As Cheap Shots Come from Kerry, Edwards, and Edward's VP Sharpton, Dr. Dean Proves He's The Man
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, November 11, 2003; Page A25
Back when I covered Maryland politics, Baltimore was the state's true capital (not Annapolis) and the Baltimore Sun was the state's most important political newspaper. Every once in a while, the paper would unload a blistering attack on some hack politician who would invariably react as if he had gotten the Nobel Prize or, much more welcome, a fistful of cash. To his constituents, any enemy of the supposedly liberal and haughty Baltimore Sun was a friend of theirs.
It is amazing that most of the Democratic Party's establishment, which has fallen back into a stop-Howard Dean formation, does not grasp the lesson I learned lo those many years ago. The more Dean's opponents attack him, the more he is adored by his supporters and the more it enhances his anti-Washington credentials. Every time they give him the kiss of death, it amounts to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He revives and comes out fighting.
This happened just recently when Dean's opponents cuffed him around for saying he wanted to broaden the appeal of his campaign to encompass "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." It was not the most felicitous of political statements, and Dean, after insisting he would not apologize, did so. That supposed debacle was quickly followed by two critical union endorsements, the raising of another $5 million and Dean's decision, applauded by his followers, to reject federal matching funds and finance his own campaign. Another "bad" week like this and he'll be choosing his running mate.
The Confederate flag kerfuffle was hardly the first time the good doctor had put his foot in his mouth. Earlier he had called for the United States to treat Israel and the Palestinians in an evenhanded fashion. He has flipped on Medicare, after the standard denial of having done so, and unwisely said that the time would come when America wouldn't have the strongest military. Maybe, but not in the foreseeable future, Dr. Dean.
Each time, Dean's opponents pounced. This has been especially true of Sen. John Kerry, who must somehow slip the noose awaiting him in New Hampshire. As the senator from next-door Massachusetts, Kerry was supposed to win New Hampshire and then, by virtue of his stunning résumé and shocking good looks, proceed to the convention in Boston, where the nomination presumably would await him. Over and over, Kerry has pummeled Dean, but the Vermont Kid just keeps getting stronger and stronger.
What Kerry and most of the other Democratic contenders do not seem to understand is that they embody the political establishment to Dean's supporters. It was the establishment, or what in the Vietnam era was known as "the system," that Dean's supporters fervently feel got the United States into the war in Iraq -- either by not standing up to George W. Bush or by cooperating with him.
Dean, on the other hand, embodies the anti-Bush, the one candidate who by his flaming rhetoric, his body language, his rolled-up shirtsleeves -- even his occasionally surly demeanor -- encapsulates the deep hatred among some Democrats for our president. Dean opposed the war from the start. I did not agree then and I do not agree now, but his message is clear and has remained so. On the one issue that really matters to his people, Howard Dean has never had an "on the other hand."
After the recent Confederate flag fuss, Donna Brazile, Al Gore's former campaign manager, advised Kerry to return to his message. Yes -- but what is it? In the Senate, he voted for the war resolution. As a candidate, he opposed Bush's $87 billion request to fund the consequences of that war. All this can be explained -- but not in a sound bite. It is no accident that only two men in history have gone straight from the Senate to the White House -- John F. Kennedy and the lamentable Warren Harding. The Senate is the black hole of plain speaking.
The conventional wisdom is that Dean is George McGovern all over again. I do not quibble. But if that's the case, the trick for the anti-Dean candidates is to stop beating up on him in the hope that the pounding will take a toll in the later rounds of primaries. The trouble with that strategy is there may be no later rounds, and the seeds that Dean's opponents are sowing now may well be reaped by Karl Rove in the spring.
Dean stands on the verge of a knockout -- a winner not only by virtue of his own prowess but by his opponents' swinging hard at him, missing each time and hitting themselves hard on their own glass jaws. They are the supposed heavyweights, but Dean, more and more, is looking like Rocky. Link....washingtonpost.com: Doing Dean A World Of Good
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