-Dean wants to repeal 100% of the Bush tax cuts, and therefore raise my taxes along with the rest of the middle class.
-Dean is willing to raise the retirement age for my social security benefits.
-Dean would give my 12-year-old daughter an abortion without notifying me, the parent, because of the possibility that maybe I caused it.
-Dean was against the death penalty and now he’s for it. The political pundits in Vermont say it’s because of his political opportunism.
-Dean wants to send hundreds of thousands more American troops to secure Iraq and Afghanistan, but he boasted about what a great time he had skiing in Aspen rather than serving in Vietnam. He says he’ll get military advisors to help him make those decisions once he wins the nomination.
-Dean thinks the Bush foreign policy is making Americans less secure, but he can’t/won’t say how he will protect me and my family by combating terrorism abroad and securing the homeland.
Of course, many of these perceptions are far off from Dean’s actual views. But I only know that because I’ve followed Dean since he announced his exploratory committee, not because he clearly explained those views in a way that normal, working-class Americans can understand them.
Predictably, the Deaniacs are taking to the Web to decry Tim Russert’s big corporate hit job on their candidate. It’s funny that they should speak up now, after being so silent when Russert took the same bulldog approach and savaged John Edwards a few months ago. Many of them were even delighted when reporters played “gotcha” with George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign (“Can you name the current leader of Pakistan??”). Now that their golden boy has stumbled on national television, it’s a conspiracy. Typical.
A successful candidate parries silly questions like “how many active duty troops are there?” and uses the opportunity to repeat broad themes that appeal to the electorate. Instead, Dean allowed Russert to control the entire discussion, spending much of the hour on the defensive and even bickering, at one point, over whether saying “I’m sorry” constituted an apology to Bob Graham. I’m sure many viewers had deja vu over the meaning of “is.”
This was Howard Dean’s chance to define himself before a national audience and not only point out Bush’s faults, but also set forth a positive vision that would inspire people to support him.
Instead, in a single hour, Dean allowed himself to be defined as a bleeding-edge liberal more along the lines of Dennis Kucinich than John McCain. Worse, he was unpolished, rambling, shifty on his past statements and generally unstatesmanlike. He was unpresidential.
Dean’s appearance was a failure, not because he’ll lose any liberal activists’ support, but because it illustrated faults that are unlikely to diminish over the course of the campaign. There is plenty of time to change, but if Dean’s character is any indication, he won’t. That said, I’ve concluded that his candidacy is doomed, and if he wins the nomination, so is the party.