Howard Dean is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination because he’s not afraid to act like a Democrat. He talks about the things that matter to working people afraid of losing their hard-won middle class status — their health insurance, their kid’s school, their next job, the security of their retirement. And he gives it to the Republicans with the bark off. He seems happiest when he’s mad as hell, and this appeals to the kind of people who vote in Democratic primaries because they’re angry too.
They’re angry because the Republicans are getting away with murder and the Democrats have spent most of the last three years on the ropes. This explains why the Beltway boys, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Richard Gephardt, are not doing so well in the polls and are having trouble raising cash. They’re the ones who rolled over and played dead while George W. Bush looted the Treasury, turned the government over to polluters and profiteers and took advantage of 9/11 to attack civil liberties and launch a half-cocked invasion of Iraq. That Mr. Dean is actually gauche enough to point this out galls them immensely.
Mr. Dean is beating them fair and square. He has won the so-called Silent Primary, the competition for campaign contributions, by setting a record for fund-raising by a Democrat in two consecutive quarters. He’s done it with an average contribution of less than $100, enlisting hundreds of thousands of dedicated supporters with a pathbreaking Internet campaign that holds the promise of bringing back grassroots organizing and breaking the stranglehold of big money in presidential campaigns.
Mr. Dean is breaking all the rules, and he seems to be getting away with it, much to the horror of the Democratic establishment and the so-called liberal commentariat. They have transferred their anger at Mr. Bush to Mr. Dean, and are savaging him at every opportunity, pouncing on every misstep, and there have been a few, distorting his record as governor of Vermont and calling him every dirty name from Michael Dukakis to George McGovern. Mr. Dean makes it easier for them with his fiery temper, his doctor’s intolerance for contradiction and an unfortunate penchant for thinking out loud. No doubt Karl Rove is laughing at all the money he is saving on opposition research as he takes copious notes.
In their desperate attempt to stop Mr. Dean, party leaders may wind up weakening their chances in the fall. If he emerges damaged from the primaries, or falters and gives way to a weaker candidate like Wesley Clark or John Edwards, George W. Bush may be able to thank a few Democrats in his victory speech.
by Jimmy Breslin
First, the other day, Howard Dean, candidate for president, said he didn’t think that the capture of Saddam Hussein made us any safer in America. The other politicians screamed that he was un-American. It was John Kerry who said, How could Dean dare say that we were not safer now? You could see that just by watching how we examined Saddam Hussein for scarlet fever in front of the world.
After Saddam’s capture, there was a weekend of propaganda that will be examined someday as the ultimate show of vulnerability and failure by the American news industry. The Pekingese of the Press raved about the government and its soldiers.
We had 140,000 troops trying to find Saddam for almost a year.
On the day he was found, an American soldier was killed. After that, 10 more were killed in a week. The Homeland Security raised the alert to orange. Planes coming to New York from Paris, London and Mexico were canceled. New Year’s Eve in Times Square was a neon arsenal.
In Las Vegas, the great Mayor Oscar Goodman waved at the sky to show the air power over the strip. He happily reported the available firepower on his streets. Once, Oscar stood with a defendant, Nicky Scarfo, at his side and told the jury, “I want you to concentrate on one thing: Forget the gun.”
Of course we were no safer with Saddam in a detention pen. And Dean was a miserable traitor for saying this, his opponents raged.
Howard Dean then said that maybe he was old-fashioned but he didn’t think you could judge or punish Osama bin Laden until you had a trial and found him guilty.
That was as controversial as saying that when it rains in Queens, the Van Wyck Expressway gets wet.
But suddenly, the Democratic candidates said the statement was atrociously unpatriotic. How can this man Dean say that bin Laden deserves a trial? They said that this was a perfect illustration of Dean talking without thought. And completely un-American, too.
I watched and read all this while having a couple of days off, and I was amazed. National politicians, and the news industry calling out, What are you talking about innocent until found guilty? We’re not even going to have a trial for this guy.
In 1945, they had the Nuremberg trial, for Nazis who had killed tens and tens of millions, and had a judge, witnesses, evidence and defense counsel. Because he wants the same thing for bin Laden they say that Dean wants to sell out America.
Joseph Leiberman, who is a peripheral candidate now and thus a nasty little man, said that because Dean wants a fair trial Dean is despicable and so weak that he would melt in the face of George W. Bush.
John Kerry and Dick Gephardt were wildly opposed.
Yet all Dean has to do in this big Des Moines debate Sunday is ask each candidate, “Are you in favor of sentencing bin Laden before you have a trial?”
Let them answer in front of a country that is better than they are.
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