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Mad Cows and Democrats
by Vincent Fiore
05 January 2004Beef

Taking a single mad cow and attempting to use it as an issue that divides can also be viewed as a specific type of madness all its own.

With much hand wringing and the dark scenarios that were voiced with it, the media establishment has yet to come to the conclusion that the dire health consequences of one mad cow found in a Holstein dairy farm in Washington State is so far, only one mad cow. Though some 25 countries temporarily halted beef imports from the US, Americans hardly halted theirs. Burgers are still king, and nothing satisfies the appetite like a T-bone, medium rare if you please. What that says in essence, is that the system is working. There will be some changes in the coming days ahead from Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman regarding the US meat industry, but at this juncture, nobody can argue with the reality of having only one mad cow, can they?

But bless their little dark hearts; the Democratic Presidential hopefuls will try.

After taking a few days to survey the political landscape, the candidates surmised that the issue of one mad cow in the nation’s history can applicably be used as one more “failure” on the part of the Bush administration.

After issuing a new set of safeguards, Democratic hopefuls and lawmakers alike called for the Bush administration to take steps to protect Americans from mad cow disease. Calls for origin labeling and more Federal meat inspectors were issued from the candidates touring the Sunday talk shows. Not satisfied with a genuine show of concern over a potentially devastating issue if left unattended, the politics of repulsion once again dominated the Democratic contenders over the issue. Pronouncements ranged from cautious to caustic, all aimed at a President who governed the state of Texas where cattle production is a multibillion dollar industry.

Front runner Howard Dean, who as of late has said things that cause Clinton guru James Carville to wonder if Dean has “undergone some kind of a political lobotomy,” once again reinforces the increasingly loud murmurings of the party faithful  that the former Governor is looking more preposterous than Presidential these days.

Talking to about 250 people at a campaign event in Wisconsin on Monday, Dean did what Dean does best, which is saying something he will likely regret: "What we are suffering now in the beef industry could have been prevented. This administration has not taken such dangers seriously and raises serious concerns about the ability of this administration to protect the safety of our nation's food supply and the health of our rural economies that depend on agriculture exports. Mad cow disease is a serious concern that has been undersold by this administration and their industry allies.”

The rest of the candidates lined up to take the obligatory shot at the President as well, reinforcing the “lemming” pattern of behavior thus far exhibited by the candidates every time the latest polls come out showing Dean out in front. From Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt, Oklahomans at a rally heard, “We need a president who is committed to the right of American consumers to know where their meat is coming from and not to the huge special interests that are fighting to keep safety regulations out of our food supply."

In a statement from the Wesley Clark camp, the retired General said that the administration "needs to do more than 'look' at the system and options. They need to take proactive steps to improve tracking and testing that should have been taken months ago."

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who somehow managed not to use those colorful words of late that he is so fond of using, dismounted his Harley and called on “President Bush to act immediately to improve our food safety and inspection process, to protect public health and restore confidence in the beef industry."

Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who will offer his own plan in Iowa next week, said that the nation needs far better food protections.

Senator Joe Lieberman’s camp, which did not react to the media’s single mad cow phenomenon, discovered another cow that everybody seemed to miss: "Howard Dean complaining about other Democrats questioning his record, experience, general election viability and numerous misstatements is like the mad cow calling the herd rabid."

Though I’m having a little fun here, the candidates are not. One over the top statement seems to lead to another, especially when one looks at Governor Dean’s constant omissions of ignorance. I say ignorance for the simple reason of believability. I’m beginning to think that because of the rapidity of these kind of statements that candidates Dean, Clark, Kerry, etc., actually think they are reaching voters with this type of drive-by politicking. After 12 months of hearing “Bush knew” and “a war for oil” and the ever popular “Bush misled us,” you would think with all that smoke that there would be some fire.

For the candidates embroiled in the heat of the primary, opportunity presents itself at the expense of civility and judgment. Taking a single mad cow and attempting to use it as an issue that divides can also be viewed as a specific type of madness all its own. I call it the primary madness, where you say anything, and hope something sticks. A candidate like Howard Dean does not limit his madness to George W. Bush. He takes it one step further and issues the maddest, madness yet:

"If I don't win the nomination," his million and a half supporters are "certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.” One mad cow in Washington State is nothing compared to the madness of today’s Democratic Party.

Vincent Fiore is a freelance writer.

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