It's not surprising that the biggest names in network news don't spend too much time on the nuts-and-bolts selection of national party chairmen. Usually, new party leaders are well respected by their field workers in the states but barely register on the interest meter. On that rare occasion when an ideological firebrand is elected -- say, Lee Atwater in 1989 -- they pounced on the "controversial" (Willie Horton-exploiting) choice. So where are they now as the Democrats are set to name wild-eyed ultraliberal Howard Dean as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee?
Consider this: If, on the cusp of the first President Bush losing the 1992 election, the Republican National Committee had united around the idea of having his conservative base-rousing primary challenger Pat Buchanan be the next party chairman, how would the media cover the story? You can bet the farm they'd have shouted from the rooftops that the GOP had a death wish, that the lemmings were pouring over the cliff, that the Republican parties were forsaking every American voter in the middle for the foam-flecked extremists.
In fact, that is how they covered his presidential bid. Liberal reporters boiled over with nasty, personal invective against Buchanan in 1992 -- fringy, racist, anti-Semitic, authoritarian, Nazi, punitive and puritanical, "right up there with David Duke on the hate chart." With that bile-spewing reception, Republicans were happy to let Pat return to the studios of CNN and elect Haley Barbour to run the party.
Dean was the Democrats' peasants-with-pitchforks equivalent of Buchanan in 2004, rallying the staunchest left-wingers across the country against the staid Washington party elite. On social issues, he is the mirror image of Buchanan, fiercely favoring abortion and the gay agenda. Buchanan opposed the first war in Iraq, until the troops went in; Dean drew his backers by loudly opposing war on Iraq first, last, and always. On fiscal issues, Buchanan railed against a broken no-new-taxes pledge, while Dean railed for more government control of health care and earned a "D" from the Cato Institute in 2002, which noted: "After 12 years of Dean's so-called 'fiscal conservatism,' Vermont remains one of the highest taxing-and-spending states."