Nominee Dean has, excepting some internet chatter and a few cable news asides,
gotten a pass for saying the sort of things that would have gotten Nominee
Bush tied to an ant hill.
Here’s a fun mental exercise: Imagine the tables are turned and we are now
entering the fourth year of the Gore administration. Now imagine that
in the middle of his campaign (let’s pick a random Republican and call him
frontrunner), Rudolph Guiliani contends that Osama bin Laden, of all people,
is entitled to the same presumption of innocence we would afford a pickpocket.
Or that, according to a popular rumor going around, President Gore had foreknowledge
of the Tragedies and did nothing to prevent them. Or that America isn’t
safer with Saddam Hussein in captivity, and for that matter his removal may
only be of tangential benefit to the Iraqi people. These were, of course,
all recent Deanisms.
At issue: What’s Howard Dean’s problem? The circumstances: When asked
two simple questions – Should Osama bin Laden be tried in the United States?
and, Should Osama bin Laden receive the death penalty? – Dean explained that
he couldn’t make a judgment as to the fate of bin Laden before a jury does.
Fascinating, given his ability to pass judgment on anything and everything
else, from the performance of the President, to the health of the economy,
to the viability of various programs and theories, et cetera.
And speaking of theories, have you heard The Theory? Dean on NPR: “The
most interesting theory I have heard so far, which is nothing more than a
theory, I can’t think – it can’t be proved, is that [President Bush] was
warned [about 9/11] ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what
the situation is.” Later, when asked by Fox News Channel to clarify
the point, Dean said he advanced The Theory because “there are people who
believe that. We don’t know what happened on 9/11.”
Actually, the only people who believe the president had foreknowledge of
the Tragedies and did nothing to stop them are the same mulch-brained jackasses
who believe the World Trade Center collapse was just the modern equivalent
of the Reichstag fire, and that the president has invoked the memory of the
twin towers to bring the United States a new, Republican Nazism. (Speaking
of which, if you’re that sort of liberal – of the MoveOn persuasion – do
everyone a favor and throw yourself down a flight of stairs and get it over
with, already.) Are we seeing now that Nominee Dean is one of these?
And if not, why would he even say such a thing?
Senator Kerry suggested a candidate best answers the questions by saying
“Yes and yes,” and leaving it at that. Representative Gephardt went one better,
saying the next president must have “steady hands,” which is difficult when
every new day forces upon the Dean camp the need to clarify half of the things
said the day before. Gephardt is talking about intellectual and emotional
steadiness, and he’s right to a point without saying what must be said, namely
that the longer this sort of nonsense goes on, the more likely it is that
Howard Dean is … well … not smart.
An unkind thought, one of those accusations levied at every Republican of
distinction since Lincoln, and rarely at Democrats. Those who took
such sensational delight in outlining the supposed flaws in George W. Bush’s
intellectual acumen have remained oddly silent regarding Dean. Now,
you can say whatever you want about the President – the fact is, his touch
is much too soft on everything but terrorism and he has a lot of bad ideas
– but no serious, thoughtful man ever answers the 9/11 question by lending
credence to a rumor, no matter what qualifying statements are slipped in
Look: There are very good cases to be made for frivolity, incumbent bashing
and partisan cheerleading while on the campaign trail, and clearly there
is a place for silliness (as Al Sharpton has so vividly displayed).
But not on the back of the Tragedies. That Dean was willing to reduce
9/11 to a matter of tabloid fodder means uncomfortable things, namely that
nothing – not decency, not a respect for the dead and those left behind,
not even the fact that, as president, Dean would be presiding over three
pieces of hallowed ground he seems to not take too seriously – stands above
frivolity, incumbent bashing and partisan cheerleading. Which is unfortunate,
Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.