A few days ago, a grinning Howard Dean appeared with Kerry; Dean reportedly is close to endorsing his former rival. The former Vermont governor now says the things that unite Kerry and himself are more important than the things that divide them. Does Dean mean that, or is he simply playing the cynical political game? As recently as Feb. 1, Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" reminded Dean what he had told the New York Times the previous week: "This is what you said.'(Dean) defined the nomination battle as a choice between (himself)' and 'a Washington insider who shifts back and forth with every poll.' Who is that?" "That's John Kerry," responded Dean. Asked "On what issues?" Dean responded, "Iraq, for one. He couldn't make up his mind whether he was for Iraq or not for the longest time. No Child Left Behind, he voted for that, didn't have the nerve to stand up against that when I did a long, long time ago."
One wonders what "important" things Dean has in mind - other than defeating President Bush - because he has criticized Kerry's positions and behavior on so many issues, from taking special interest money to talking about health care but doing nothing, trade and "whining" when asked about his positions.
The two issues about which Kerry seems "convicted" rather than conflicted are higher taxes and more spending. Don't look for him to flip on these because they define a modern liberal Democrat. That's why the president's reelection team is running commercials hitting the only non-moving target Kerry has presented. It's difficult to attack someone who, as the Post editorial noted, engages in "campaign-trail straddles on a wide range of issues."
That may be politics as usual for Kerry, but is it politics the way the voters want it?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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