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Howard Dean Is Not "Nuts," But ...
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Fifty-Five
by Brian S. Wise
27 February 2004Howard Dean

Howard Dean is a lot of things, but insane?  No.

At the end of the day, even Republicans had to admit Howard Dean ran three-quarters of a brilliant campaign, and those considering candidacy in the future should take notice.  Forget for a moment the week before Iowa and every day after (because that timeframe displays an equally stunning series of failures): Governor Dean stood at the head of a juggernaut; it saw fundraising successes and grass roots movements unlike any produced by any other Democratic candidate in modern memory.
What undid the Dean campaign was, well, Howard Dean.  When it was suggested here last July that Dean’s primary weakness was his tendency to say and do very foolish things when backed into corners, the reaction from the Left was what you’d expect if I’d insulted his mother: “How dare you!  You know nothing about Howard Dean or his record!  He is not campaigning to the far Left!  He will beat Bush because he’s the only man brave enough to tell the truth!”
Meanwhile, Dean couldn’t get out of his own way, for wont of doing exactly as I said.  No matter how he energized the far Left, it was clear two weeks before Iowa that he was hardly motivating anyone other than the far Left, and there was no point in even that if the president pounded him in November.  The absolute last thing that could have been chanced was a landslide, because it would have done an intolerable amount of damage to Democratism.  So the party moved against Nominee Dean (as he was called here), and now we have Nominee Kerry.

Yet every report detailing Dean’s failure has been presented as though it were the equivalent of the rise and fall of the Romans, always punctuated with a reminder of late Monday night in Iowa, where everyone was going to Michigan and California, and then the District to take back the White House … yeeeeaaaa.  Now look: Certainly I have no special regard for Howard Dean, but what happened in Iowa wasn’t a meltdown, it was a rallying cry, a rebel yell, and a damn fine one.  Even watching it live I thought, “Good for you, Howard.”  In two weeks he had suffered an unprecedented fall from grace and was beaten badly, but he still took to the stage to motivate the troops, all those kids who came from all corners of the country to fight for a cause they believed in.  And it worked.  What no one remembers after the yeeeeaaaa is the roar of those three thousand volunteers; it sounded like a Slipknot concert.

Enter now former Dean supporter Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), who said late last week the governor is, in no uncertain terms, nuts.  This was no colloquialism; what McEntee meant by “nuts” was that Howard Dean was certifiable, insane.  And not the good sort of insane that produces great art or profound words, but the bad sort of insane that produces subway rampages and dead Beatles.

“Nuts” is an accusation we take far less seriously than we would have in years past; if someone in McEntee’s position had come out in 1992 to say Ross Perot was nuts – something closer to the truth than in Dean’s case – it would have meant the lead segment on most reputable news and talk shows, e.g., Meet the Press.  (You’ll recall the pure vitriol that came from Dan Burton’s calling Bill Clinton a scumbag in 1998, never mind that the former president’s behavior seemed to substantiate the point.)

Mr. William F. Buckley, Jr. asked: "[How] could Dean be ‘nuts’ if Vice President Gore recommended him as the Democratic candidate?  And Senator Harkin, in the critical Iowa race?”  The point is perfect but narrow, as it causes one to forget Bill Bradley, Jim Jeffords, Patrick Leahy, Jim McGreevey, Lowell Weicker, Ann Richards, AFSCME, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the Service Employees International Union and so many others who also endorsed Dean.  Either these people and organizations are just as nuts or they are easy to fool; whichever, the possibility is unkind.
Much more likely Governor Dean is generally unintelligent than disconnected from reality (see also my column “Howard Dean Is Not Smart” from Friday, 09 January).  An intellectual barbarian, ideologically backwards, inconsiderate of circumstances and ignorant of the world outside of his experiences?  Absolutely, yes.  But not nuts; not even cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.  And that’s the nicest thing I can think to say about him.

Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.

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