Sunday, May 04, 2003
Mean Dean http://www.msnbc.com/news/908114.asp
Howard Dean has come a long way by distinguishing himself as a confident, effective liberal. He’s managed that rare synthesis of candidate-who-says-what-he-believes and governor-who-gets-things-done. By doing so, he has avoided coming across as an unprincipled insider or as an unelectable wacko. In Saturday night’s debate, John Kerry continued to try to paint Dean as a wacko for conceding that the United States “won’t always have the strongest military.” I doubt Kerry will succeed, mostly because the quote is too abstract to change many votes in a Democratic primary. Dean’s other anti-war remarks are more vulnerable to attack. I just think Kerry picked the wrong one.
The greater risk for Dean is that his confidence and liberal purity could curdle into arrogance. Early in the debate, he wisely ducked moderator George Stephanopoulos’ invitations to extend his feud with Kerry. But when Kerry suggested that Dean’s predecessor had established the statewide Vermont health insurance coverage for which Dean was taking credit, Dr. Dean gave way to Mr. Snide. “I don’t know what figures you’re looking at, but it’s probably the same figures that you may have been looking at when you voted for your own $350 billion tax cut,” Dean scoffed. “That is the silliest.” Kerry smiled with satisfaction at Dean’s explosion. When Stephanopoulos invited the candidates to question each other, nearly all of them pitched softballs. Not Dean. He slammed Edwards, Kerry, and Lieberman for insufficient opposition to tax cuts. In his closing remarks, Dean was the only candidate who constantly looked down at his notes, a strangely shifty posture for the field’s best ad-libber