory the general view of the pundits is that he had escaped a bitter primary. Some quotes: he had come through a relatively tame primary session; the primary had produced few deep jabs at Kerry and there was minimal bloodshed for him. All too true for Kerry.
But not for Dean, the only so-called major candidate to challenge President Bushs rush toward war in Iraq. Let me count the ways that helped produce what is called the Dean implosion.
Because Dean was the early front-runner and outside the Democratic establishment, the other candidates ganged up on him. And the media went after him with a vengeance that was not evident against the others when Dean was out of the race. Dean made mistakes, of course, but nobodys perfect.
Item: When Dean said the capture of Saddam Hussein would not make the world safer from terrorists, he was jumped on by Kerry, John Edwards, Joseph Lieberman and Dick Gephardt. But it turned out Dean was right. Even CIA head George Trenet told Congress the terrorist threat is still there, but Dean was not given credit for being correct in the face of the gang-up.
Item: When Dean said that Osama Bin Laden, if caught, deserved his day in court like anybody else--which is, of course, the American way--he was jumped on anew by rivals freely quoted in the media. It turned out that a group that ran TV advertisements in South Carolina and New Hampshire before their primaries, using a picture of Dean with Osama Bin Laden, was financed by donors that included labor unions and the former disgraced New Jersey Senator Robert Toricelli. He was raising money for Kerry and donated $50,000 from his Senate campaign to the group. This after-the-primaries revelation did not get the attention the TV ads did. Naturally.
Item: The other candidates, Edwards and Al Sharpton in particular, jumped on Dean for saying the Democrats should not write off the southerners with gun racks and Confederate flags on their pick-up trucks. It was a comment to remind Democrats that they shouldnt cede the south to the Republicans, but the others were able to pin a racist label on Dean for this. When Edwards was down to a two-man race against Kerry, he couldnt say enough nice things about Dean to try to woo his supporters.
Item: Typical of the establishments fear of Dean was the assault on him before the Iowa caucus by Dick Gephardt. Dean, admittedly, was hurt somewhat in Iowa by his statement a few years earlier that caucuses were meaningless. Gephardt, under whose get-along-with-Bush House leadership the Democrats kept losing ground to the Republicans, not only voted to give Bush permission to pursue war in Iraq, but actually convinced such liberal congressmen as Henry Waxman of California to go along with him. He called Dean a phony. Dean then made the mistake in Iowa of responding to Gephardt instead of directing his fire at Bush, which had won him a following in the first place.
Item: After Gephardt dropped out, and while Dean was still in the race, some negative stories about Deans chances quoted Gephardts former campaign chairman, Steve Murphy, who had been in the forefront trashing Dean. Selective quotes can help push a story any which way a reporter wants.
Item: After Dean got into trouble, some pundits gleefully scoffed at the ineffectiveness of endorsements, ridiculing the support Dean won from Al Gore, Bill Bradley and Tom Harkin. Endorsements surely dont mean a helluva lot normally, but they were important for Dean because the early criticism of him was that he was an outsider who was anathema to Democratic insiders. .
Item: Dean faced questions from reporters that were not leveled at Kerry and Edwards. Early on, Dean was asked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When he answered that the United States should take a more even-handed role in the conflict, he was roasted by the Israel uber alles crowd. He was the target of anonymous e-mails charging him with being an anti-Semite. Later in the campaign, when Dean was out of it and Kerry and Edwards campaigned in New York where the Jewish vote is significant--and the Israel-Palestinian issue figured to be central--there were no questions about the issue in the TV debates and not much attention to it in the newspapers.
Item: When Dean obviously was out of it, he was asked as late as the day before he dropped out what he would have done about dropping the atom bomb on Japan if he were President Truman. This was a hot-button subject from day one, completely irrelevant now. Dean, not forthright for once, ducked the question. There was no way anybody could answer this without hurting himself, yet it was thrown at Dean then. The issue was not raised after Dean dropped out of the running.
Item: And now to the incident that may have hurt Dean the most. After he was beaten soundly in Iowa, his concession speech showed him screaming like a banshee at his headquarters. This was played over and over again on the networks and cable and made for terrific comic fodder then and ever since. It made Dean look like a fool. It even turned off some of his most devoted supporters. A report a few days later on Diane Sawyers show, however, gave a more accurate picture of the scene. The original TV transmissions picked up only Deans microphone. Sawyers report picked up the uproar in the entire room, the noise that caused Dean to shout to be overheard. This gave a completely different picture of the scene. Naturally, the later Sawyer report did not get the wide dissemination of the distorted Dean action.
All of this played into Dean being painted as a man who was unelectable.
That is a moot question now. Kerry is the ABB survivor. And the one who said all along that he would support whoever became the Democratic candidate was, of course, Howard Dean.
©2004 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel.
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