WASHINGTON -- I am bereft. I yield to no one -- not a single orange-cap-wearing, twentysomething vegan Deaniac -- in my disappointment over Howard Dean's Iowa debacle.
Sure, he was their hope. But he was mine too. Dean as Democratic nominee promised not just happiness, but glory: a Republican landslide of biblical proportions. Big majority in the House. And so many coattailled new senators that Bush could have begun repopulating the Supreme Court with 42-year-old conservatives (like Miguel Estrada) who would serve forever.
The future looked so bright, and now it is so clouded. Why, even the White House could not bring itself to give up the Dean dream. The president's State of the Union address contained not one but two zings at Dean, although by the time the speech was delivered, Dean was no longer even a likely Democratic nominee. Bush said first that we are safer with Saddam caught, then added, to sustained applause, that America would never ask others (i.e. the United Nations) for permission to defend itself.
Twenty-four hours after Iowa, these rejoinders were already anachronisms.
Who is to blame for this lost dream? Conservatives could start, as they love to, by blaming themselves. We knew what a disaster Dean would be as a presidential candidate at a time when Democrats were still lost in the clouds and dreaming. When the polls showed him ahead nationally, and in Iowa, and in New Hampshire (by a ridiculous margin of 30 points), we could not shut up.
National Review put Dean on its cover with the caption ``Please Nominate This Man.'' Republican strategists, and the occasional insider report from the White House, could not conceal their glee at Dean's prospective nomination. I too am guilty, confessing week after week on TV that he was my candidate.
As Dean began to slide, I was hoping against hope that he could just hang on -- project sanity -- long enough to win Iowa and New Hampshire and wrap up the nomination before the Democrats could come to their senses. Alas, the democratic process worked.
Oh yes, there were other factors. History, for one; Dean himself, for another. Saddam's capture gave psychological satisfaction, if not completion to the Iraq War. Of course, fighting continues against the insurgency. But with Saddam in prison, even the antiwar crowd cannot deny that the regime is finished.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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