Howard Dean is the poster boy of the Bush-hating, anti-war cultural left, who are mad as hell at President Bush and aren’t going to take it anymore. And he is a disaster as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The high-decibel former governor recently stated that “Republicans all behave the same, and they all look the same. It’s pretty much a white Christian party.” He said that many Republicans “have never made an honest living in their lives,” and that “I hate Republicans and everything they stand for.” He said that “this is a struggle between good and evil, and we are the good.” He did an impression of Rush Limbaugh that included the sound of a person snorting cocaine. He cracked that Tom DeLay “ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence.”
Commenting on Dean’s recent fumbles, House Speaker Dennis Hastert quipped, “Last week’s scandal is Deep Throat. This week’s scandal is Dean throat–and apparently Dean likes the taste of his own foot.”
In his 2004 presidential campaign, Governor Dean pursued a “gaffe a day” approach. He proclaimed, “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pick-up trucks”–thereby offending both Southerners and African-Americans. He made the ridiculous claim that “I’m the only candidate who speaks about race before white audiences.” He asserted that he had “a special relationship” with the black community because “I had two African-American roommates in college.” He said that if he didn’t win the Democratic nomination, his supporters would “certainly not” vote “for a conventional Washington politician.” He claimed that his “closest living relative” in the armed forces was his brother Charlie–even though Charlie died in 1974 while touring Laos as an anti-war activist.
And, of course, there was Dean’s “I Have a Scream” speech after the Iowa caucuses.
In addition, Dean appears to have a shaky understanding of foreign affairs. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Dean commented, “I suppose that’s a good thing.” He declared that the United States will not always have the strongest military. He said that we “should also do our best” not “to “prejudge” where Osama bin Laden is guilty of war crimes. He stated that “it doesn’t matter” what authority puts bin Laden on trial.
Regarding the Middle East, the former Vermont governor opined that the United States “shouldn’t choose sides” and should be “even-handed” between Israel and the Arabs. (He professed not to know that this is code for “putting pressure on Israel to make concessions.”) He called on Israel to unilaterally dismantle settlements. He referred to Hamas terrorists as “soldiers.”
Sometimes Dean’s foreign policy statements are simply bizarre. In December 2003, Dean made repeated references to “the Soviet Union.” In June 2003, he conceded that he had no idea how many soldiers serve in the US military. Dean has compared the Bush administration to the Taliban. He said it was an “interesting theory” that President Bush had advance warning of the September 11 attacks.
Chairman Dean is a loose cannon. His rhetorical assults are certain to restrict the Democratic base, not expand it. In particular, insulting the other party’s voters is a very poor strategy.
Dean has also failed as a party fundraiser. In the first quarter of 2005, the Democratic National Committee raised $14.1 million, compared to $32.3 million for the Republican National Committee. At present, the DNC has $7.2 million in the bank, compared to $26.2 for the RNC.
Howard Dean is the wrong person to head the Democratic party. He needs to go.
Ted Rueter is an assistant professor of political science