Dean Takes Over

Blasted by the pundits, the Democrats' new party chair can't be all bad

Democratic pols are trying to get it up for Howard Dean, but they are very confused when the former Vermont governor and presidential candidate says he "admires" Newt Gingrich more than Bill Clinton, and that Christian-right big Ralph Reed "created a real success" with the right, and how "Clinton led the Dems into complacency and defeat."

The pros are mostly cautious. Asked about her worries, soccer mom surrogate Nancy Pelosi said, "No more worries . . . I know he will work very well with Senator Reid and with me. And we look forward to whoever the members of the DNC choose."

"He wasn't my first choice," said Joe Lieberman, somewhat resuscitated after receiving the Bush kiss. "I felt we needed a bridge builder at this point. But I will respect whatever decision the DNC makes. And if it's Howard, I'll go along."

Party time for Dean
photo: Matt Campbell/Sipa
Party time for Dean

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"It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you, I like brawling." - Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Mattis, on killing people in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2.1.05, San Diego, California, panel discussion

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John Kerry, with his usual dismissive diffidence, said, "He's going to be a spokesman in certain ways. Obviously the chairman has to go to the Jefferson-Jackson dinners and other things. Howard is going to be very good for the party. A lot of people are worried about it, I'm not. I think he's been out there in the country. He's listened to people. . . . He's a person who believes in grassroots."

For the right-wing media, Dean is a wet dream come true. "All I can say is, the Democratic Party is clearly endorsing doctor-assisted suicide!" snipped Kate O'Beirne on Capital Gang, adding, "If Howard Dean is the answer, what is the question? I guess the question is, How can we do more of the same? How can we look even weaker on national security, more out of touch and liberal on social issues? How can we express the depth of our anger and contempt at Republicans? Those must be the questions, if Howard Dean's the answer."

On Beltway Boys, Fred Barnes said, "Howard Dean couldn't manage his way out of a wet paper bag." Bob Novak added, on the Gang: "This is suicidal and lunatic by the Democratic Party, and that is an opinion shared by a lot of Democrats that I talk to. This man can't control what he says."

Margaret Carlson, however, called Dean a "lifelong centrist," and added, "He was head of the National Governors Association. He was a fiscal conservative. He was against the war, and he was portrayed as being left-wing, which he just is not. Then the right-wing media kind of portrayed him as an extremist, and then the mainstream media took the scream tape and turned him into kind of a nut. But I think he's transcended that since he's begun this. And even during the rest of the campaign, he was helpful, shrewd. He's been cheerful. He's not as down as the rest of the Democrats. And he can give a speech. He can talk. I think he is a great choice."


Bush's mandate from above

Sending to Congress the "tightest" budget ever, President Bush pushes on quickly to implement what he calls his election mandate. So far, he has transformed the Iraq war from a bust into at the very least a stupendous PR victory. As for Democratic qualms about the president's Social Security reform, it should be noted that numerous Democrats in Congress during the Clinton administration warmly debated the shape of a new system that involved private accounts handled by Wall Street. To date, Enron's 401(k) fiasco and its 2001 tanking on Wall Street have had remarkably little effect on politicians of either party. There is no move toward serious pension reform or tighter regulation of the mutual fund industry, which underlies the 401(k). Politicians of both parties read the ticker every day and enthusiastically pocket Wall Street campaign contributions.

All told, Bush is off to a good start, and he now is moving on to propose dramatic changes in our environmental laws, rewriting the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, along with the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Bush wants to relax ozone pollution laws and reduce pollution standards for SUVs, cars, and diesel trucks. He wants to legislate rules allowing corporations to hide damaging environmental information from the public. He would weaken and/or drop suits aimed at forcing coal-fired power plants to curb pollution and carry through on his promise to the oil companies to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As for climate change, right-wing politicians in D.C. don't think the seas are rising and regard the scientists who warn of global warming as a bunch of lefty kooks.

What makes these Bush ideas truly salable, whereas before they often were viewed as isolated measures aimed at rewarding reactionary business interests, is the engine that drives Bush forward. It is an amalgam of conservative political ideology embedded in a theocratic shell. People might balk at a company ripping off the Alaskan wildlife refuge, but if they stop to think, and realize drilling has nothing to do with the grand scheme of things in which God will provide for us, why not just kick back and wait and see? Wait for what? Wait for the end times, when the Jews will either wake up and smell the coffee and become Christians or burn in hell and the good Christians will be raptured up to sit next to God and watch all the other miserable souls fester and burn. Oh, come on, you say, that's kook talk. Not to many of Bush's fundamentalist Christian supporters, it isn't. And there are a lot of them.

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