Kerry Scores Comeback Iowa Victory | washingtonpost.com. More of the same in American presidential politics. The bland, establishment figures come out ahead over those who want to revolutionize the system. This stuff has just became very boring. That’s the opposite of conventional wisdom — with pundits and talking heads rejoicing over Howard Dean’s weak third-place finish and looking forward to a “realdog fight” — but the fact is that the “new” Democratic front-runners have little or nothing new or interesting to say.
Conservatives have had a great time the past month lambasting Howard Dean for suggesting that Osama bin Laden, if captured, should be put on trial and that his guilt should not be presumed. Well, just so happens that President Bush himself said the same thing — about the tyrant Saddam Hussein — in a December 15 news conference:
QUESTION: Mr. President, you said earlier this morning that in a trial that all of Saddam’s atrocities need to be brought out. He was in power more than 30 years. It probably would make for a long rap sheet.
You’re not supposed to pre-judge.
QUESTION: Yes. I’m just counting the years.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 should be included, as well as his assassination attempt against former President Bush?
So, where is the conservative anger when their own man makes the same “slip”? And why has the media not picked up on this, despite the Republican insistence that the media are a bunch of flaming, Democratic-leftie liberals?
That’ll all be decided by the lawyers. And I will instruct this government to make sure the system includes the Iraqi citizens and make sure the process withstands international scrutiny. But we’ll let the lawyers handle all that. And, as you know, I’m not a lawyer. And I delegate. And I’m going to delegate this to the legal community which will be reviewing all of this matter.
Michael Kinsley writes in Slate about what he calls “the politics of mixed emotions,” meaning that bad news for the country is good news to opposition candidates. There he notes that Howard Dean’s concession that capturing Saddam Hussein was “frankly, a great day for the administration” is “a rare example of a politician saying ‘frankly’ and then saying something actually frank.” Well said, both of you.
Yes, even my friends at Right Thinking From the Left Coast say (albeit holding their toungues) that Howard Dean has “class” — evidenced by his statement yesterday that capturing Saddam was a “great day for the Administration.” [Right-Thinking Comments - Klassy Kerry]. Oh yes, John Kerry is “just a vile, disgusting human being.”
Could Dean really win? Unfortunately, yes. The Democratic presidential candidate has, alas, won the popular presidential vote three times in a row — twice, admittedly, under the guidance of the skilled Bill Clinton, but most recently with the hapless Al Gore at the helm. And demographic trends (particularly the growth in Hispanic voters) tend to favor the Democrats going into 2004. . . . But surely the fact that Bush is now a proven president running for reelection changes everything? Sort of. Bush is also likely to be the first president since Herbert Hoover under whom there will have been no net job creation, and the first since Lyndon Johnson whose core justification for sending U.S. soldiers to war could be widely (if unfairly) judged to have been misleading.
Hey, if the Right thinks so, maybe this guy is really for real. USA Today reports that Dean is leading by “outworking his rivals at conventional politics and at the same time taking risks that would be unthinkable to most politicians.” I think it’s the latter point that is making him so attractive.
Readers of these pages know I am not a fan of former Vice President Al Gore. Yesterday’s endorsement by Gore of presidential contender Howard Dean shows precisely why Gore is entitled to no respect. Dean’s Internet Dynamism Among Attractions for Gore [Mercury News]. In 2000, Gore ran as a centrist, embracing populist rehetoric (rather than the Clinton Administration record) only in desperation in the campaign’s final weeks. Now he has foresaken his one-time running mate Joe Lieberman — who held up his own campaign launch out of deference to Gore — without even a phone call. This is the same Joe Lieberman who in 2000 “sold his soul by reversing his lifelong positions on several key issues in order to align himself with the more liberal Al Gore.” [AmericanDaily.com].
Seems that now Gore’s suddently gotten religion and believes the Democrats must move even more to the left. Well, he may be right, but that switch repudiates all the political values Gore professed to hold dear while in office. As Dan Gilmore notes:
Gore is no longer an establishment Democrat. His speeches make that clear. . . . No, Gore is siding with the people who are fed up with the foulness of politics-as-usual — some of which Gore, to his discredit, helped foster during his stints in high public office. They’ve created Dean’s powerful surge as much anything he’s done.
This is a classic, unprincipled move by someone who lacks any conviction. As Todd Purdum wrote in the New York Times, “The sudden marriage of such a seeming odd couple could wind up being seen as so politically expedient as to seem almost unprincipled, playing into the public’s worst perceptions that campaigns are about power and winning, not big ideas.” No shit, Sherlock. It’s an illustration of why the Democrats are so weak that the media, and many Dean supporters, view the Gore endorsement as a “king-making” final act in the campaign.
In my view, it’s the beginning of the end. Al Gore is a political kiss of death — what Gore brings “is not his endorsement but his baggage” — and Howard Dean should run as far and as fast as he can in the other direction.