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Sunday, November 09, 2003

Is Arrogance something you look for in a President?

"Who Does Howard Dean Think He Is? by David Tell,
Opinion editor of the Weekly Standard
EARLY ONE EVENING this past March I found myself struggling for balance in the den of a well-appointed, upper-middle-class home in suburban Bedford, New Hampshire, a half-dozen miles or so southwest of Manchester. I was worried about teetering over because not ten feet away from me Howard Dean had just walked in the door from his car outside, and most of the roughly 100 local Democrats who'd come by the house to get a look at him were also in the den, now jostling--very politely, of course--for position. To make matters worse, the crowd had me trapped directly in the hi-my-name-is handshake path Dean was making toward the kitchen. Mine looked to be the next such greeting. Better I should remain upright for it, I figured.

And better, I further figured, that I not introduce myself under false pretenses, though I wasn't wearing a press badge and could easily have passed for just another guest. So when, moments later, the man was indeed right in front of me, sticking out his paw and saying "Howard Dean," I fessed up--in meekish fashion, privately embarrassed that I hadn't any "serious reporter" questions to ask him--about who I was and where I worked.

Whereupon the former five-term governor of the state of Vermont stiffened backwards a step, screwed up his face, and ostentatiously wiped his palm on the thigh of his pants, like he'd just touched a patch of manure by mistake. "THE WEEKLY STANDARD," Dean repeated back to me with a tone of incredulity--and only the faintest hint of irony. "You mean that WEEKLY STANDARD?" I mumbled something and nodded yes. "I actually get THE WEEKLY STANDARD," he went on. "Yeccch."

It's a funny story, in retrospect, a point of pride even, in a reverse sort of way: How many of us, after all, can claim to have received an unprovoked, face-to-face, personal insult from a leading candidate for president of the United States? For that matter, even at the time, I never seriously thought that Dean intended his show of revulsion to be anything other than funny. He was joshing, I sensed, a conclusion I quickly tried my best to confirm, in order to reassure the several bystanders who were listening in, tittering nervously and obviously not getting the joke, fearing instead that they were witnessing an unpleasant scene: Why on earth was Gov. Dean treating a perfect stranger so rudely? I would arrange to have the governor relieved of his burdensome subscription first thing tomorrow, I offered, with an exaggerated smile. "No, no, no," he laughed, "it's all right"--breaking the tension, ending our encounter, and moving on to his destination, the kitchen.

Where Dean soon delivered a nifty, quite gripping 20-minute impromptu stump speech in which he described President Bush, Bush's administration and "right-wingers" generally, and the Republican party and its voters more generally still--all of them together, more or less interchangeably--as the moral equivalent of a patch of manure, people whose hands you'd shudder at shaking for real. This time Dean did not appear to be joshing one bit. And this time no one nervously tittered about it. Quite the contrary, his audience was transfixed. A hundred Bedford, New Hampshire, Democrats went home that night thinking Howard Dean was pretty damned good.
I wouldn't bother you with this, except that I fear Dean's being elected, bringing "the troops home" and thereby bringing the field of battle back to America.

And what of Israel? Dean has said that we (the U.S.) shouldn't "take sides" in the Arab war on Israel. With friends like that, who needs Arab terrorists?