Should we feel sorry for the press as they try, frantically, to apply a barrel of pancake makeup to Howard Dean and present this raging leftist to America as a soggy "centrist"? This is a really tough job. The entire political spectrum is going to have to be dragged off to the left of Massachusetts.
It's hard not to snicker at the thought of newspapers like The Washington Post declaring in a Sunday front-page headline: "As Governor, Dean Was Fiscal Conservative." Liberal reporter Michael Powell (last noticed in a furious fit of powder-puffing Senator Hillary Clinton) trotted out an assortment of Vermont "liberals" to declare that Dean was far too moderate for them. It should have come with a disclaimer: "The following story was gathered in Vermont, where the acceptable middle can be defined by the persistent re-election of Congressman Bernie Sanders, a flaming socialist."
Let's review a smidgen of what the networks and news magazines have desperately tried to explain away or paper over in the last few weeks. Dean is agnostic on the closing of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian torture house, and has to be poked and pushed into acknowledging that Saddam was a bit of a bad egg. Dean obediently followed the leftist judicial activists of Vermont's Supreme Court into providing gay "civil unions," which has led to a Republican electoral surge. Dean, according to the Cato Institute, led one of the nation's highest taxing and spending states. Dean backs partial-birth abortion, and thinks the whole issue of skull-sucking infanticide is "phony."
Perhaps most ridiculously, reporters make excuses for Dean's fierce attacks on President Bush. They make Democratic hearts "soar." They are not described as "red meat" for "Bush haters," although those words would apply. They use words like "brusque," "feisty," "testy" and "in-your-face."
What they're not doing is dipping into the vocabulary they used for conservatives, for example Newt Gingrich. CBS called Newt "bombastic and ruthless." NBC chided him as a "rabid attack dog against anything liberal." ABC claimed that his "slash-and-burn rhetoric against Democrats has made him the poster boy for political resentment and rage, and he's proud of it." Network reporters wrapped these attacks in "news" stories on Gingrich, and now Dean is only "feisty."
If any of these outlets breathe a word about the need for Republican "civility" in politics, please direct them back to everything Dean has said this year already. And he's just getting started.
In Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, reporters piled the pages high on the Dean campaign. They were willing to acknowledge that Republicans may find in Dean's record and daily statements a heaping helping of things that might be described by some as liberal. But for the purposes of frustrating George W. Bush in this election cycle, that labeling will not be done by the reporters. It will be attributed to the apparent hyper-partisans penning RNC press releases and making GOP ads, and then pooh-poohed by the so-called referees of the media elite.
Time's John Cloud spun furiously that "Sure, there is a much-remarked-upon bloom of anger in his speeches, but it's petaled with irony ... Dean sometimes seems not so much the angriest man in politics but the most bemused." He's not mean or harsh or humorless. He's "intentionally unpolished."
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter -- who flits from week to week between sharp-elbowed columns and "news" reporting -- dragged out the old chestnut: "The old labels are increasingly useless." Tell that to a voter who's looking at a presidential wannabe eager to raise his taxes, withdraw his troops from terror-backing locales, mistake "homeland security" for government-employee-union payoffs, confiscate his SUV as a planetary menace, escort his daughter for an abortion without parental consent (another apparently phony pro-life issue), and turn his local hospital into a laboratory for Hillary Clinton experiments, with "universal" recessionary results.
It's also not promising that Dean can make "factual" statements about Team Bush that cannot be located in the realm of reality. In one answer to Newsweek, Dean claimed that Bush's "environmental record is widely understood to be probably the worst in most people's lives." Would anyone try to argue against the facts and say that, for instance, air quality is worse than 1970? Newsweek had no space for corrections. Bush also apparently "massed trillions of dollars' worth of debt" -- not yet he hasn't -- as if Bush is the only politician in Washington in favor of loading up the federal budget. Newsweek doesn't put an asterisk by that whopper, either.
The Dean media boomlet makes one thing clear: It's going to be another trying election cycle of liberal media propaganda, bombastic and ruthless, thinly disguised as your "objective" news product.